PASADENA – There was a time when La Salle High School’s Mike Novell calmly flew under the radar.
That time was last season, when Novell was the Lancers’ starting quarterback as a sophomore.
He went from mentally preparing to be the starting quarterback on the junior varsity team his sophomore year to being thrust into the starting role on varsity after winning the job in fall camp.
By season’s end, Novell had quietly made a name for himself. He completed 60 percent of his passes, throwing for 1,167 yards and 12 touchdowns against 10 interceptions.
A year later, Novell understands that the pressure is on. He’s now under the microscope and the learning curve is gone.
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Novell, a 6-foot-2, 175-pounder, enters the season having gone through an extensive summer workout that involved weight lifting since January and working out with quarterbacks coach Steve Collins. The duo spent three to four days a week at La Salle working on fundamentals and timing with his slew of receivers, among them senior Kishon Sanders (6-3, 235 pounds) and Stephen Wright, who as a sophomore on the JV level had more than 1,000 yards receiving.
The workout with receivers was on a volunteer basis, which Novell said Sanders and others had no trouble committing to.
The receivers will have some big shoes to fill with the graduation of Mike Alexander, who had 643 receiving yards, rushed for 646 yards, and scored 15 touchdowns – not to mention his four interceptions.
“They really want to improve, and in order for us to have the best season, we need to put in the work, whether it’s during camp or on our free time,” Novell said.
Novell also attended Football University (FBU) on the campus of Cal Lutheran. The three-day camp catered to quarterbacks and wide receivers who came from all over the nation. Novell’s two roommates were quarterbacks from Arizona and San Diego.
“It helped him tremendously just being around other top quarterbacks,” La Salle coach Antoine Peterson said. “He’s a quiet kid, but now he’s being more vocal. Just being away in another atmosphere helped him a lot, maturity-wise.”
There was a time when Novell had more free time in the summer, but with increasing duties and a leadership role for the taking, Novell spent only the first two weeks after school let out for himself. The rest of the summer was devoted to football.
“I was voted team captain this season,” Novell said. “So I know I have to lead by example. But it’s good to have football scheduled all the way through. I can’t just be at home not doing anything.”
Novell has grasped the offense well enough that he’s forming good habits.
“He’s handling the pressure very well,” Peterson said. “He’s very poised. He goes through his reads and knows where everybody has to be. That’s the difference: he doesn’t have to do a lot of thinking, just reacting and letting it go. Mike Alexander bailed him out a lot of times. This time he’s not forcing throws and now finding the open guy.”
Peterson is excited with Novell’s progress. That he’s only a junior-to-be is even more impressive.
“He’s arrived,” Peterson said. “He’s going to be a good one, and there’s no question he can play on Saturdays.”
La Salle’s season opener against Village Christian was moved to Sept. 4 at Glendale High School at 7 p.m. It was previously scheduled for Sept. 3, but Village Christian couldn’t secure lights at its home stadium. … La Salle will have an all-day team-bonding trip Aug. 27, attending the Dallas Cowboys training camp in Oxnard.