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RGR Spotlight | 'We're all in this together': QB Colby Gomez knows Newton is ready to meet the moment
Part of the RGR Spotlight series. New installments every Monday leading up to kickoff of the 2022 season.
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On September 3, 2021, then-sophomore Colby Gomez trotted onto the field as Newton’s starting quarterback. On the other side was one of the state’s best defenses in Andover Central — a 4A powerhouse that would serve as Gomez’s trial by fire.
Four quarters later, the Railers came up just four points short as Gomez displayed a confidence that’s rare for a sophomore signal-caller. His 74-percent completion rate and 166 yards through the air in the season opener proved why he earned the job over two other candidates, despite one of them being a year older.
Even more impressive? The 2021 season was Gomez’s first playing quarterback. Ever.
But you wouldn’t have been able to tell by his play on the field. Things got hectic at times — as one would expect them to in the course of a 2-7 season — but Gomez always seemed to be one of the lone constants on a streaky Newton offense that finished fifth in regular-season passing in 5A.
This was noted by the Derby radio crew, which ached at the fact that the Panthers will “have to face [Gomez] for three more years” during their matchup with the Railers. For the rising junior, the key to this steady-handedness is both physical and mental.
“My preparation for each game to give myself that confidence is to prepare my body and put myself in a position to perform at 100-percent,” Gomez said. “That way, I don't have to worry about myself — I can worry about my teammates. That's being a leader on the team. That's what it’s about.”
That game-by-game mentality will loom large in a 2022 season where the expectations are considerably elevated from a year ago, and it’s a focal point of Gomez’s leadership. “It's kind of the same thing every week, win or lose, we start over,” he said. “We have a brand new week against a different team. We don’t have time to worry about the previous week.”
He continued, “We’re all in this together. [The other guys on the team] are going through the same stuff as you. As the quarterback, you have to remain calm and make sure everybody keeps their composure. You need everybody locked in on what they're doing right now — not what’s in the future or the past.”
This mentality will also help ease the stress of change that accompanies the arrival of a new coaching staff headed up by state title-winner Greg Slade. With every new staff comes new schemes and decision-making processes, and Gomez recognizes what’s expected of his role in generating on-field success for Newton.
“With [Slade] being more of an offensive line specialist, I feel like that's going to bring more cards to the table for our offense — especially in the run game,” Gomez said. “Obviously, though, there’s going to be a lot of reads in this offense on my part. I have to make good decisions and we have to score the ball a lot more than we did last season.”
The run-game improvements Gomez mentions doesn’t only apply to running backs. The quarterback, who says passing “comes natural” to him likely through his baseball skills, is expecting to see an uptick in the usage of his own legs in the upcoming campaign. It’s an area that he’s focused on enhancing this offseason and a testament to the importance of learning from experience.
“Last year, we really needed the run game to work in order for our passes to open up downfield, especially with the RPOs,” he said. “We have to keep the defense guessing.”
However, Gomez knows none of the schematics matter without chemistry. And with the 2022 season rapidly approaching, he feels this team is one of the tightest-knit groups he’s been around.
“Going into my junior year with this senior class ahead of us, there’s a tight relationship as we're only a year apart,” he said. “It’s easy to communicate since we've grown up with each other our entire lives. … Going up to [Benedictine] and competing with some of the best teams in the Kansas City area, that was great for us.”
“And now we’re just focused on getting our minds and bodies right for the season.”