CANFIELD - Since Ross Stoffer began his high school football career in 2009, he was always learning from his older teammates, including former South Range quarterback David Buzzacco, who graduated in 2011.
"Overall he taught me great leadership, being positive and encouraging all of the guys," Stoffer said. "That's really important as a quarterback. I always watched and saw what he did, and I just tried to follow that."
The tides have turned for Stoffer as his teammates and coach Dan Yeagley hope he can become the next leader.
"He will be," Yeagley said. "He understands the game, he understands the defenses when he's on offense, and even on defense he understands the offense. He'll do whatever it takes for his teammates."
Stoffer, a quarterback since the seventh grade, began his high school career as a defensive back when he was a sophomore. Stoffer, how a senior, knew he would have his chance when Buzzacco graduated.
"That's how it was slated coming in," Stoffer said. "The senior class did not have a quarterback, so I knew I had to step in and fill that role."
While taking reps as the starting quarterback for the second straight season, Stoffer will also compete as the team's safety. In order to play both, Stoffer said conditioning is the best exercise.
"If you want to play two ways, you got to be in shape, so that means working hard and conditioning now so that you're not sucking wind during the games," he said with a laugh.
Stoffer, who missed the final game last season due to an injury, said he feels he is ready to take over what Buzzacco left him a few years back. He added that last year was a good learning experience.
"Last year, I felt young at times, sometimes trying to force the pass too much," he said.
Stoffer threw for 1,069 yards and four touchdowns last season. If Stoffer can pass at least 1,000 yards again this season, he will become the third quarterback in South Range history to do so in back-to-back seasons. Donee Feren did it in 1988-89 and Jim Sanders accomplished it in 2000-01.
Yeagley will turn to Stoffer more often due to running back Alex Dickey's graduation. Dickey ran for 1,124 yards on 138 carries and 14 touchdowns last year.
"For us to be successful, we can't say we're going to line up and run on every play," Yeagley said. "We're going have to be able to throw the ball, and it comes down to him."
A key element Stoffer will have this season is Robert Seman, who is entering his third consecutive season as the Raiders' starting receiver. Seman collected 356 yards last year with Stoffer as the quarterback.
"I feel like me and him are on the same page a lot of times, and I feel comfortable throwing to him," Stoffer said.
Stoffer and Seman have played with one another every season since both were freshmen in 2009, and both said they feel comfortable with each other.
"Me and him are in sync," Seman said. "Everything I run he just knows where to throw it."
Stoffer is Seman's second quarterback since he started his first season at receiver as a sophomore during the 2010 campaign. Seman sees similarities between Stoffer and Buzzacco.
"All I know is they are both good quarterbacks," he said. "It's just I didn't have that many reps with David. I was on the other side in the slot. I didn't get a lot of passes, but I mean David threw just as hard as Ross. I think they're about equal."
While Stoffer focuses on his team reaching the playoffs for the first time since 2010, he is also helping the quarterbacks of the Raiders' future.
"Everyone helps out the next guy, and that's kind of the way to keep things going," he said.