South Adams coach Grant Moser treats his quarterbacks different.
No, it isn’t any type of preferential treatment, but it does on making sure Starfire signal callers have the attributes necessary to be difference makers on the field.
“We have certain expectations and characteristics that we ask for in the Starfire quarterback,” Moser said. “We make them print off these qualities and put it up by their bed.”
Growing up the son of a coach (former South Adams coach and current athletic director Jason Arnold), James Arnold had the advantage of being around a program and seeing what it took to succeed. While some of the attributes he learned along the ways, others were innate – character, work ethic and leadership.
“I already knew in middle school that he had a lot of these qualities.”
Arnold was handed the reigns of the Starfire offense full-time as a wide-eyed sophomore, but still threw for 1,645 yards and 17 touchdowns, with the confidence coming with some starts as a freshman. Over the course of the next two years, he re-wrote the record books in every passing category at South Adams, culminating in throwing for a state-best 3,968 yards and 47 touchdowns as a senior, leading the Starfires to their first-ever state finals appearance.
It was an easy choice – James Arnold of South Adams is your 2020 OTH Football Player of the Year.
“I remember my freshman year being in Coach Moser’s class, and he had us do this thing where we picked three goals that we wanted to achieve in high school,” Arnold said. “My three goals were to be the program’s all-time leading passer, the leading scorer in South Adams history and to be valedictorian in our class.
“I am going to achieve two of those, so that is pretty good I feel.”
Arnold ends his career at South Adams not just tops in his class academically, but also the holder of no less than 15 major program records.
But it is the achievements on the field that matter the most to Arnold. He used to get nervous when starting as a freshman and sophomore. But as a seasoned veteran, even in the tunnel at Lucas Oil Stadium prior to taking on Covenant Christian, the nerves were nowhere to be found.
While the potential was always there talent-wise, Arnold’s rise to a leader has been steady and no less impressive. He learned from those who came before – guys like Nic Stuber and Grant Besser – on the ways to lead by example and be a winner on and off the field.
“His biggest development has been as a leader and competitor,” Moser said. “it was evident this year that it was his offense. He held people accountable in practice and always took it as a challenge to make our defense better by playing scout team QB. It made our practices so much more competitive.”
The pandemic made it difficult to prepare for the 2020 season, a campaign that many in Berne had been anticipating for years. You see, every since fifth or sixth grade, Arnold’s class has been identified as the one that could lead South Adams to a state championship game appearance. Not being able to get together for most of the summer could hurt those chances.
But Arnold stayed sharp. He went outside and threw with his dad for an hour a day. His throws were so hard, dad eventually had to wear winter gloves to handle it.
The consistent and tireless work ethic that has endeared him to so many worked. He began the season with a 346-yard, three-touchdown effort against Winchester, and continued to roll from there. He tossed six touchdowns against Lewis Cass, five against Southwood and a Class 1A state finals record 510 yards in the one-point loss to Covenant Christian in the title game.
As for what Arnold leaves behind, the records are one thing, but the success is another, as is handling the pressure. He achieved what he set out to do as a freshman. Not many teenagers, or anyone who sets goals, can say that.
“I couldn’t imagine being a 15-year-old kid and having the kind of pressure poured on you that ‘you will be the class that gets us to state,'” Moser said. “He was obviously instrumental in making this happen. The position with the most pressure on it in the most pressure-filled class to probably ever go through South Adams, and he passed with flying colors.”
2020 OUTSIDE THE HUDDLE ALL-AREA FOOTBALL TEAMS