Enter Chambers

Monroe dual-threat QB Chambers may be the county’s breakout star

by Aaron Garcia

Junior Quayshawn Chambers has led Monroe to an 8-3 record and No. 1 seed in the Class 1AA playoffs this year, his first as the Redhawks’ starting quarterback. (Aaron Garcia/UCW photo)

On any level, what Quayshawn Chambers has done this year has been remarkable. For a quarterback to break the 1,000-yard plateau in both passing and rushing, he must be both athletic enough to break off big runs and savvy enough to consistently find open receivers within an opponents’ coverage. Neither is easy to do, especially as a first-year starting quarterback, as Chambers is. He’s thrown for 1,329 yards and 17 scores with only five interceptions while also running for 1,007 yards and 13 touchdowns.

The junior’s impressive acumen has led the Redhawks to an 8-3 overall mark and a Rocky River 1A/2A title with a 7-0 conference record. Last week, in Monroe’s annual rivalry game against Forest Hills, in which the Redhawks claimed the league title, Chambers struggled. He completed nine of 21 passes but still managed 121 yards in the air, a touchdown and a pair of two-point conversion throws.

That’s impressive for any rookie starter, but the fact that Chambers only logged a little more than a half of football all of last year because of an injury makes his transition as Monroe’s main signal-caller even more remarkable.

Chambers didn’t know his ankle was broken. If he had, he wouldn’t have gotten up and tried to walk back to the huddle. Moments earlier, while playing receiver, Chambers was running a post pattern and jumped for a pass. He landed awkwardly.

“I thought it was a real bad sprain or whatever, but I went to the hospital and they said I had a fracture,” he recalled.

A few days later, Chambers had surgery on his ankle. Just like that, his season was over.

“It was hurtful because I wanted to be out there with my teammates making plays and stuff like that,” Chambers said.

The injury meant Monroe coach Johnny Sowell would have to alter his plans for Chambers. Though Chambers had played quarterback long before he arrived at Monroe High, then-senior Jalen Sowell, the coach’s son, was entrenched as the team’s starter. But the coach knew Chambers, then just a sophomore, had enough athletic ability to contribute to the team in areas other than quarterback.

“We knew he was our backup quarterback last year, but we wanted to get him on the field, too,” said Sowell. “We didn’t want a back-up quarterback that could be playing another position (to just sit on the bench).”

There was also the hope Chambers’ versatility would make him more attractive to college recruiters.

“It would be easier to sell him as an athlete instead of just a quarterback or receiver,” said Sowell.

After about two months, Chambers was back on his feet, and even joined the Redhawks basketball team as a power forward. He suffered a setback, however, after he stepped on another player’s foot and sprained the same ankle.

“I didn’t really feel the same after that,” Chambers said. “I was nervous to play on it. I wasn’t doing things I usually do.”

But by the end of the basketball season, Chambers’ limp subsided, which was a good sign for Sowell, who also serves as the varsity boys basketball coach.

“Once he got over the limping and that part of it, we felt like he had the (quarterback) job,” Sowell said. “If we had someone else, that’s great, but it was his job.”

Sowell said the negative impact of Chambers’ lost time on the field was mitigated by his work in the offseason, especially while breaking down film. Sowell said the two met every Saturday to evaluate game footage. By the time the summer rolled around and Chambers stepped into the starting quarterback role, he seemed ready and healthy. His presence was exactly what the team needed. Sowell had roughly seven or eight solid running backs at his disposal to start the year, so a legitimate passing threat would make it difficult for opposing defenses to prepare for Monroe.

But all the film study in the world couldn’t prepare Chambers for the step up in competition he would face.

“I never knew what it was like to play in a real varsity game as a quarterback, and I was pretty nervous the first game,” said Chambers of the Redhawks’ 55-26 loss to Porter Ridge to start the season. Chambers completed three of 12 passes for 38 yards and added 57 rushing yards.

“(The game) was really fast,” -Chambers continued. “It was a different pace. It was really fast coming up from JV to varsity. Varsity is totally different.”

By week three, though, the game started to slow down and Chambers found his comfort zone. Since then, Monroe has gone 7-1 and earned a No. 1 seed in this week’s Class 1AA state playoffs. Now that he has his feet under him, he’s focusing on shouldering the load of expectations as the Redhawks’ starting quarterback. He consulted former starter Jalen Sowell about the role.

“He said deeper on in the season he got better (at making reads) and he let (all the pressure) go and he was a better quarterback,” said Chambers.

The reads are coming, and Chambers said he feels like a better quarterback now than he was at the beginning of the season. His performance against Forest Hills proves he’s far from a finished product, but Sowell is beginning to think he can drop the “athlete” descriptor when selling his 6-foot-3, 190-pound quarterback to college recruiters.

“Now, with what he’s done offensively passing the ball and running the ball, he could fit in (at quarterback) with a lot of programs out there,” the coach said.

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