Former defender now under center at Capital

Eagles' QB off to a strong start as he moves to offense full time.

rroberts@idahostatesman.comOctober 4, 2013 

Conner Poulson is the youngest of three brothers to play football for Capital High. Their dad, Scott, played for Capital, too. Conner took over as the team’s starting QB this season. “I don’t really understand where he learned all that, because it wasn’t from me,” said Jake, the middle Poulson brother who graduated from Capital in 2007. “He’s always been so competitive in sports and watching him at the varsity level as a junior, I am just amazed.”

Conner Poulson got a taste of the highs and lows of being a starting quarterback on two offensive plays last season.

He experienced the rush of throwing a touchdown pass and the disappointment of tossing an interception.

The rest of Poulson’s time in 2012 was spent on defense, chasing wide receivers as a starting free safety for the Capital High football team.

But Poulson doesn’t consider his first two seasons on varsity a waste of his offensive skills.

Quite the contrary.

The cerebral 6-foot, 205-pound junior credits those years as a backup for better preparing him for the role he’s always wanted.

This season, he’s the Eagles’ full-time starting quarterback.

“Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve always wanted to play quarterback,” Poulson said. “I’ve always wanted to have that pressure on me.”

Through five games, Poulson has blossomed in his new role, completing 73.5 percent of his passes (75-of-102) for 880 yards and 10 touchdowns without an interception. He has a quarterback rating of 178.3.

He’s been nearly as effective with his legs, rushing for 417 yards and six more TDs.

Poulson’s early success has the 5-0 Eagles off to their best start since 2010.

“Believe it or not, playing safety he wasn’t very aggressive. He was passive. He wouldn’t go hit anybody,” Capital quarterbacks coach Dave Kemper said. “Now that you put the football in his hand, he’s a completely different person. He’ll run you over. He’ll attack you. He does all that kind of stuff.”

Poulson — who carries a 4.0 grade-point average — has been a student of the game for as long as he can remember.

As the youngest of three brothers, Poulson spent many Friday nights watching older siblings Nick and Jake play football for Capital. Nick, who said he was in high school by the time Poulson was born, played on the O-line, while Jake was a two-year starter at quarterback and went on to play at Utah State.

“I was not in the stands, I was down on the field, talking to all the players and getting the feel of it,” Poulson said. “That made it really fun for me as a little kid being on the field with all the big high school players.”

Just as his older brothers mentored him along the way, Poulson also credits his two years as a backup to Makena Simis — the 2012 5A SIC player of the year who now plays for Montana — with preparing him for a starting role.

“Last year when Conner was our starter on defense, he was our backup quarterback, too,” Capital coach Todd Simis said. “He didn’t get a lot of reps, but he learned everything. I don’t think he quit learning throughout the year. He was still staying involved mentally on offense and he had a great relationship with Makena, and that helped along the way.”

Poulson has deflected most of the praise for Capital’s hot start onto his teammates.

“It’s awesome how many weapons we can go to on the offense,” he said. “I trust every single one of them with the ball.”

Eleven receivers have caught passes so far, and seven of those players have accounted for at least one touchdown.

Ten players have run the ball for the Eagles, and five of them have scored at least one TD.

Capital’s signature Gurkha defense is doing its part, too. The Eagles have one of the stingiest defenses in the 5A SIC, limiting opponents to 292 yards and 17.2 points per game.

Last week’s come-from-behind 42-26 win over previously unbeaten Rocky Mountain solidified the Eagles’ confidence in their first-year quarterback.

Capital trailed 20-7 at the half, but overtook the Grizzlies with five second-half touchdowns.

“It doesn’t get any bigger than that. The crowd, the pressure,’’ Simis said. “The way he and the rest of the kids handled themselves in that situation, how can you not believe in him and what we are doing?”

Rachel Roberts: 377-6422, Twitter: @IDS_VarsityX

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