SPANAWAY — You can’t help but notice Oliver Henry during Bethel football practice. It isn’t just because he’s the Braves quarterback and the center of the entire offense. Nope, even if all the players were just standing around, Henry would stand out from the rest — or more correctly — above the rest.
Standing 6-feet-6 inches, Henry is about a helmet taller than everybody else on the field, except for a couple coaches. But once, he starts leading the offense through 7-on-7 drills, Henry’s obvious physical talent demands all attention.
The junior quarterback zips passes to intermediate routes with stinging velocity. On longer passes, he shows a surprisingly soft touch after heaving the ball more than 50 yards.
"He’s a big time player and a scholarship player if he wants it," said Bethel head coach Gavin Kralik, pictured in the photo above. "He’s got the size and arm strength."
The college talk will have to wait a year, since Henry is just a junior. While there will be some juniors starting at quarterback for teams in the SPSL this season, Henry will be one of the few juniors to come in with extensive varsity experience.
As a slender sophomore, Henry started the last nine games for the Braves, throwing for 1,100 yards and eight touchdowns.
It was definitely a learning experience Henry admitted.
"I was kind of nervous at first," he said. "I didn’t really know how to read defenses or anything like that."
This year, Henry comes in as the undisputed starter and much more prepared for varsity football.
"I’ve worked on agility drills and with the coaches about reading defenses," Henry said.
"I think it will be easier this year."
Kralik can see the seasoning in everything Henry does.
"He’s way above where he was last year," Kralik said.
Consequently, so is the Bethel offense.
"It just allows us to do more things," Kralik said. "We can open it up a lot more."
That’s fine with Henry, who wants to throw it all over the field to his talented receivers.
"I’d love to throw 30 times a game if they let me," Henry said. "We’ll go deep, we’ll go short, we’ll throw it any distance and we’re also going to run on you."
— Ryan Divish