It was the biggest question hanging over Archbishop Wood’s football team in preseason.
Someone was going to have to replace record-setting quarterback Anthony Russo, now at Temple, at the helm of the Vikings’ powerful offense. It wasn’t the only position the Vikings had to replace, but certainly the one with the most implications on how the season was going to go.
The tools were there, someone just had to step to the table and start using them.
Sophomore Jack Colyar was the guy tasked to do it. There were some growing pains and the moments every young player has early, but as Saturday’s District 12-5A title game proved, Colyar has seemingly hit his stride with Wood eyeing another state title.
“I have more confidence and so do the guys around me,” Colyar said after the 61-18 win over Simon Gratz. “We’re all clicking right now. Those guys have been really good at bringing me in. I transferred from La Salle right before the season started but the guys have really made me feel welcome.”
Against Simon Gratz, Colyar was spectacular, going 9-of-13 for 307 yards with five touchdowns. All five touchdowns came in the first quarter during Colyar’s first seven passes, all completions. His first pass went to receiver Mark Webb on a post route for a 60-yard touchdown.
Webb, who has verbally committed to Georgia, is one of the plethora of weapons Colyar has been working to get on the same page with during the season. On Saturday, he also threw two touchdowns to senior Raheem Blackshear, a 45-yard screen pass and a 71-yarder over the top and a pair of scores to senior Shawn Thompson, screen passes going 48 and 49 yards.
“He’s owning the huddle,” Thompson said. “He takes control of the huddle. I like it a lot. He takes control, doesn’t let us sit back or talk over him, he demands us and I love that.”
A sophomore taking over an offense, especially a senior-laden one, always means the first few weeks will be spent working on timing, chemistry and the other things that are developed with time and reps. In Colyar’s case, it meant doing it against three of the top teams in the entire country. Wood traveled to Ohio in Week 1 to play state power Wayne, where Colyar had a hot start in a game that was eventually postponed and stopped due to a strong storm.
The next two games, against New Jersey stronghold Bergen Catholic and then St. Joseph’s Prep in a nationally-televised game, saw Colyar have ups and downs in two losses. He made some nice throws but also had some plays, like fumbled snaps, sacks or mis-throws that happen to every young player.
“The most difficult thing to adjust to was probably the speed of the game,” Colyar said. “Getting thrown into varsity and against three tough teams in Wayne, Bergen and Prep, it was difficult adjustment but I feel like I’m getting better every week and it’s been a lot of fun.”
After that grueling opening stretch, Colyar started to find his rhythm and the Vikings got on a roll and have won eight straight heading into Friday’s state game with Whitehall, to be played at Northampton at 7 p.m.
Colyar said he’s most improved at making his reads and getting the ball out quicker over the course of the season.
It’s not just the skill position players, which also includes junior tight end Kyle Pitts and junior wideout Jalen Reynolds, but Wood’s line is very experienced with several seniors. Wood coach Steve Devlin said the sophomore tried to command the huddle right off the bat, and once he earned the respect of the other guys, things came together.
“He’s had a whole year under his belt now,” Devlin said. “He got thrown into the fire against three of the best teams in the country and he performed. He did well and grew from it and we’re seeing the benefits of it.”
Top Photo: Jack Colyar runs a keeper during Archbishop Wood football practice on Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2016. (Bob Raines/Digital First Media)