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JAX OF ALL TRADES: Redbank Valley Sophomore Jaxon Huffman Unflappable in Stepping in at QB to Help Lead Bulldogs to D9 Crown

NEW BETHLEHEM, Pa. (EYT/D9) — Jaxon Huffman was struggling. He knew it.

He just wasn’t about to show it. 

The Redbank Valley sophomore was thrust into the starting quarterback role for the Bulldogs’ football team two days before the District 9 Class A championship game on Friday against Port Allegany.

While he made some good reads and throw in the first half against the Gators, he also had some negative plays as Redbank trailed 7-6 at the half. 

If Huffman was flustered, he kept that to himself. 

(Pictured above, Redbank Valley sophomore Jaxon Huffman threw for nearly 350 years in his first varsity start at quarterback in relief of injured Braylon Wagner to lead the Bulldogs to a District 9 Class A title on Friday/photo by Ripple Photography)

“I’m a firm believer in body language and that a good mindset wears off on everyone else around you,” Huffman said. “My dad taught me from when I was playing basketball in second grade all the way up until now that your body language is one of the biggest things everyone picks up on. And it either goes against you or for you. So you just have to keep a good mindset, keep calm and keep everyone else calm.”

Huffman did just that and shook off that tepid start to have a hot second half in throwing for 344 yards and three touchdowns and adding another score on the ground in a 26-7 win over the Gators as Redbank claimed the D9 crown for the third time in four seasons.

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It was his first varsity start at the position — although he had played quarterback in junior varsity games. 

His play belied his inexperience and youth. 

“He didn’t have a strong first half, but I think the biggest credit to him is his maturity and his mindset,” said Redbank Valley coach Blane Gold. “We basically went to talk to him at halftime as psychologists. He just looked us dead in the eyes and said, ‘I’m good.’”

He certainly was.

Part of that ability to roll with the punches comes from some of the adversity Huffman has already had to endure.

In the seventh grade, he suffered a herniated disc in his back. Less than two years later as he was heading into his freshman year, he herniated another disc in his back. That injury was more severe and required nine weeks of arduous recovery that included traction, pulsed radiofrequency and laser therapy.

And a lot of physical therapy.

It wiped out his football season. 

Huffman said he will have a constant struggle with his back for his entire life.

“We actually don’t know what caused the back problems,” Huffman said. “I could have done something from lifting to something as simple as a fast reflex. It started off in seventh grade with one herniated disc. I did some therapy and felt like I was 100%. I got back into sports and then my back started to bug me again, and I went back and got it checked out. It turned out I actually had another herniated disc — the L4 and L5, stacked right on top of each other.”

Missing his freshman year was hard on Huffman, who didn’t play youth football and put on the pads for the first time in the seventh grade. 

Instantly, he fell in love with the game. Having a year taken away from him was difficult to bear. 

“I know missing all last season was really a killer for him,” Gold said. “It was a sport I believe he fell in love with and I felt bad for him. Really happy for him for what he’s able to do. He’s a hard worker and he has to be creative with the way that he works in the weight room, but he’s probably right up there as pound for pound one of our strongest kids that we have in the weight room.”

So far he’s been able to avoid another serious back injury. 

He wasn’t so lucky a few weeks ago with his shoulder. 

Huffman separated the AC joint in his right (throwing) shoulder against Central Clarion in the regular season finale and missed the Coudersport playoff game. 

Redbank Valley record-setting starting quarterback Braylon Wagner — another sophomore — was also out that game, forcing the Bulldogs to put senior wide receiver Mason Clouse at QB in the 46-13 win. 

Huffman was ready to go against Port Allegany and made the most of it. 

He said the experience he gleaned from playing quarterback in junior varsity games made all the difference. 

“Oh, 100%,” Huffman said. “JV games aren’t just an overlooked thing for us. We take time, put a lot of effort into it. It’s the same program from the bottom up. We’re all just trying to get the best out of what we have. JV definitely helped give me some reads, got me in a little taste of what a quarterback should do, and I took most of that into the varsity game.“

Wagner is the unquestioned starting quarterback and Huffman is the backup. Huffman is also a difference-maker at linebacker on defense and rotates in as a slot receiver on offense. 

Huffman said that is when Redbank is at its best. 

“From the moment I heard Braylon got hurt, I was hoping and praying that he would be able to get back in play,” Huffman said. “When he’s in there, the team is back to normal and everything runs smooth. But I have an amazing coaching staff. They prepare me and the rest of the team for everything. Short notice,  long notice they’re gonna make sure I know what to do.”

It’s a luxury most high school football teams don’t have. 

Two young quarterbacks who can get the job done — and done well.

“We’re very spoiled as a single-A program to have a backup quarterback of that caliber to be able to step in, in that moment in his first career start, and throw for nearly 350 yards,” Gold said. “Everything that we’re doing is centered around getting Braylon healthy — really getting him healthy to a point where it’s safe for him to play and he can be effective in the way that he plays.”

Huffman is as competitive as anyone, but he said he is all for what makes the team better. 

That competitive fire came from growing up in an athletic home with two older sisters and a younger brother. 

He and his sisters, Emma and Alivia, and his brother, Jase, turned everything into a game. 

“Having the best seat in the car. Who could grab the first plate at dinner. A variety of things stuff that doesn’t even matter — it was all a competition,” Huffman said, laughing. “And whoever came out on top — I mean, it was always what you wanted. It just made me who I am today.”

Huffman’s father, Jason, is an assistant coach on the Redbank football team. During Jason’s playing days for the Bulldogs, he was a quarterback and won a D9 championship in 1991.

Jaxon said his father has been the biggest influence of all.

“He’s why I wanted to be a quarterback — like father, like son,” Jaxon said. “His impacted me all throughout my life. When I was a little kid, he taught me how to hunt and fish. All through my athletic career, he’s coached me in football, basketball, baseball. He’s just been there the entire time. He’s taught me everything I know. He’s amazing.”

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Redbank Valley, Keystone, and Union/A-C Valley sports coverage on Explore and is brought to you by Heeter Lumber.