Narbonne quarterback Troy Williams makes a pass during the Gauchos'… (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)
It's a new era in City Section football, a changing of the guard and perhaps a changing of tactics.
The days of domination by quick, big-play running backs such as De'Anthony Thomas of Crenshaw and Milton Knox of Lake Balboa Birmingham could be ending, with a new emphasis on spread offenses that rely on athletic, versatile, strong-armed quarterbacks.
The face of the future is Troy Williams, a 6-foot-3, 180-pound junior at Harbor City Narbonne (10-3), which plays Carson (8-5) for the City Division I championship Friday at 8 p.m. at East Los Angeles College.
"I think Troy will be a phenomenal quarterback and is perhaps the best junior quarterback in the country," Carson Coach Elijah Asante said. "He's very elusive and he's playing with a lot of confidence, and he has a system that allows him to be great."
Asante might be trying to butter up Williams, considering that Carson must find a way to contain him if it expects to win, but he's not alone in offering praise.
"The kid is just very dynamic and very comfortable with our offensive scheme," Narbonne Coach Manuel Douglas said. "He makes plays over and over."
Since he was 3, Williams said he has known what position he'd play.
"I was in the backyard one day throwing the ball, and I guess I became a quarterback," Williams said.
He fits the mold of what's in demand for the position in 2011: mobility, versatility, a strong arm, good decision-making, composure under pressure.
"I'll take a hit for my team any day," Williams said.
He'll stand in the pocket as long as it takes if he thinks a receiver will be open. But if he decides a defense has his receivers covered, he'll take off and cause havoc. He has passed for 3,172 yards and 34 touchdowns and rushed for 590 yards and 10 touchdowns.
He has multiple reads in Narbonne's spread offense, and enjoys the responsibility.
"You're accountable for a lot of stuff," he said. "If you lose, they blame it on the quarterback. If you win, everybody loves you. You have to stay focused."
Douglas' decision to abandon a Delaware Wing-T attack that relied on running the ball and switch to an offense that features lots of passing has helped Narbonne reach the City final for the third time in four years.
He still remembers a pointed question from offensive line coach Art Ramirez during a playoff game in 2007. The Gauchos were on the three-yard line. They had switched to a passing scheme, and Ramirez said, "Why are we throwing the ball?"
And Douglas replied, "Because that's what we do. If you're going to do something, you're going to be committed."
That commitment to a balanced offense with the potential of a big-time passing attack helped attract Williams to Narbonne.
"Me and my dad went out to Narbonne one day and we really liked what Narbonne was doing," Williams said. "They had come from Wing-T to spread, and it looked like it was a great opportunity for me."
Williams has faced strong competition this season. The Gauchos played Moore League champion Long Beach Poly, Mission League champion Gardena Serra, Pac-5 Division semifinalist Tesoro and Western Division finalist Culver City. Now he has to take on Carson for the second time, having led the Gauchos to a 38-37 win over the Colts on Oct. 21.
"They're a great team," he said. "They have good athletes, and it's real hard to beat somebody twice. I know they're going to come out hard, but we have to come out harder."
And next season, all eyes will be on Williams and Narbonne. The team returns 10 defensive starters and seven on offense. Williams will be heavily recruited by colleges. Pressure, pressure, pressure. That's when Williams' guidance from his parents will come through.
"They always make sure I never forget where I come from and stay humble," Williams said.