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Sophomore signal-caller Russell enters Ozark's starting quarterback competition

OZARK'S PEYTON RUSSELL carries the ball out of the Tigers' offensive backfield.
OZARK'S PEYTON RUSSELL carries the ball out of the Tigers' offensive backfield.

Peyton Russell has emerged as a new candidate for Ozark’s starting quarterback job during the Tigers’ summer camp.

Russell didn’t get many opportunities to show off his throwing arm in Ozark’s 7-on-7 sessions against Parkview, Monett and Bolivar last month, throwing only against the Liberators in the teams’ second session.

But the sophomore signal-caller has received a great number of reps while taking snaps from center at camp the past two weeks.

Suddenly, Russell has joined Laine Emmerth and Connor McMurry in competition to be at the controls of Ozark’s offense. A fourth quarterback, Fisher Wade, is no longer with the team.

Russell’s rapid rise up the depth chart is beyond his pre-season expectations. 

“I didn't think it was going to be possible,” Russell said of competing for the starting QB job. “I thought I was going to work for a spot and I still am. I'm improving every day doing my best to make Ozark a good team.”

Russell has the pedigree of a quarterback. His father, John, was a quarterback at Joplin in the early 2000s. It’s no coincidence Peyton is following in his father’s footsteps.

“He’s taught me everything I know,” Peyton said. “He works through stuff with me and explains it to me. That makes me better.”

Russell was the starting quarterback for Ozark’s freshman team last year and has been a QB since he first played football in the fifth grade. His intro to football came at the same time he moved from Seymour to Ozark.

While Emmerth describes himself as a better runner than a thrower at this juncture of his career, Russell relates that his passing is ahead of his running.

“My biggest strength is passing. My running is getting better,” he said.

Russell has been getting mofe and more accustomed each day to working with Ozark’s upperclassmen and appreciates the support they have shown him.

“It means a lot, it gives me confidence,” he said. “I talk to them every day. We're building good bonds.”

Ozark is looking for a successor at quarterback to two-year starter Brady Dodd, who was effective throwing the ball. Over the past two seasons, Dodd completed 97-of-174 passes for 1,762 yards. 

In addition, Jace Easley passed for 272 yards in 2021 and Gage Depee threw for 70 yards last year. 

Ozark will conclude its three weeks of summer camp by participating in a Pitt State (Kansas) camp next week.