Montgomery’s Max Heller and “It”

Posted by Staff Writer Eric Branch:
On most occasions, Montgomery’s Max Heller is a nice high school quarterback.
Give him the ball, a two-point deficit and two minutes on the clock, however, and the 5-foot-8, 170-pound Heller is Superman.
For the third time this season, Heller directed a near-flawless, fourth-quarter march with the game hanging in the balance.
In his latest Houdini act, Heller led the Vikings back from a 14-7 hole with 3:47 left Friday night in a 15-14 win against Maria Carrillo. In the five-play, 80-yard, 86-second drive, Heller completed 4 of 4 passes for 65 yards and had a 15-yard run. He capped the drive with a 4-yard pass to Nick Swain before adding the game-winning, two-point conversion with a pass to tight end Brandon Blank.
So where, exactly, did that come from? Prior to the game-winning drive, Montgomery’s offense had been lifeless. On their first four second-half possessions, the Vikings managed 41 yards and one first down. Heller had completed 9 of 14 passes for 94 yards with one interception and no touchdowns. Not terrible. But not exactly Superman.
I asked Heller what happens to him when the game is on the line? Does he get more fired up? Nope. He said he stays calm and poised. Standing nearby, Montgomery offensive lineman Jay Luchetti quickly nodded in agreement.
I asked Vikings coach Jason Franci what gets in to Heller in the most pressure-packed situations. Heller completed 6 of 7 passes for 67 in a game-winning drive to beat Santa Rosa the previous week and had similar heroics in a 9-6 overtime win against Rancho Cotate earlier this season, although that clutch drive led to a missed field goal at the end of regulation.
“He’s a winner,” Franci said.
Neither Heller nor Franci’s explanations were very satisfying. But here’s my thoughts on how Heller often summons his very best when its needed most.
Heller has “It.” I almost cringe writing that because it’s become a bit of a coaching cliche. But there’s really no avoiding it.
“It” is a hard-to-describe, instrinsic quality that has nothing to do with physical ability. Basically, with a game on the line, you want the 5-8 quarterback with an OK arm who has “It.” You don’t want the 6-5 guy with a cannon arm who doesn’t have “It.”
Coaches are fond of saying that you know “It” when you see it. And I know I saw “It,” again, on Friday night.