|Photo by Lorenzo J. Reyna|
Leppke is facing the task of joining former Emperors David Rico (Class of 2012 graduate, Cal Lutheran) and Marcus McMaryion (Class of 2014 graduate, Oregon State) as the Emps' next best quarterback. He's also looking to lead Dinuba to its third consecutive title game appearance after finishing as a runner-up in 2012 and winning the section's D III title last year. Leppke makes his varsity football debut at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 29, against Tulare County juggernaut Mission Oak at Dinuba's Claud Hebert Field.
Leppke has heard the McMaryion comparisons as he steps in for the Emps. Leppke has been given advice from both McMaryion and Rico.
"Marcus was his own person, but he told me to be my own person. Not all quarterbacks are the same and we can be great in our own ways," Leppke said. "It's similar with David Rico. He told me the same thing."
Leppke prepared for his future role early. He was active in the spring 7-on-7 tournament season and played with the Los Angeles based Beyond 2 Grand (B2G). Leppke attended various summer camps including Fresno State's camp in June 2014 to build on his quarterback skills.
He'll play on an offense that lost just two offensive linemen from last year and welcomes back Michael Wright, the Emps' most explosive playmaker at running back with 36 touchdowns rushing and receiving.
Leppke, though, understands what his job is and what his head coach Kevin Scharton expects from him.
"Scharton wants me to be a leader on offense. My team knows I'm in charge and when they're down, I need to be the one who brings them back up," Leppke said.
Rico was known in Dinuba to be a small 5-foot-11 quarterback, but damaged defenses with his arm and legs. The 6-foot-1 McMaryion picked apart defenses with 6,136 career passing yards and 71 touchdown passes.
What type of quarterback is Leppke?
"I'm mobile in the pocket and I have good arm strength," Leppke said. "I need to work on throwing on the run and reading defenses quicker. "
Leppke will deal with a Mission Oak defense that allowed 21 points or less in 12 straight games last year. The highest point total the Hawks surrendered was in their 35-34 loss to Bakersfield Christian in the 2013-14 Division IV title game.
Despite winning the D III championship, Leppke and the Emperors believe that they're getting overlooked in the Central Section.
"I feel like we're underrated big time," Leppke said. "Our defensive line is huge, our offensive line has three returners from last year and I think I can get the job done, just like Marcus from last year. I think we're fine."
Leppke and the Emperors want to take it one game at a time, as they both look to continue their success.
"I'm just excited to see where we are at in the season," Leppke said. "It (the Mission oak game) will give us an idea of what we have on this team and if we still have what we have from last year. It determines if Marcus (McMaryion) was the factor from last year or if it was the whole team together."
CALI GOLD MINE'S TAKE
What to like: Leppke already has impressive size. However, it's his ability to make plays with his legs that makes him a quarterback to watch. Leppke made a lot of plays with his feet when things broke down. He's slippery with his mobility and can make defenders miss. He thrived off of the play action last year at the junior varsity level. I'm guessing with Michael Wright returning at running back, the Emps will do a lot of play action throws, which was Leppke's strength last season. Leppke shows off a strong arm and does a solid job of getting his throws to the right areas. I didn't see Leppke making a bad decision with his arm while watching him in the CGM film room.
What to build on: The biggest thing for Leppke will be how well he performs against tougher competition. Mission Oak, El Diamante and Tulare Union are all on the schedule this season. The Tulare County trio has been known for winning more than nine games in any given season, with El Diamante entering the year as the defending Division II champs. I'll also need to see Leppke's ability to locate a receiver while on the run and not worry too much about scrambling all the time.
Overall: Leppke is in a good position. The quarterback at Dinuba has ended up being a game changer and a future college football prospect. He's done a good job preparing for the varsity role by hitting the camp/tournament circuit. How much he learned from McMaryion, Rico and in the offseason will come into play this Friday. If he has a monster season, you could be looking at the latest Emperor college football prospect.
More on Leppke: http://www.hudl.com/athlete/3096705/highlights/87351378