The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

September 26, 2013

Eagle QB Mendoza gets nod, endorsements

By Ryan Costello, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle

HENNESSEY, Okla. —

Tony Mendoza wasn’t made available to speak to media Wednesday, the day the Hennessey junior quarterback learned for certain that his injury-spurred promotion from backup to starter would be a permanent one.

He had enough to deal with already.  

Dylan Hatchel’s right knee injury suffered in the third quarter of Friday’s unexpectedly lopsided 31-0 loss to Kingfisher was diagnosed as a torn ACL and likely a torn lateral meniscus, a season- and in turn high-school-career ending injury for the senior quarterback.

“I just made a cut, and when I did my knee just gave,” he said. “My knee, it was just completely out of place, I had no strength to push back off of it. I remember feeling it pop … It scared me at first. I pretty much knew when I heard it that something wasn’t good, something wasn’t right.”

Hatchel had an MRI on Monday, and was given the official news Wednesday, with a surgery scheduled for Oct. 16.

The diagnosis means Mendoza will keep the reins he took for the final quarter-plus against the Yellowjackets, a move Hennessey head coach Rick Luetjen previously said -- almost prophetically -- the Eagles had prepared for before the season had started.

In the week before Hennessey’s game against Kingfisher, Luetjen said the Eagles had shifted to the read option offense to utilize Hatchel as a runner in large part because the team was more comfortable with Hatchel’s backup.

“It’s kind of a fine line that we walk there with (Hatchel) being a ball-carrier for us, but we feel like our backup quarterback situation is a lot better this year, and if something was to happen to Dylan and we had to bring in Tony, then we’re confident that he could get the job done, too,” he said.

Luetjen couldn’t have known how soon those preparations would come into play, but he, and Hatchel, weren’t any less endorsing of Mendoza once his ascent to QB1 was made official.

“Our game plan would be the same this week whether it was Tony or Dylan, so we’re not changing anything there,” Luetjen said.

“I think he’ll be fine,” Hatchel added. “He throws the ball fine. He’s really athletic. The only thing he needs to catch on is the mental aspect of the game, being a leader, reading coverages, stuff like that.”

Hennessey won’t completely ditch the read option look it’s used in its first three games, but likely will reduce Mendoza’s carries compared to Hatchel’s. Mendoza doubled as a reserve tailback for the Eagles, and could excel as a runner in the offense, but the Eagles have virtually no experience behind Mendoza at the position, with freshman Ashton Rapp taking snaps alongside Mendoza during Wednesday’s practice.

Mendoza will make his first career varsity start at quarterback at 7:30 p.m. Friday against visiting Tulsa NOAH (0-3), and Hatchel will begin rehab after surgery with the goal of preparing for a chance to play at the collegiate level.

“I don’t know about offers (or whether the injury affects them),” said Hatchel, who turned heads during a preseason workout and seven-on-seven camp at Southwestern Oklahoma State University in Weatherford. “I’ll definitely take my chances walking on somewhere.”