FB: Colonel quarterbacks come from north, south, east and Weist

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FB: Colonel quarterbacks come from north, south, east and Weist

Wilkes quarterback sophomore Doug Weist wears number six in honor of former high school teammate Jaden Leiby.

Wilkes quarterback sophomore Doug Weist wears number six in honor of former high school teammate Jaden Leiby.

Kirsten Peters

Wilkes quarterback sophomore Doug Weist wears number six in honor of former high school teammate Jaden Leiby.

Kirsten Peters

Kirsten Peters

Wilkes quarterback sophomore Doug Weist wears number six in honor of former high school teammate Jaden Leiby.

Kirsten Peters and Ben Mandell

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At fourth-and-12 with the game on the line in overtime against Misericordia, an unlikely hero stepped up for Wilkes — Doug Weist.

With starting quarterback Jose Tabora ejected from the game in the first quarter, and second-string quarterback Heath Hoovler out due to illness, Weist was thrust into the spotlight. 

“On fourth and 12 I thought to myself, ‘Make a throw that will get a first down,’” said Weist. “I wasn’t really thinking of going for it all. I dropped back and went through my progression, seeing an open spot in the corner of the endzone. I knew Nate (Whitaker) was going to end up there. I trusted him and threw it to the spot.”

The rest is history. The Colonels kicked the extra point and defeated the Cougars 36-35. But there is more to Weist’s story than this moment.

Weist found out on Friday, Oct. 25 — one day before the Colonels’ game against the Cougars — that he was moving up the depth chart to second string after sophomore quarterback Heath Hoovler was sidelined due to illness.

Later that night, Weist’s alma mater had a huge football game, North Schuylkill hosting Pottsville for a division title. In the game, Weist’s former teammate Jaden Leiby suffered a serious injury, putting him in critical condition.

“Jaden is one of my guys from back home,” said Weist. “We aren’t best friends, but we are brothers having played on all types of teams throughout the years.”

Weist showed up on Saturday for Wilkes’ game against Misericordia. But this time, he knew he needed to be ready with his new role as the second-string quarterback.

The Colonels jumped out to an early 14-0 lead after a kick-return touchdown and an offensive touchdown, but things went south just as quickly as Wilkes grabbed their lead.

On the second drive of the game, starting quarterback senior Jose Tabora scrambled out of the pocket and ran out of bounds for a short gain. After the play, Tabora got the officials’ attention with something he said, taking an unsportsmanlike penalty. 

The very next play, Tabora threw an interception down-field, trying to get the yardage back. He chased the play down, but while on the Cougars sideline Tabora received his second unsportsmanlike foul, resulting in an ejection.

“When Jose got ejected, I first thought to myself ‘Did that really just happen?’” explained Weist. “But when I realized it did, I thought that I had to step up and try not to miss a beat in the offense.”

Things were a struggle at first, but the Colonels’ run game was able to help Weist ease into the game.

After Weist led his team to the overtime victory, he learned that Tabora was going to be suspended for the first half of Wilkes’ game against FDU-Florham, meaning he would get his first career start.

“Doug did well,” said head coach Jonathan Drach of his third string quarterback’s two performances. “As a quarterback group, they all understand that we have to support each other, and when it’s their turn to be in the game, everybody else is in full support of them. I think that each one of them has their own different skill set, that’s why we recruited them. I don’t want to have a room full of the same people.”

Weist was one of five Colonel quarterbacks to play in the most recent game, with Drach pulling on each player from all directions of his offense for different strengths.

In the game, both Weist and senior captain Dane Tarentelli, another North Schuylkill graduate, wore Leiby’s number “six.”

“It meant a lot to wear the number six. Both (Tarentelli) and I wanted to honor a friend and brother of ours,” said Weist. “Wearing his number was an honor, and I hope we made him proud.”

Tarantelli had similar sentiments about honoring Leiby with the simple switch of a jersey.

“Wearing the number six yesterday was more than wins and losses and more than just a number change — it was bigger than any one person,” said Tarantelli. “There are a lot of people back home going through a rough time, and if wearing number six can help, it’s the least I can do.”

There is a lot that Weist’s home community has been doing to help Leiby and his family.

“There are many fundraisers going on for Jaden and his family. The two biggest being a t-shirt sale and the wristband sale,” shared Weist. “Within just one week of sales, over 20,000 shirts were sold and many wristbands were sold as well. There are fundraisers at local restaurants, as well as a fund in the school where people are able to drop off money to help Jaden and his family with all of the medical expenses.”

Life is bigger than football, but football offers an escape from reality. Weist was able to strap on his pads and take the field the day after his former teammate went down. 

After coming into the game, Weist had his escape and he stepped up in one of the biggest moments of the Colonels’ season.

Leiby is currently still in the hospital with his last known condition being stable.

Individuals looking to contribute may go through the North Schuylkill School District Facebook page. “Prayers for 6” t-shirts and #JADENSTRONG wristbands may be purchased with all proceeds going to the Leiby family.

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