It didn't take long for LaBrae's Peyton Aldridge to establish himself as one of the top quarterbacks in the area.
In fact, Aldridge did so almost immediately when he was inserted into the starting lineup in the sixth game of his freshman season. He went on to lead the Vikings to three wins in their final four games. His performance at such a young age prompted Vikings coach Bill Bohren to suggest, "If Peyton stays on his current path, he'll be able to name which college he wants to attend."
Now, here's where it gets scary for upcoming LaBrae opponents.
Aldridge - now entering his junior year - not only has stayed on course, but he says he now feels completely comfortable with his role as signal-caller and offensive leader.
"My teammates always had my back, even when they were seniors and I was a freshman," Aldridge said. "They just accepted me as another teammate. That helped me adjust to the varsity level a great deal."
"But I'm not sure I felt completely comfortable until I got a good handful of games under my belt. Nothing beats experience. Now that I played a full season, I feel pretty confident about this year."
As a sophomore, Aldridge threw for 852 yards and 12 touchdowns. He helped lead LaBrae to a 6-5 record, which included the school's third-ever playoff appearance. The Vikings finished seventh in Division IV, Region 13.
Now with a more-experienced play-caller, the Vikings are looking for back-to-back post-season appearances for the first time in school history.
Bohren believes Aldridge will do his part to help lead the Vikings in the right direction.
"He's got all the tools to be a Division I player. He's 6-foot-7 (190 pounds) and very agile. And, he's a tough kid who has the respect of his teammates," Bohren said. "He could be a really good runner too, but we kind of back off on that because we can't afford for him to be injured."
Bohren noted that in addition to Aldridge's physical talents, he possesses a smart football IQ.
"In the classroom, Peyton has always been an 'A' student. And he's just as smart on the field. He knows what to do once that ball is snapped. He makes the right decisions," Bohren said.
As for Bohren's prediction that Aldridge would go on to play football at the DI level, well that remains to be seen.
Last winter, Aldridge averaged 15 points, 10 rebounds and 5.2 blocks per game in leading the LaBrae basketball team to a perfect 20-0 regular season and an All-American Conference, National Division title He was named Player of the Year for the Northeast Inland District and also earned first-team honors on the Ohio Division III basketball squad.
Numerous elite DI programs have already expressed interest.
"Right now, I'd say I'm leaning toward basketball. It's what I grew up playing. I grew up in the gym," Aldridge said. "But I still have two full years to decide. A lot can happen."
Earlier this month, Aldridge was recognized nationally for his multi-sport talents. He was named one of 10 finalists for the U.S. Army - Pro Football Hall of Fame Award For Excellence. The program highlights the achievements of student-athletes across the country. It is based on academic and athletic achievements, as well as community engagement.
Each of the 10 finalists will travel to the 2013 U.S. Army All-American Bowl and participate in various activities. The winner will be announced next January.
"It's a great honor. But to me, this is a team award," Aldridge said. "I have great teammates and coaches in all the sports I play, and they make me a better player. That's the great thing about playing at LaBrae."
For now, Aldridge's only concern is the upcoming football season. He is one of 13 lettermen on the Vikings 2012 roster. Among them are six returning starters on offense and five on defense.
"We know the expectations are high, but they should be," Aldridge said. "There's really no added pressure on us this year, because we feel like we should have a successful year. We believe we belong in the playoffs."
To get there, LaBrae will have to battle through a schedule which includes six teams which finished 2011 with winning records.
"Each week is going to be a challenge. We'll get tested," Aldridge said. "But as a player, that makes it fun. That makes every game exciting and something to look forward to. To be the best, you have to beat the best."
The Vikings open the season Friday when they host Jefferson.