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Zillah High School sophomore Clayson Delp Friday, Aug. 16, 2019, in Yakima, Wash. 

The transition to high school can be difficult for a freshman.

Throw in the fact that you’re going to be the starting quarterback for a team that annually has expectations of being a state contender and that can be downright intimidating and overwhelming.

Fortunately for Zillah, Clay Delp was no ordinary freshman.

Delp grabbed the reins of the Leopards offense and helped guide them to the Class 1A state quarterfinals.

Now, the sophomore is ready to take his game — and team — to the next level.

“Last year, I didn’t know what the deal was (but) I had enough confidence that I would be the starting quarterback,” he said, noting that the biggest difference this offseason has been his work on his passing skills.

“It’s a whole different deal. I didn’t throw much at all before last season started,” Delp said. “This year, I’m throwing one or two times a week knowing I’ll have to do more of that. I’ve really gotten better throwing it.”

“It’s a difficult transition for a freshman but he’s a mature kid,” head coach Ron Rood said. “He got a tremendous confidence boost from last season (and) winning a state basketball championship didn’t hurt.

“He’s stronger and more mature. He’s a multi-talented kid … and he’ll play a bigger role this year.”

Delp’s success is the result of his ability to blend natural athletic abilities with a strong work ethic.

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“You can see he has a lot of physical talent and he’s a really, really hard worker,” Rood said. “He’s one of our hardest workers.”

That latter attribute has pushed Delp to become a more versatile threat.

“Last year, I was more of an athlete, going around defenders,” he said. “I feel way more comfortable throwing this year and I’m more confident in my passing.”

Delp also said he overcame early nerves throwing the ball.

“I came in scared. I didn’t want to make a mistake,” he said. “My first pass was an interception and that was because I was scared. My second game, I told myself, ‘You’re going to mess up so get over that and just go out and play.’

“It’s literally all in your head.”

Now, a more-confident Delp is ready for a larger role, not just as a multiple threat on offense but also as a leader.

“They’re expecting that of me. Last year, I didn’t do much leadership-wise. Not the sort I need to do this year,” he said.

“If you’re talking to him … in a normal situation, he’s pretty mild mannered,” Rood said. “When he gets on the field, he’s a real competitor.

“He does the things we want our people to do. He represents the program well.”