It’s been a tough three weeks for Fort Gibson, and even more so for Cameron Dornan.
But the former quarterback is making the most of it.
Dornan, a junior who last year took over the quarterbacking duties after then-starter Robbie Allen returned to tight end and fullback, found himself moved in a similar fashion just barely into week two this year in favor of freshman Cole Mahaney, who had 84 yards passing in his first start and a touchdown in an overtime loss to Berryhill.
The Tigers took it on the chin to a tune of 49-7 against Wagoner last week to end a brutal three-game non-district juggernaut against top 10 teams in classes 3A-5A, but for Dornan, his run behind center had come to an end.
He could have shown discouragement, or even called it a season.
Quite the opposite was his response.
He’ll start at receiver this week when the Tigers host Stilwell for homecoming and their District 4A-4 opener with a fresh start and fresh perspective.
“I trust our coaches to do what they feel is best for the team and to accept that,” he said Thursday. “I made my mind up that I was going to go hard and do the best I could.”
Receiver isn’t foreign territory for Dornan. He was there in eighth grade before moving to quarterback – a position of recent instability caused in part by a transfer of another player who had been a regular there for a couple seasons.
Now, he’s back.
Just one little adjustment, though.
“My stamina,” he said. “I haven’t run that much at quarterback. I’ve always been able to catch. I know the routes. The only problem was my endurance. I got that up and am ready to go.”
Laps at the track in the evening hours and a little extra push in practice itself got him caught up.
He’s taken his demotion, or reassignment, very well in the eyes of his head coach, Greg Whiteley.
“I’m proud of how he has accepted his role,” Whiteley said. “It’s a shock to be told you’re not the quarterback anymore. He looked really good at wide receiver this week. He seems like a natural there and he’ll start Friday night.”
Dornan said he’ll be there for the guy who took his job.
“I’m really good friends with him,” Dornan said. “If he has questions or anything, I still know the offense, I still know what to do at quarterback so I’ll be there to help. He knows the routes, I know the routes. We connect together well on the field.”
Dornan’s situation is not unlike a one-time Oklahoma Sooner quarterback. Paul Thompson was expected to take over for Jason White until White announced he was using a sixth year of eligibility. Thompson beat out highly-touted recruit Rhett Bomar for the job the following season, only to be replaced at halftime in what would be a season-opening loss to TCU in 2005. Thompson wound up accepting a role as a receiver and his first game at that spot later that year, got a standing ovation.
As the story goes, Bomar was dismissed from the team in August 2006 for illegal payments at a summer job. Thompson wound up back at quarterback, and not only led his team to a Big 12 title, he also received the team’s Paul Key Award for character and courage.
Dornan may not return at quarterback, but he won’t waver in his team-first mindset.
“We need a win,” he said. “This will be a game where we can show what we’re made of, get our confidence up and just really work on what we need to work on.”
Whiteley said despite the lopsided outcome last week, he felt his new quarterback did some positive things.
“He made some good throws. When he got forced out of the pocket and scrambled, he didn’t get himself in any bad situations where just threw the ball up,” the coach said. “I’m pleased with his effort and I think he’ll have a better game this week.”
Whiteley said two back-to-back fumbles early against Wagoner broke his team’s back last week.
“We’re running the ball effectively and we fumble. They score, we get the ball back, move the ball and we fumble again,” he said.
“Wagoner played their best game so far. They get fired up playing us and we usually get fired up playing them. We’re usually up to that opportunity and challenge.”
Several players will return from injury issues this week. One of the key returnees is safety Dylan Mills, who has passed through the concussion protocol, Whiteley said.
Stilwell enters the game 0-3 as well but with a far weaker schedule than the Tigers have experienced.
The Indians lost 26-19 to Western Heights, 7-0 to East Central, then fell behind 50-6 at half against Verdigris before tacking on a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns to make it a 50-23 outcome.