Aaron Tobias wasn’t gushing over his Centre County-best passing performance last weekend. The Penns Valley sophomore quarterback sat at a cafeteria table minutes before Wednesday’s practice, straight-faced and serious, and basically said his performance a few days earlier wasn’t good enough.
Tobias threw for 343 yards and two touchdowns on Friday in a 35-20 loss to a 6-1 resurgent Bellefonte squad.
“It boosted my confidence, but I still know that I can perform better,” Tobias said with a subtle head nod. “I didn’t make all the throws I needed to. If I made a couple more, we probably would’ve won that game. We didn’t win, and that’s what’s most important.”
That loss may still sting. The Rams are 2-5 after falling to Bellefonte in a game that they led at halftime. In its four other losses, Penns Valley was outscored by a combined 182-34.
But the Rams finally have a solidified, long-term option at quarterback: Tobias is their guy. That’s what’s paramount entering Penns Valley’s final three games of the regular season and heading into 2018.
Tobias split time with senior Justin Sands at quarterback for the first five games until the sophomore earned the full-time gig under center. Tobias started in a 48-24 win over Philipsburg-Osceola and against Bellefonte while Sands moved to tight end.
Giving Tobias the keys to Penns Valley’s offense has proven to be the right move. The signal-caller was 24 of 47 for 280 yards, one touchdown and an interception in the first five games of 2017. In his last two, Tobias was 41 of 67 for 530 yards, four scores and two picks.
After instability at quarterback defined the first half of Penns Valley’s season, Tobias’ teammates are confident in his skill-set and ability to lead the Rams to a strong finish.
“He’s always been one of the most athletic people I’ve ever known,” senior wide receiver Nik Kubalak said. “Being on junior high and moving up to varsity, his transition’s been great. From the beginning he was always good. But now he’s even better.”
Added fellow wideout Logan Snyder: “All of us knew he could do it. No one is questioning him anymore. He doesn’t have sophomore jitters. He’s good enough that he can get the job done.”
Martin Tobias — Aaron’s father and Penns Valley’s head coach for 22 years — believes his son has what it takes, too.
He’s seen Aaron grow day by day for years and compete with his older brothers, two of which (Cameron and Andrew) were Penns Valley quarterbacks.
“It’s forced him to play, practice and do everything better than a normal kid his age because he’s had to keep up with bigger, older and faster all his life,” the coach said. “He’s had to fight to be in the mix, whether it was in the backyard or pickup games. He’s learned how to compete from them. He’s learned how to handle himself, how to conduct himself in the school, classroom, at home and on the field in practice and games. He’s seen when his brothers have made mistakes that they didn’t always handle the right way.”
Aaron Tobias learned from his older brothers to “stay calm and confident.” Plus, he watched his brothers and their teammates from the stands at Rams Stadium for years. And when he took in those games, he always had a goal in mind.
“I knew I wanted to be out there, and I knew I wanted to be better than those guys out there,” the newly minted quarterback said. “I wanted to be the best. And I still want to be the best.”
That confidence isn’t lost on his teammates, either.
Kubalak doesn’t doubt that Tobias could become one of the best quarterbacks Penns Valley has ever seen, while Snyder — his best friend dating back to fourth grade — knew a 300-yard night like Friday was possible.
Was Snyder surprised a bit? Sure. But his teammates didn’t seem quite as caught off-guard.
“I’ve grown up around this team since I was born,” Aaron Tobias said. “I’ve been around all the guys. They know who I am.”
And they know he’s a leader — and the future of Penns Valley football.