Conner Cordts, the senior quarterback for Cactus High, is building on last year’s success and taking major steps as a player and leader on the field.
Coach Joseph Ortiz noticed Cordts had the potential to be a solid player in the summer before his junior year in 2018. After a single seven-on-seven passing league day, things seemed to click for the junior. He started completing passes downfield on a consistent basis and leading the offense.
“He understood exactly what he was reading, what the routes were designed to do. We were impressed with how he picked that up and how he could see the field,” Ortiz said.
The result was a great junior season, leading the Cobras to an 8-4 record and a spot in the 4A quarterfinals before being knocked off by defending-champion Saguaro.
But, Cordts wanted to make further strides as a player. He began working with a speed trainer and spending extra time in the weight room to become a dual-threat quarterback. With over 500 yards on the ground in 2019 to go along with 1,370 yards and 20 touchdowns in the air, he is scaring opponents with his ability to carve through defenses.
He remembers running a 4.5-second 40-yard dash in this summer’s training sessions, impressive for any position on the field, but especially a quarterback. Coaches and players alike were taken aback at his improvement in such a short period of time.
“I didn’t want to just be a normal quarterback. I wanted to be able to do multiple things, and run for first downs and touchdowns instead of just getting the ball out of my hands right away,” Cordts said.
His ability has opened up the playbook for offensive coaches.
Ortiz said nearly every running play for the Cobras is an option for Cordts to either keep the ball or hand off to senior running back Anthony Flores, a talented rusher nearing 1,000 yards.
That opens up play-action passing opportunities, and fewer players in the secondary to create lanes for receivers.
“We’re not limited, because whatever we call is going to get executed correctly,” Ortiz said.
Cordts’ presence also made the transition to the staff easier for first-year offensive coordinator and quarterback coach Mason Crossland.
The two had spent very little time together this summer, after Crossland was hired. The coach remembers giving Cordts a recommendation on a play-call in an offseason scrimmage, and seeing him throw a 40-yard touchdown pass immediately. Crossland previously worked at Higley High, coaching players like Spencer Brasch (now a freshman quarterback at the University of California at Berkeley) and current junior Kai Millner for the Knights, widely regarded as some of the most talented quarterbacks in the area. He said Cordts’ fundamentals are on par with them.
“It makes it so I don’t have to focus on the technical things like form and release point, and we can get right into the mental aspect of the game, and kind of some of the more detailed stuff,” Crossland said.
While Cordts has enjoyed a significant uptick in statistics through his development, he has become more of a leader, too. Ortiz said players on the offense often look at Cordts for how they should react to big plays, and his energy rubs off on them.
The Cobras have a 7-2 record through nine contests, and will likely host least a first-round game in the playoffs. Cordts hopes his production on the field can help lead Cactus to a long postseason run.
“I want to try and help this team win as many games as we can,” Cordts said. “And we want to see where it can go.”