Dollarway senior quarterback Joshua Liddell is a versatile football player.
How versatile is he?
Liddell was named The Commercial’s Southeast Arkansas Offensive Player of the Year, but will go to Arkansas State next year to play safety, although he could see some time at running back, too.
“It does feel kind of weird,” Liddell said. “Early in my high school career, I was a straight defensive player, playing safety.
“But as I grew up in high school, Coach (Cortez Lee) moved me to more of an offensive player, so it feels kind of weird. But I like it, it’s really good to be versatile playing offense and defense.”
That versatility became quite apparent this year when Liddell played quarterback for the first time since junior high.
“It’s a big adjustment,” Liddell said. “Playing running back, all you have to worry about is taking the handoff from the quarterback and running between the tackles.
“Playing quarterback you have to call the plays, get the plays from the coach, look over the defense and make the reads, all these different drop-steps and knowing the receivers routes.
“You’ve got to know a lot more things playing quarterback.”
It’s safe to say Liddell was a quick learner.
He led the Cardinals to a 13-1 record, which included an undefeated regular season (the school’s first since 1992) and a 2-4A Conference championship. Dollarway also reached the semifinals of the 4A state playoffs before bowing out to eventual state champion Booneville, 43-14.
Lee credited Liddell’s mental and physical attributes for his ability to quickly learn the position.
“His motivation and work ethic were key to his adjustment,” Lee said. “Josh was a quick learner and an incredible athlete.”
Liddell was quick to credit his teammates when informed he had been named offensive player of the year.
“It means a lot to me,” Liddell said. “I didn’t really have any personal goals this year, only team goals. And we accomplished all of them, except for one.
“This can really be one of our achievements. We have a player win offensive player of the year, so that’s something for the team to have to say that we accomplished. … We had a great team this year, great offensive linemen, great receivers (and) great running backs. Everyone worked hard this year and in the offseason.
“They all made plays to make me look good.”
Liddell finished the season with over 1,200 yards each passing and rushing with 37 total touchdowns, while only throwing one interception.
With all the great offensive numbers he put up, Liddell’s impact on defense — where he finished with over 40 tackles, 11 pass breakups and three interceptions for a team that had four shutouts — might have been just as great.
“Who wants to throw the ball to a kid who already had 12 interceptions one year?” said fellow senior Kabion Ento referring to Liddell’s sophomore season. “So I guess the choice was to throw it my way.
“(Liddell) knows how to cover the whole field and everything back there.
“It makes it easier on everyone else, especially if they’re throwing the deep ball, because he can just run it down and go get it like it’s nothing.”
Lee thinks Arkansas State will be getting an impact player in Liddell.
“Over time, he will be one of the top players — if not the top player — on the team,” Lee said. “It’s because of his great attitude and personality.
“He’s very coachable, which means he can be used in multiple schemes.
“Arkansas State landed a very valuable player.”