COLUMBUS, Ohio - When I texted Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett Tuesday that I was looking through his greatest games at Rider, he simply answered, “the good ole days.”
Barrett’s not old but there were a lot of good days. He played on the Rider varsity from 2010-12, but a lot has happened since then. And he’s made the huge leap from high school to college football.
He’s gone from sharing quarterback duties with Malcolm Carter to taking over for a Heisman Trophy candidate in four years.
I wanted to share my five favorite J.T. Barrett games at Rider High School.
But there are moments that stood out to me as much as the scores or yardage totals of any game. The first was a home loss to Denton Ryan in 2011. The game was tied late and J.T. threw an interception that Ryan turned into the winning field goal.
That made Barrett 0-3 against Ryan, the team that knocked the Raiders off in the regional final in 2010. Barrett had focused on getting to the level of Joey Florence’s club.
But Barrett didn’t slouch away when I came for a comment just minutes after that disappointment. He praised his defense for keeping Rider in the game. He took blame for letting the linebacker read him. Essentially he handled it like a real pro. Like one of his QB idols Peyton Manning might have done.
We don’t quote many high school athletes after losses. The coach is paid to speak for them. The students may be understandably crushed. Barrett was different. Cool, calm and collected. Oh, and competitive.
For the record Barrett capitalized on his final chance to beat Ryan, converting a turnover by the Rider defense into a game-winning touchdown drive in the fourth quarter to beat Ryan 21-15 in his senior year in a non-district game.
Rewind to Rider’s scrimmage in August of that year. Barrett could have been taking it easy while the No. 2’s were on the field. Instead, he was barking at teammates, letting them know being sloppy wasn’t an option. He didn’t know at the time he’d become an unpaid assistant coach his senior season after an ACL injury.
It was just one example of what his former head coach, Jim Garfield, called “off-the-chart leadership.”
Looking back, J.T. is right, the “good ole days” indeed. It’ll be good to see him play football again, even if it’s on a TV screen.
Barrett really only ended up with one full season as the Rider quarterback. He shared time as a sophomore and was injured in the fifth game of his senior season. So he won’t end up ranking high on Rider’s all-time statistical leaders.
But his one full year was a gem as he won the Red River 22 MVP with 1,604 passing yards and 1,515 rushing yards. He rushed for nine touchdowns and six two-point conversions and threw 14 TD passes.
Here is a look at five memorable Barrett performances on the field.
No. 5, Nov. 5, 2010 — Rider 42, WFHS 7: Barrett didn’t open his sophomore season at quarterback, and the offense was built around Deron Royster, but in his first Rider-Old High game he shined the brightest with a game-high 136 yards rushing and two touchdowns.
Barrett went on to score the Raiders’ first playoff touchdown the next week as the Raiders made it to the regional final for the first of three consecutive seasons. Barrett led the team in rushing in the Area playoff win and also threw a touchdown pass.
He started the Rider-Old High game the following year, rushing for 108 yards in a 28-7 Raiders’ win.
No. 4, Aug. 31, 2012 — Abilene Cooper 43, Rider 36: Barrett’s senior season started with a loss, but it’d been hard for him to be much more productive against Abilene Cooper.
Barrett passed for 271 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 178 yards and two more scores.
When Barrett got the ball in the fourth quarter with his team down by seven, he threw a 67-yard TD pass and bullied his way in for a two-point conversion and 36-35 lead.
The Raiders couldn’t cover a kickoff or get a key stop that night. But Barrett reminded his team after the game they were winners.
He wasn’t thinking about his 449 yards of offense or his future at Ohio State. They were keeping score so he wanted to win as they had the year before when Barrett and the Raiders rallied in the fourth quarter to beat the Cougars, 36-35.
No. 3, Nov. 11, 2011 — Rider 42, Frenship 14: The Raiders lost three games in the regular season. Frenship’s Tigers went 10-0. And 11-0 was probably looking good when Frenship won the coin toss for home-field advantage.
But Rider had the J.T. Barrett advantage. The junior threw one incompletion that night. He completed nine passes for 134 yards and one touchdown. Barrett rushed for 174 yards and another touchdown and guided his team to a 35-0 lead before a shocked home crowd in Wolfforth.
“We would have had to play pretty flawless to beat them,” an impressed Frenship coach Brad Davis said after the game.
Barrett talked afterward as if he had little to do with it.
“Our linemen were getting up on them and I was making the read. And then (on the screens) it was something we’d worked on a lot in 7-on-7. The receivers were good,” he added.
Losing that coin flip even paid off for 2012 with Barrett sidelined as the Raiders won their first Region I-4A title at Memorial Stadium.
No. 2, Sept. 14, 2012 — Rider 26, Amarillo 17: Another big-time non-district matchup was with the No. 6 Amarillo Sandies visiting Memorial Stadium and geared to stop the No. 1 dual-threat QB in the nation.
Barrett started out giving the Sandies a passing clinic, hitting 6-of-6 passes to five different receivers on the opening touchdown drive.
But the Sandies were strong and recovered from that. Their powerful ground game had them on the verge of a 17-14 victory with less than five minutes to play.
And Barrett was backed up to his own 15-yard line when he got the ball. Barrett also had the memory of falling short 27-24 to the Sandies in Amarillo 12 months earlier when he had a late interception. He had two more picks in this rematch.
But those demons and the Sandies were helpless as Barrett engineered a game-winning drive with the biggest play being an 8-yard pickup on fourth-and-four from the Amarillo 24. That set up his 1-yard game-winning TD run with nine seconds left (Rider scored on defense as time expired).
Barrett admitted he planned all along to call his own number on fourth down. He believed in his blockers and trusted in his legs.
Amarillo coach Mel Maxfield wished he hadn’t. “J.T. is as good as advertised, maybe even a little better,” Maxfield said after the battle. “I was impressed with his patience and his ability to find his secondary receivers.”
Barrett was 15 of 27 for 206 yards and one touchdown throwing and rushed for 119 yards and the game-winner.
But this was a classic J.T. game that wasn’t at all about numbers but about seeing him figure out how to make a play whenever his team needed it most.
And those 85-yard game-winning drives when your team runs out of timeouts are pretty rare, even for a legend.
No. 1, Nov. 26, 2011 — Rider 32, Killeen 24: The game that I usually recall first with J.T. Barrett is a game where he didn’t even complete a pass. The wind was blowing, which is normal around here. But on that December day in Mansfield, it was blowing around 35 mph.
Passing was a gamble and punting against it was an exercise in futility. Snapping the ball to Barrett and forcing Killen High School to try and tackle him is what worked best.
So Barrett ran and ran and ran some more. He carried 30 times for 222 yards and two touchdowns in a 32-24 win over Killeen.
And with it he carried the Raiders into the Region I final (where they lost to Waco Midway).
“That shower is going to feel good,” Barrett said after the win.
Killen coach Sam Jones said afterwards, “No. 6 (Barrett) is a tremendous athlete. He is what you would call a difference-maker, and it showed today,”
Barrett never really knew or cared about his stats but he knew them immediately when I showed up to interview him.
“I threw once and didn’t complete it,” Barrett said.
He won the game, as usual, and stressed that he “wasn’t satisfied.” That was also typical of J.T. Always hungry, never satisfied. And winning!