The Episcopal Academy quarterback had 400 all-purpose yards and contributed four touchdowns to the Churchmens’ 37-34 win against Malvern Prep Oct. 14. He had 242 yards passing, threw three TD passes, picked up 93 yards rushing, and grabbed a 45-yard touchdown pass at the end of the first half. As of Monday, he is the leading rusher for the 6-0 Churchmen and has thrown nine touchdown passes. McAnally is also a standout lacrosse midfielder for EA in the spring.
Q: Tell us about the 45-yard pass play that ended the first half against Malvern Prep, in which Jon’avin Freeman took the snap from shotgun and threw a Hail Mary into the end zone, which you caught. How did the play develop? Was it a play that EA used earlier this season?
A: Jon’avin Freeman is our Hail Mary quarterback, so usually in these situations I line up at receiver. This wasn’t necessarily a lucky play, because each week in practice we simulate a Hail Mary like a game situation. In practice we usually have three guys run deep down the field, and Jonavin just throws it as far as he can. One of our receivers is supposed to jump up for the ball, while one of us waits in front for a possible deflection and the other runs behind. So on that particular play, Dan Baker was the receiver that went up for the ball, and it just so happened that I was the guy in front ready for the deflection. Thankfully everything went according to plan, and we executed perfectly.
Q: You threw three touchdown passes in the first half against Malvern. What (to you) was the most memorable of the three – can you tell us how the play developed, and your role in it?
A: My favorite touchdown pass of the night would have to be the first one of the game to Kyle Virbitsky, on our first drive. We were backed up on our half of the field, and it was imperative that we got off to a strong start. It was a perfect call by Coach Fairlie on first down, and Kyle executed the route perfectly. I was able to hit him in stride and he ran the rest of the way for a touchdown. This was a key moment in the game, because I feel like we were able to put Malvern back on their heels and control the rest of the first half.
Q: Your grandfather, father and uncles all played football for Malvern Prep. What attracted you to EA?
A: Because my father, grandfather and uncles all played football for Malvern Prep, I have a great appreciation for the Malvern program, but at the same time I wanted to carve my own path. To me EA is such a special place, with a perfect balance of academics and athletics. I knew four years ago that this was the place where I belonged and I have truly enjoyed my career here.
Q: As EA’s quarterback, can you change a play call at the line of scrimmage? Can you give an example of how and why you changed a call at the line of scrimmage, and how the play worked out?
A: On almost every play, we have a “RPO”(run/pass option) which allows me to read the defense and decide which option has the best chance for success. For example, on our first touchdown of the game I decided to throw to Kyle down the middle because I saw the linebackers bite up on the run fake.
Q: You wear uniform jersey No. 10 – is there a reason you chose this number?
A: I wear No. 10 because that was the first number given to me at EA. I have worn this number for four years on both the football and lacrosse teams.
Q: What do you think is the strongest aspect of your quarterbacking? What part of your game are you working on the most currently?
A: I think my strongest aspect as a quarterback would be my vision on the field, whether it’s choosing who to throw to or pulling it down and running. I also think my leadership style helps me get the best out of my teammates. I am currently working on staying in the pocket for longer periods of time and trusting my second and third reads.
Q: Tell us a little about your pre-game preparation the day of a game.
A: I like to stay relaxed throughout the day and watch film during a break in school to prepare for the game. I enjoy listening to mellow music such as John Mayer to calm my nerves. But, as it gets closer to the start of the game I like to get pumped up with my teammates. Lastly I like to look at bible verses my dad sends me before each game to put the game of football into perspective.
Q: Other than football and lacrosse, do you participate in any other extracurricular activities at EA?
A: I am currently on EQV, a student leadership group comprised of nine seniors whose goal is to foster a better sense of community on campus. I also am very involved in Community Connections, a club which allows me to work with a kindergarten class in our lower school for the entire year. This is especially important to me because I would like to possibly pursue a career in elementary education.
Fun facts – CJ McAnally
Favorite book: Unbroken.
Favorite author: F. Scott Fitzgerald.
Favorite TV show: Friday Night Lights.
Favorite movie: Lone Survivor.
Favorite athlete: Christian McCaffrey.
Favorite pre-game pump-up song: Dreams and Nightmares by Meek Mill.
Favorite team: Philadelphia Eagles.
Favorite place to visit: Long Beach Island.
Favorite pre-game meal: Salmon with green beans and mashed potatoes.
Favorite color: Blue.
Person I most admire: “My parents, because they have given me unwavering support my whole life and I hope to follow in their footsteps as not only parents, but also as outstanding role models. They are my No. 1 fans and I will be forever grateful for that.”
Birth date: May 13, 1999 in West Chester.
Family members: Chuck (father), Annemarie (mother), Jack (brother.)
(To be selected as Main Line Boys Athlete of the Week, a student-athlete must first be nominated by his coach.)