Photo by Rob Howe
Your Prep Sports
WEST BRANCH – As the son of a state championship quarterback turned offensive coordinator it is easy to assume Gavin Hierseman was destined for a career as a quarterback from an early age.
That was certainly the path that former West Branch quarterback and current Bear offensive coordinator John Hierseman saw for his son.
The younger Hierseman had a different position plan during his early days on the gridiron.
“Growing up (my dad) wanted me to play quarterback but in YSF I knew no one really passed the ball and I wanted the ball,” West Branch junior Gavin Hierseman said. “That was a big factor in me wanting to play running back.”
After spending his first two prep seasons bouncing around at different positions Hierseman finally ended up where many expected he would start his career – under center.
To the surprise of few that figured Hierseman would follow in his fathers’ footsteps the junior has excelled in his first season as a full-time quarterback.
Hierseman has accounted for nearly 1,900 yards of total offense and 24 touchdowns this season while leading Class 1A fourth-ranked West Branch to its first 10-0 start since 2015.
West Branch will be seeking its first semifinal appearance since 2011 when it hosts long-time rival Regina (8-2) on Friday at 7 p.m. at the Little Rose Bowl in West Branch.
“Gavin has been one of the true reasons that we are playing at the level that we are playing,” West Branch head coach Butch Pedersen said. “Did I think he’d be able to do this? I thought so, he’s a great athlete, but maybe not to the degree that he’s doing it right now, because he’s playing at a high level. He’s a huge factor for us.”
Quarterback was one of the few questions marks going forward for West Branch after a 9-2 season a year ago following the graduation of the program’s all-time leading passer Beau Cornwell.
In the months after a loss to Van Meter in the 1A quarterfinals Pedersen called the younger Hierseman into his office.
The request from the longtime West Branch coach caught Hierseman off guard.
“He said we are looking at you to possibly be the starting quarterback and I was pretty surprised,” Hierseman said. “He asked if I would be down to work for that and I worked every day in the offseason and just got better.”
Hierseman spent the offseason working with Cornwell and his father and offensive coordinator.
The moved to quarterback was almost immediately successful.
“He’s a really good leader and that’s half the battle and he’s embraced that,” John Hierseman said. “He’s a good leader without trying to be a leader, kids gravitate toward him.”
In his first career start Hierseman completed 14-of-17 passes for 92 yards and a touchdown in a 28-6 win over 2A quarterfinalist West Liberty.
Hierseman has only gotten better since.
The 6-foot-1, 185-pound junior ranks third in Class 1A among players with 100 attempts completing 63.7 percent of his passes.
Hierseman has thrown for 1,443 yards and his 18 touchdowns rank seventh in 1A. Just as impressively he has thrown only three interceptions in 157 pass attempts as a first-year quarterback.
“He’s more than filled the shoes that he needed to fill for coming in and playing quarterback here,” West Branch senior receiver Trey Eagle said. “He has really come in and picked up where we left off. All the guys have helped him out a lot but there was really no slow start to this offense. He just came in and got the train rolling.”
The breakthrough for Hierseman came in week three when he threw for a then career-high 243 yards and three touchdowns in a road win at Williamsburg.
Two weeks later he passed for 313 yards and a score in a win over Bellevue.
“We kept the gloves on him early and have slowly taken them off and everything we’ve thrown at him he’s done a good job with,” John Hierseman said.
Hierseman wanted to be a running back for a reason and has shown why this season giving the Bears a dual-threat at quarterback.
He ranks second on the team with 426 rushing yards and six touchdowns.
Balance has become the trademark of the Hierseman-led West Branch offense. West Branch averages 181 rushing yards per game and 149 passing yards.
“As the season has gone on, we advanced a little more and a little more and everyone has gotten a little more comfortable,” Gavin Hierseman said. “We can run, we can pass we can do everything really. When everyone comes together it’s great.”
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