Ted Landgraf was thrust into the Mendota starting quarterback role as a sophomore in 2019.
While Landgraf and the Trojans took their lumps that season going 1-9, the now senior felt the experience was beneficial.
“Playing as a sophomore as the starting quarterback is a big help,” Landgraf said. “I got to know what it’s like going in a game against defenses. I have a whole other year under by belt now. It’s really helpful.”
With two seasons of experience, Landgraf has noticed the game coming to him easier now.
“Once you get past where you don’t know what’s going on, everything seems to slow down,” Landgraf said. “I think that’s with everything in life.”
As a junior in the spring season, Landgraf completed 28-of-65 passes for 358 yards and three touchdowns with five interceptions while running for 228 yards and three scores in helping the Trojans to a 1-2 record before their season was cut short by COVID-19 protocols.
Landgraf had four touchdowns – two passing, one rushing and one receiving – as he nearly led the Trojans to a comeback victory in a 30-26 loss to Oregon, and he accounted for 284 yards with a TD pass and TD run in Mendota’s 42-28 win over Rock Falls.
“My throwing has gotten better – arm strength and placement,” Landgraf said about how he’s improved through the years. “But the thing that’s most important in high school that I’ve gotten better at is reading the defense and the run game.
“There are reads that are easy to make and some that are hard. Now that I’ve had more years under my belt, the hard ones are becoming easier.”
Mendota coach Keegan Hill expects good things from his experienced signal caller this fall.
“We like what he can do running the ball,” Hill said. “We like what he can do throwing the ball. We can expect him to know where to go with the ball and do it as opposed to keeping the handcuffs on.”
The Mendota roster is full of players like Landgraf who have one or two years of experience, including fellow three-year starters Uzi Angulo, Omar Gonzalez, Damien Magallanes, Emilio Perez, Andy Rivera and Christian Tellez.
“We do have a positive senior class. We have good numbers there,” Hill said. “The junior class is going to bring some skill and numbers to the table. We want to maximize our people. If we can play without having to start sophomores right out of the gates, that shows we have a chance to compete now as opposed to just plugging in the holes.”
The Trojans are hoping a veteran team can help turn the program around.
Mendota has not won more than one game since going 6-4 and making the playoffs in 2014, which is the program’s lone winning season since John McKenzie stepped down as coach after the 2011 season.
McKenzie led the Trojans to the playoffs in seven of his last eight seasons, advancing to at least the second round each time and reaching the quarterfinals twice.
“The pillars of our program are trusting each other, caring about the guy next to you and competing as a unit,” Hill said. “With this being the fourth year and third year for some of these guys playing a lot of varsity ball, to say we can check those boxes and think about competing, yeah, that’s on the table.”