NORRIDGE — Two days after the Ridgewood football team routed Crossroads 47-0, Rebels coach Chris Zack pulled Chris Jacobsen and Alex Rice aside and told both of them that he was making a switch at quarterback.
Jacobsen would be the starter against Fenton in Week 3 and Rice would start at free safety and wide receiver.
“[Jacobsen] was practicing really hard, even though he wasn’t starting,” Zack said of why he switched to Jacobsen. “He was still putting in all the work. He was making all the right throws and the right reads. Alex was still struggling with some of that. We knew that if we were going to be able to compete going forward, we needed to have Chris at quarterback because he was able to better understand what the defense is doing.”
Ridgewood’s offense moved the ball down the field against Fenton in rainy conditions, and the Rebels led in the fourth quarter. Jacobsen, a junior, finished the game 14-for-31 for 221 yards. He threw three touchdowns and three interceptions in a game the Bison won 34-21 on Sept. 12.
Ridgewood followed that with a 41-0 loss Sept. 19 at Glenbard South. Jacobsen was 11-for-26 for 89 yards against a team that won the Metro Suburban title last season.
For Jacobsen, the last two starts were the culmination of a lot of hard work.
He said his mentality “was to keep trying harder during that time [he wasn’t the starter]. … Going 100 percent every play during practice. Just trying to get better to end up starting.”
Jacobsen said that when he was the sophomore team’s starting quarterback last year, he didn’t anticipate a position battle for the varsity job. He assumed he’d take over for Geri Aliaj, who graduated earlier this year, until he heard about Rice’s move to quarterback.
Jacobsen has played the position since grade school and that experience helps him make reads and audibles. While Rice, a sophomore, is a talented athlete who gave the Rebels a dual-threat quarterback in their spread offense, Jacobsen is more of a prototypical quarterback.
The competition came down to the final week of the preseason, but it seemed to reach an anti-climactic end when Jacobsen hurt his right (throwing) shoulder when making a tackle during practice. His shoulder became inflamed and it caused him to miss the Rebels’ green and white scrimmage. He was held out of practice in the week leading up to Ridgewood’s season opener against Niles West, he said, and Rice started against the Wolves.
“Even though he wasn’t starting, he kept working hard,” Ridgewood coach Chris Zack said.
Jacobsen rehabbed the shoulder injury with Ridgewood’s trainer and was able to play against Crossroads in the second week of the season. He looked good in the second half of the Rebels’ victory, but his only two passes were dropped.
Although Ridgewood is currently 1-3, Jacobsen and Zack are upbeat heading into Metro Suburban East play at home Friday against Elmwood Park.
Rice is one reason for the optimism. He has six catches for 122 yards and a touchdown in the last two weeks, strengthening a position group that struggled with drops during the first two weeks of the season. Jacobsen’s experience and play are additional reasons for the optimism.
“There are places I need to improve on, but I do feel good out there,” Jacobsen said.