The emergence of the athletic quarterback over the last decade has changed the way the game is played at the high school level.
It’s no longer a rarity for coaches to groom multi-sport athletes for the most important position on the field.
Just take a look around the county in 2016. The best quarterbacks are those who not only can stand in the pocket, but scramble out of danger.
The Haverford School coach Mike Murphy has guided his team to three straight Inter-Ac League titles with quarterbacks that can do damage with their arm and legs.
“In my time at Episcopal and Haverford, I’ve only had one true, what you might call, pocket quarterback,” Murphy said. “I think we’re finding an athletic kid, a multi-sport CYO who is a great athlete. I just think how the game is evolving in general has led to having kids who are able to do the things you’re looking for in a spread offense. A lot of coaches, especially at this level, realize that it’s a dimension that adds something to your offense that a defense really needs to think about.”
Murphy has been fortunate to have a three-year starter in Tommy Toal, who is a standout baseball player and will play that sport at La Salle University. Toal has passed for 639 yards and has run for 118 yards over four games.
“More than the kid that you worry about who can take it 100 yards, it’s the kid who can keep a play alive that worries you the most,” Murphy said. “So if he escapes, then all the sudden he’s running around and he makes an athletic play. … If you’re on the other side of that, it’s such a deflating thing. To me, that’s the value of having a kid like that.”
Elsewhere, Anthony Paoletti, the county’s leading passer, has displayed an ability to run with the ball. Chester’s Jamir Green threw for 284 yards, and rushed for another 121, in the Clippers’ loss to Reading High last week. Cardinal O’Hara’s Tommy O’Hara isn’t necessarily the fastest QB, but he’s a big, strong kid who is very difficult to tackle. O’Hara has the most rushing touchdowns (eight) among Delco quarterbacks.
The common thread is the spread offense, which more coaches have installed over the last several years, to accommodate the multi-dimensional quarterback. The age of the pocket passer has seemingly passed us by.
“Unless you have a kid that is at such a level to play like that, and you have a team that you can build around that, I would definitely take a quarterback like that,” Murphy said. “But I think those kind of kids are few and far between.”
With that in mind, here are five games — and plenty of other positional players — to watch this weekend in Delaware County:
Springfield (5-0) at Ridley (5-0), 7
The Cougars will need to find a way to scratch out a win against their Central League rivals. The Green Raiders have dominated the matchup this century, so how can the Cougars finally come away with a win? Both teams feature impressive line corps — John Sheldon at Ridley and Justin Shields at Springfield are two of the best in the Central League. Whoever can control the line of scrimmage is destined for victory.
For Springfield, it needs to find consistency on offense. Ja’Den Mckenzie rushed for 97 yards and two touchdowns on only five carries in a 41-0 rout of Lower Merion last week. The Cougars have allowed just 5.8 points per game.
Quarterback Cade Stratton rushed for 89 yards and two TDs and Brock Anderson took a 92-yard punt return to the end zone in the Green Raiders’ 42-0 drubbing of Penncrest. Ridley has allowed 8.6 points per contest.
Ridley, Springfield and Marple Newtown are tied for first place in the Central League standings
Garnet Valley (4-1) at Haverford (3-2), 7
The Jaguars have rebounded nicely since their Week 3 loss at home to Ridley. Last Friday they disposed of Radnor, 42-14, behind Jacob Buttermore’s 110 yards rushing and two touchdowns.
After a sluggish start to the season, the Fords are riding a three-game winning streak. Sophomore quarterback Jake Ruane has flourished with 852 yards passing and six touchdowns. Ruane’s primary receiving target is Jordan Mosley, who racked up 398 yards and four TDs in the Fords’ previous two games.
Strath Haven (2-3) at Penncrest (2-3), 7
The Panthers and Lions meet in the annual Media Bowl.
Last week, the Panthers lost a close one against Haverford, 23-17. Zach Newlon, one of the top rushers in Delco, had 87 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries.
Linebacker Shane Jones continues to play outstanding defense for the Lions, who have dropped two straight decisions.
Haven and Penncrest enter the week tied for the final spot in the District One 5A playoff race.
Glen Mills (3-2) at Penn Wood (4-1), 7:30
The Battlin’ Bulls are on a roll after picking up their third consecutive win last Friday at Caesar Rodney (Del.), 30-6. Roberto Falu started under center for the first time in 2016 and threw for 126 yards. The Bulls will look for continued production from running back Quadir Gibson, who did not play last week.
This is a big night for Penn Wood. It is hosting the first night football game in school history at Kerr Field and Olympic shot putter Darrell Hill will be on hand for the ceremonial coin toss. The Patriots look to rebound after a 48-28 setback at Haverford School.
Bishop McDevitt (2-2) at Bonner & Prendergast (1-4), 7
For the first time the Friars will make use of their spectacular on-campus turf field on the corner of Lansdowne Ave & Garrett Road in Upper Darby.
The Friars will try to end a four-game losing streak. In a 28-0 defeat to Cardinal O’Hara last Friday, senior running back Joe Hartley-Vittoria carried the offense with 83 yards rushing and 29 yards receiving.
The Royal Lancers downed Neumann-Goretti last week, 42-12. Max Bryson was 7 of 13 passing for 164 yards and four touchdowns.