CAVE JUNCTION -- It takes a special type of connection for a quarterback and receiver to have sustained success over the course of a season. At Illinois Valley, Caleb Hess and Elijah Polk have exactly that and one fact has helped in building that chemistry: the two are cousins.
"I know his speed compared to a lot of other people, so even if I look away, I know where he’s going to be when I have to come back to it," Hess said.
Hess, a junior, is a year older, and through five weeks, he had thrown six touchdown passes to Polk, 10 overall.
"We’ve always been on the same page with each other. We know what we’re doing and when we’re going to do it," Polk said.
With both his natural leadership and his leadership as Polk's older cousin, Hess has given Polk someone to look up to.
"He motivates me a lot. He makes me want to be better," Polk said, "Every day at practice, if he’s not playing quarterback, he guards me. He tries to make me better as a receiver."
"I like to set a good example for him whenever I can and be a good leader for him," Hess said.
Simply through their advanced skill set, the two have set an example for the rest of the team, which has relatively little experience at the varsity level.
"We have so many young kids that have never even played, so to watch them go out and do the things they do," Illinois Valley Head Coach Bruce Reece said, "It just makes it that much better and easier to teach the game to those who are inexperienced."
Of course, the deepest connection will always be between the two star cousins, with the older one showing the younger one, equally talented, but in different ways, how it's done.
"I have someone always to look up to. He picks me up when I’m down. I can always count on him," Polk said.