By Nate Thompson

NORTON SHORES – When injuries occur, coaches hope that the “next man up” expression comes to fruition, and other players step up and shine. LSJ Logo incert

That’s exactly what Mona Shores junior quarterback Tristan Robbins has done. He took an opportunity, ran with it, and has been orchestrating head coach Matt Koziak’s offense like a proven veteran through the first five weeks of the season.Sport Clips 2016 football ad

“I’m not sure you could label it unexpected,” Koziak said of Robbins’ strong play. “Because he’s such a hard worker, you want to think what he’s been able to achieve is kind of deserved.”

Koziak hadn’t selected a starting quarterback a week before Mona Shores’ season-opening contest against West Ottawa. Robbins and senior Drew Switzer were battling for the chance to replace standout quarterback Tyler Trovinger, who graduated in the spring.

But an unfortunate collarbone injury to Switzer made the choice an easier one.

“We were still splitting reps at practice, but our scrimmage a week before our first game, Drew suffered that injury,” Robbins said. “I definitely didn’t want to see that happen, but it made me realize it was my time to step up. It was kind of a transition taking all the first-team reps, but I knew I had to get rid of all my mistakes and get to a place where I could succeed.

Tristan Robbins

Junior Tristan Robbins has stepped nicely into the QB  job at Mona Shores. Photo/Jason Goorman.

“I’ve been running this offense since my freshman year, and put in a lot of time in the offseason, so it wasn’t a huge jump for me.”

Robbins wasted little time asserting himself as a force at the position, throwing for 219 yards and two touchdowns in a season-opening win.

Since then, the Sailors have stumbled to three straight losses, to Zeeland West, Rockford and Reeths-Puffer. The Zeeland West and Reeths-Puffer games were excruciatingly close.

“Looking at that Reeths-Puffer game, if we had taken care of the ball and eliminate those two fumbles, it’s a different game,” Robbins said. “And defensively, we had at least 3-4 dropped interceptions. It showed us that we have to come up with big plays in the clutch.”

Last Friday’s game against Jenison might have been a turning point for the Sailors. Robbins threw a career-high five touchdown passes in an impressive 40-10 victory over a 3-1 Jenison squad.

“We played the game we’re capable of,” said Robbins, whose team will host Kenowa Hills on Friday. “We didn’t turn the ball over as much and we played up to our potential.”

Koziak said the ceiling for Robbins and the rest of this young Mona Shores squad is sky high. Through five games, they’ve already tallied more total yards than any other squad in program history – 2,291.

“That’s more than the squad that went to Ford Field (in the Division 2 state championship) two years ago,” Koziak said.

Robbins has completed 71 percent of his passes (49-of-69) – a program best at this point in the season. All totaled, he’s thrown for 1,017 yards with nine touchdowns and four interceptions. On the ground, he’s carried the ball 49 times for 325 yards and three scores.

Koziak said the gaudy totals are a tribute to Robbins’ stellar preparation, week in and week out.

“He’s always the first one on the practice field and he’ll be looking to throw some more passes after practice,” Koziak said. “He’s absolutely one of the best kids I’ve ever had as far as preparation. And he’s really starting to take off. You can see the game’s starting to slow down for him a little bit.”