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In first season as QB, Beaty has U-Hi deep in playoffs

Quick, name the quarterback in the Greater Spokane League who finished second behind record-setting sophomore sensation Brett Rypien.

Without looking at the statistics, that would be difficult for most.

Here’s a clue: He played junior varsity last year, when he was a wide receiver and safety.

Need another clue? A first-year head coach handed him the reins of his option offense.

The reference to rookie head coach gives it away. Few would have guessed that junior Jeff Beaty of University was the second-best quarterback statistically.

Especially since he had no previous experience and was learning on the fly. And split time during the preseason with a sophomore who coach Rob Bartlett thought would win the starting job.

To say that the 5-foot-9 Beaty – more suited, physically, for playing running back or even linebacker than quarterback – has exceeded expectations is the understatement of the fall.

During league, Beaty threw for 1,506 yards. Sure that’s a far cry from the 3,179 put up by Rypien. But it’s impressive in its own right.

Beaty completed 54.8 percent of his attempts in league. Including postseason, he’s thrown 20 touchdowns against 12 interceptions. Heck, he was hoping he’d finish with more TDs than picks.

He needs just 44 more yards Saturday, when the Titans (7-4) entertain North Thurston in a State 3A quarterfinal game, to reach 2,000 overall. He’s also rushed for 430 with six TDs.

“In our new offense, I thought I’d end up rushing for more yards than I threw for,” Beaty said.

Beaty threw a 38-yard TD pass to Austin Flynn with 3 seconds left as U-Hi rallied to knock off perennial postseason qualifier Kamiakin 27-22 two weeks ago to advance to the playoffs.

Then last week he led an improbable 34-6 win over another 3A power, O’Dea.

When Bartlett started looking at the experience returning and the holes he’d have to fill after taking over for Bill Diedrick, finding somebody to replace record-setting quarterback Connor Johnson was at the top of his to-do list.

The probable starter decided not to return. So when U-Hi went to summer camp, Bartlett tried using senior-to-be Andrew Morgan, a starter at strong safety.

It didn’t work like Bartlett desired. And while sophomore Garrett Schmerer was going to be given every opportunity to earn the job when preseason practices began in August, Bartlett wanted competition at the position.

Then it struck Bartlett. He remembered Beaty played baseball and had a strong arm. So he asked Beaty to give it a go.

In the back of Bartlett’s mind, though, Beaty was insurance. He figured Schmerer would earn the starting job, but Beaty could be the backup and start elsewhere.

The week of the season opener, Bartlett named Beaty the starter.

“I didn’t think I was going to start on varsity,” Beaty said. “I thought I’d be the junior varsity quarterback. I was stoked when I found out I was going to start.”

There were some growing pains. And it didn’t help that U-Hi’s first two opponents were 4A Mead and Gonzaga Prep, both of which are still in the playoffs.

“I knew we were somewhat in trouble,” Bartlett said. “We’d either go with a kid who had no experience playing the position or we’d have a sophomore.”

He broke in Beaty slowly during camp.

“It truly started with Jeff just being able to call a play in the huddle. It was that basic,” Bartlett said. “Then we talked with him about how you approach the line of scrimmage. We took him from A to Z, and he’s come a long, long ways.”

What’s been the biggest adjustment for Beaty?

“The position physically isn’t very hard but mentally you have to keep your composure,” Beaty said. “I get frustrated very easily and I had to learn to keep my composure.”

It wasn’t until the next-to-last week of the regular season, when U-Hi shut out Ferris 21-0, that Bartlett reached a comfort level with Beaty.

“He had quality games before then, but he was finally to a point where he was reading defenses and could go through different progressions,” Bartlett said. “We didn’t know if we’d be to this point with him until he was a senior. He’s by far and away exceeded our expectations.”

And exceeded his own.

Now Beaty is excited about next season. He plans to lift weights in the winter and watch more video to learn more about his position.

He’s in no hurry to see this season end, though.