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American Canyon at Vintage football

Vintage's Josh Robert, left, pursues American Canyon quarterback Vance Eschenburg on Friday night at Memorial Stadium.

AMERICAN CANYON — Vance Eschenburg was in a race to see who the fastest player was in a football camp in early June at Azusa Pacific University in Southern California last summer. But almost immediately after the final race began, he knew something wasn’t quite right.

“It was the final race, me versus another guy, and I was running,” Eschenburg recalled at American Canyon High School’s practice on Tuesday at Wolf Den Stadium. “My leg started to hurt a little bit. I couldn’t run anymore.”

Eschenburg found out later that he had suffered an injury to his right hamstring.

“I realized I tore it,” said Eschenburg, a junior quarterback for the Wolves.

Eschenburg missed most of American Canyon’s summer program – the reps that come with on-field work, the work in the weight room, as well as all of conditioning and drills.

He got to play in just one 7-on-7 summer passing league game.

“I had to sit out the first two months of summer,” said Eschenburg, who received physical therapy for the injury and was allowed to start jogging in mid-July.

Creating an even greater challenge to Eschenburg’s situation was the fact that he was making a position change – slot back to quarterback.

“A lot of the time, I was out here watching and making sure I knew what I was doing,” he said. “I had to earn my spot.”

Eschenburg won the starting spot just two weeks before American Canyon’s scrimmage in August.

“That’s like seven or eight practices,” said coach John Montante, “and in football timeline, that’s not a lot.

“He’s behind in a lot of respects, but he’s pushing himself to catch up. This year, he’s made tremendous strides. I’m really looking forward to seeing what he’s like a year from now.”

Eschenburg leads the Wolves’ offense, which also features Eddie Byrdsong (running back), Justin DelRosario (running back), Alec Tadlip (running back), Antonio Perez (wide receiver), and Brandon Seay (wide receiver).

Eschenburg has 584 yards rushing and seven touchdowns for the Wolves (3-5 overall, 3-1 Vine Valley Athletic League), who have a bye in their schedule this week. They have regular-season games to go against Casa Grande-Petaluma (Oct. 19) and Justin-Siena (Oct. 26).

Eschenburg has also passed for 349 yards and four touchdowns.

“You always want to have a quarterback with athleticism,” said Montante. “But something that not a lot of quarterbacks possess is poise and composure and intelligence. And Vance is a very composed and poised young man. He rarely gets rattled. He’s very just even keeled. He’s a very astute student.

“He’s learning how to see the field. He sees the field from a running-game perspective. But now he’s learning how to see it from a passing-game perspective.

“He’s intelligent. He’s able to give great feedback to us, in terms of what to call. He’s somebody that we’re really excited to have through next year.”

Eschenburg averages 7 yards per carry and 73 yards per game rushing the ball. His longest run of the season is 70 yards.

In last week’s 27-14 VVAL loss to Vintage, he ran three yards for a touchdown and threw a 32-yard TD pass to Perez. Eschenburg completed 4-of-13 passes for 110 yards in the game.

“He’s dangerous to have with the ball in his hands. He’s fast and he’s got good acceleration and he runs hard,” said Montante. “He often runs the ball like a running back. He’s resilient. He’s tough. He’s in good shape. He’s got good just natural athletic ability that we just build on.”

The move to quarterback has been an exciting change for Eschenburg, who said he is becoming more and more comfortable and confident leading the offense.

“I love being the quarterback,” he said. “I’m having a lot of fun and really enjoying it. Leading the team is something that I have always wanted to really do.

“The preseason really helped me step up mentally. I’ve learned from all the games. Everything has helped me to build up as a player more and I’ve gotten tougher from it.”

Eschenburg has three games so far where he has rushed for 100-plus yards. Those games were against Amador Valley-Pleasanton (162), Wood-Vacaville (104) and Napa (116).

“He is difficult to bring down,” said Montante. “He gets up to top speed really quickly. Watching his football-speed with the ball in his hands, he’s fast.”

Eschenburg not only brings the speed and leadership to the offense. He is also a physical runner.

“I’ll run up the middle,” he said. “I’ll run outside. I’ll do all of it. I think that I have pretty good vision.”

This is his third year in the football program at American Canyon. He played youth football for the Junior Wolves and Patriots in American Canyon.

When football season ends, Eschenburg plans to play basketball and then baseball.

“Being a three-sport athlete always just keeps me busy, always keeps me in shape,” he said. “I love doing it. There’s no down time. I’m looking forward to a really big year.”

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Executive Sports Editor

Executive Sports Editor Marty James has been with the Napa Valley Register since 1979. He is a member of the Associated Press Sports Editors, California Prep Sportswriters Association, and the California Golf Writers Association. He was inducted into the