Tobee Stokes has been waiting for his turn to be York High’s quarterback since his freshman season.
After excelling at a number of different positions for three years, Stokes will soon take on a new challenge, guiding a talented but young York High team to a another successful season. His first start is expected to come in less than two months against a powerhouse Pittsburgh Central Catholic program.
“I had to dig down deep and focus on that leadership role,” Stokes said. “I had to teach myself not become overconfident or cocky about being in that role, and actually become a leader my teammates would want to (follow).”
In his three years on the team, Stokes played running back, wide receiver and defensive back.
Time to shine: York High coach Russell Stoner said that the plan was always for Stokes to become the team’s quarterback and that the rising senior is ready for the role. He added that the 5-foot-10-inch Stokes had always practiced with the wide receivers and quarterbacks.
“He is very dynamic with the ball in his hand,” Stoner said. “He’s going to be a tough kid to game plan for.”
Basketball influence: Also a member of the standout York High basketball team, Stokes said he can lean on the play-making ability required to run an offense on the hardwood to ease the transition into the quarterback role this season. He takes over for Seth Bernstein, who led York High to an 11-2 mark last season.
“Having that point guard role, you control what happens on the floor so you’re the one that calls the shots,” Stokes said. “It allows me to realize certain situations on the court or on the field and really flows (together).”
Stokes will be calling the shots this season and Stoner will rely on his signal caller’s experience for the Bearcats’ offense to be on the same page.
Adjustment period: In addition to Stokes taking over as the starting quarterback, York High needs to replace all-state performers Dayjure Stewart at running back and Rob Rideout at wideout/defensive back. Stewart and Rideout will play at Illinois State and Millersville, respectively.
While the Bearcats have players with junior varsity experience who will be asked to step up, Stokes said the early stages of changing the mindset of the younger players was difficult.
“At first, it was pretty frustrating, I can’t lie,” Stokes said. “Just trying to show them the varsity level is way different than junior varsity. I think we’re starting to come together and figure stuff out well.”
Stoner agreed with Stokes’ initial frustrations, but said that York High will do what they always do and was confident in the players taking on major roles this season.
While Stokes is a run-first quarterback who tries to emulate Michael Vick’s style of play on the field, Stoner said the quarterback can throw the ball too.
“He can chuck the thing,” Stoner said. “He really can throw it.”
In limited action last year, while primarily playing running back and wide receiver, Stokes threw five passes and four were for touchdowns, according to Stoner. The coach added that Stokes can launch the ball about 60 yards.
Preparing for college: While he prepares for his first season as a quarterback, Stokes’ first Division I offer came from Stewart’s Illinois State squad as a slot receiver. Illinois State plays at the Football Championship Subdivision level. When he goes to camps, Stokes participates in the wide-receiver drills, but has no issues switching between playing quarterback and wide receiver.
“Everything is muscle memory for me,” Stokes said. “As soon as I go to the camps, I know I have to just flip a different switch so that I can be dialed in at that position.”
No pressure: Despite the turnover on the roster before his first season running the offense, Stokes said he doesn’t feel the weight of the expectations that come with his new position.
He set goals for the season that include getting all A or B grades in his classes, passing for 2,000 yards and rushing for 3,000.
“I have no pressure,” Stokes said. “I’ve been in that quarterback position before. I know what I have to do for us to be special.”
Neither Stokes nor Stoner had any concerns about the quarterback’s first start coming against Pittsburgh Central Catholic, which won the PIAA Class 6-A state title in 2014 and appeared in the championship game as recently as 2016.
Pittsburgh Central Catholic’s roster is highlighted by A.J. Beatty, a 6-foot-5-inch defensive end committed to play at North Carolina after his senior season.
“The first game will be a challenge, but I believe my team can win.” Stokes said. “If we go up there and play up to our ability, I believe we can win that game.”
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