BY MIKE ECKERT
TRAVERSE CITY —
Imagine the scenario.
In the first quarter of Rick Micham’s first game as head coach of the TC Wolves, the team’s first two quarterbacks are knocked out with injuries and Micham has to turn to his All-Star kicker to go take snaps.
For most coaches, the situation may have come with a lot of stress. But most coaches don’t have Pablo Bocardo.
“We would have very easily put him at that starting (quarterback) role, but as valuable as he is kicking the ball, that’s huge for us,” Micham said.
Micham has coached Bocardo since his sophomore year at Elk Rapids. That made him “comfortable” to turn to his kicker to lead the offense. And, the long-time relationship with his coach made it comfortable for Bocardo to step into a new role.
“It’s definitely good to have, especially in the situation we had,” Bocardo said. “For me being third string and coming in, it helped knowing that my coach was behind me. Coach Micham, we’ve built a pretty strong relationship with each other. We know what the other is thinking and what we need to motivate each other. We kind of feed off each other with that.
“He’s definitely a good guy to have in your corner, no matter what.”
Bocardo finished out the first game — a 29-18 loss to the Lakeshore Cougars — with a touchdown pass and a pair of 40-yard field goals.
“It’s a difficult situation to be put in,” Bocardo said. “I just trust that the guys around me will help me out and pick up the slack. I’ve been practicing at quarterback all offseason, mainly as a backup.”
Last week, Bocardo stayed at quarterback and led the Wolves to a 32-0 victory at the Southwest Michigan Punishers. It was the first victory of the season for Traverse City.
In the win, Bocardo was 11-of-24 for 142 yards and a pair touchdowns. He also kicked a 43-yard field goal.
Playing multiple positions is familiar to Bocardo. He did the same at Elk Rapids, where he graduated in 2004.
“In high school he played some quarterback and tailback,” Micham said. “He was one of our athletes we had on a small squad, so he played wherever he was needed.”
Micham was the defensive coordinator for the Wolves the previous two years and had Bocardo as a backup linebacker.
“He got some good play-time the first year,” he said. “Last year, we had more depth, so we held him for the kicking.”
The Wolves are monitoring the health of quarterbacks Doug Elliott and Ryan Wurtz, as well as possibly adding to the position in July. Until then, Bocardo will be under center.
“It’s been neat to see him grow up,” Micham said. “He went from being a kid and now he’s raising kids. He’s got a great head on his shoulders and he’s stepped up and played a great game for us. Both games.”
Playing quarterback has also given Bocardo a chance to team up with his Emilio Bocardo, his younger brother and wide receiver. The two hooked up for a touchdown in the win against the Punishers.
“It was awesome,” Pablo Bocardo said. “I played in high school with my younger brother (Lazaro). And now Emilio, he’s seven years behind me. It’s nice to play with him. I’ve been watching him since Pop Warner and it was definitely a proud moment for our family.”
Emilio, a recent Elk Rapids grad, is using the experience with the Wolves to hopefully move on to the collegiate level. Getting him there is something Pablo is happy to be a part of.
“It’s definitely another step at helping him get to the next level,” Bocardo said. “I’ve helped him through the years. I coached him on JV at Elk Rapids. To see him progress in the sport, and at the position (has been fun). Now, to see his maturity level rise here with the Wolves, it’s been cool to see him do that. I really wish the best for him.”
The Bocardos will look to carry momentum into Saturday’s home game at Thirlby Field against the West Michigan Tigers.
“Being a brand new league, we haven’t seen most of these teams,” Micham said. “The Tigers, we’re not really familiar with them. It’s not like we have miles of tape on them. We’re going to play our game and force them to adjust to us. Being home field, we have an advantage. They haven’t won a game, where we’ve got that feel for a win. We’ve got our motor running and they’re going to run into a wall.”