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Shasta County Sports 2021 Offensive MVP: Layton Dunlap | Shasta

QB elevated Wolves’ offense to next level

Shasta High senior quarterback Layton Dunlap is the Shasta County Sports Offensive MVP for the 2021 spring season. (Photos by Mike Daly, graphic by Aaron Williams/Shasta County Sports)

When Layton Dunlap was not named the 2019 starting quarterback for Shasta during his junior year, he had a moment of self-reflection.

Instead of letting darkness sink in and infiltrate his football career, he turned his newfound opportunity as a receiver into a learning experience.

“It stung, I was supposed to be the starting QB but got beat out,” Dunlap said. “I put my head down and persevered. I wanted to be better at everything.”

It allowed Dunlap to fully grasp the offense and he earned the starting quarterback job for his senior campaign over incumbent Derek Myers.

And the payoff was more than Wolves could ask for.

“That was probably the best opportunity I could have had, I just didn’t see it at the time,” Dunlap said. “It helped me learn the whole scheme, how every position works and thinks.”

The deep understanding of how Shasta coach JC Hunsaker wanted to operate his offense was one thing. Executing the game plan with high efficiency is what elevated the Wolves to a different level, leading to Dunlap earning Shasta County Sports Offensive MVP honors, presented by Tri Counties Bank.

“He was a difference-maker,” Hunsaker said. “Our offense was so much more potent.”

The numbers support his case – Dunlap led all Northern Section QBs with nine passing touchdowns with zero interceptions and his 652 passing yards ranked second. Even his 68.6 percent completion percentage was tops in Shasta County and third in the section. All of this in the run-dominant Wing-T system that relies on misdirection with a few timely passes sprinkled in.

With the chances of throwing limited, Dunlap made the most of them.

“Usually other teams can say ‘if we stop the run against Shasta, we’re in great shape,’ ” Hunsaker said. “But is a QB is willing to stay in the pocket, trust the play development and that his guys are going to be in their spots? That is a quality you don’t get out of many high school quarterbacks. Layton had that from the beginning.”

Shasta’s season-opener against West Valley was the toughest test of the season. With two weeks of padded practices and no scrimmage under his belt, Dunlap operated the two-minute drill at the end of each half and put them in position to score both times.

The Wolves fell 20-19 on a failed two-point conversion attempt at the end but the foundation was built for the season.

“We threw plays at him that we hadn’t practiced for 18 months because we didn’t have time to implement them … He never wavered,” Hunsaker said. “We realized; this is a kid that has some swagger. We could throw a lot at this kid and he will succeed.”

Shasta didn’t have a hiccup the rest of the season, finishing 5-0 and scoring nearly 41 points per game. And Dunlap was the catalyst for that success.

Following the loss to West Valley, Dunlap tossed a pair of touchdowns against Enterprise in a 57-7 River Bowl rout and threw in a highlight-reel stiff arm of a defender that would make Derrick Henry of the Tennessee Titans blush. Dunlap ended up throwing at least one touchdown pass in all six games, including two in both meetings against Foothill – his last one tied the game in the fourth quarter rally in the season finale.

Dunlap also felt he had an embarrassment of riches at times with the arsenal around him.

Three explosive ball carriers of James Weaver, Hunter Pinkston and Bryon Kimp balanced the offensive attack and opened things up for the passing game. Weaver and Pinkston both excelled catching passes as well and Jack Reindel was a dangerous receiving threat on the outside.

“It was unreal, like having a well-oiled machine just chugging along,” Dunlap said. “Nothing could stop it.”

And while Hunsaker had the likes of Ian Garcia and Kyle Catanese orchestrating the Wing-T for the purple and white, no one was as effective in the quarterback role than what Dunlap did in six games, Foothill coach Joey Brown said.

“He was the best quarterback JC has probably ever had,” said Brown, who lost to Shasta 42-14 and 28-21 this season. “He ran the system and trusted it. JC could do whatever he wanted to do with that offense because of him.”

Dunlap will have a new offense to learn when he heads to Shasta College for the fall. Quarterback is his ideal spot but even if he’s asked to change positions, he has experience navigating that path once already.

And Hunsaker believes Dunlap can adapt because of his character and drive.

“He’s a dude that gives you everything he has all of the time and willing to do anything for his team,” Hunsaker said.

T.J. is a national-award winning journalist passionate about local news and telling the story no one else knows about. He’s roamed sidelines, baselines and bleachers in the North State since 2010 and is a content producer from sunup to sundown. Sports are a hobby he shares with his wife Tracy where they’ve spent many dates around a field or court of some sort.

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