Football Preview: McDermott might be busy QB for Radnor

RADNOR >> It’s a big ask of any quarterback to assume control of the most talked about position in football — let alone one who is slated to run his high school offense as a junior.

Radnor head coach Tom Ryan needed a fit replacement under center this fall for the graduated Chris Leighton, who started the previous two seasons. Ryan’s choice, 5-11 junior Pat McDermott, fit the billing.

Ryan said he wanted someone who could assert himself in the huddle, show an aptitude for running the football and manage a veteran receiving core that includes a 2014 All-Delco honorable mention slot receiver in Jack Wilson, along with fellow seniors Justin DiCarlo, Alex Hino and Josh Simpson.

As an added bonus, how about someone who can hurl the ball 50 yards downfield on a good day? For McDermott, throwing for distance is what he does best.

“I do like throwing the long ball a little,” McDermott said. “A lot of times, we’ll have plays with one receiver on a certain side and I have the green light to let it go if I think I’ve got it.”

Accomplished slotback Jack Wilson shows his pass catching form, which he expects to do quite a bit of with promoted quarterback Pat McDermott keeping him on his toes. (Times Staff/Tom Kelly IV)
Accomplished slotback Jack Wilson shows his pass catching form, which he expects to do quite a bit of with promoted quarterback Pat McDermott keeping him on his toes. (Times Staff/Tom Kelly IV)

McDermott spent last season starting for Radnor’s junior varsity team. He was Leighton’s backup on Friday nights.

Occasional varsity action last year helped a little. His time on the sideline watching Leighton lead the Raiders — not to mention McDermott’s duties with the clipboard — helped a lot.

“Pat learned a lot from just watching Chris last year and through the season being right next to us while we’re calling the plays during games,” Ryan said. “I think Pat got a lot of mental reps through Chris and the coaching staff last year, and it’s showing right now in camp.”

Taking over for Leighton, who passed for 1,037 yards and nine touchdowns a year ago, won’t be an easy task.
Without a clear-cut No. 1 at running back entering the Raiders’ season opener Friday at Upper Merion — Radnor lost its primary option out of the backfield with Mike Thompson’s graduation — Ryan said senior Aaron Fuller, sophomore Jack Horvath and juniors Naair Williams and Ian Henkel are sparring for playing time.

However, Ryan also said Radnor’s offense could rely more on the passing game than it has in recent seasons.

If the Raiders are to improve in the win column for the fourth consecutive season, McDermott’s play will no doubt be a significant component along the way. But following the old one-game-at-a-time mantra instilled into the program by its ninth-year head coach, McDermott said he’s not too worried about all that.

“I’m really taking each practice — each play, really — and going from there,” he said. “Take everything one thing at a time.”

“He’s a great kid on and off the field,” Wilson added of McDermott, “and he has a good arm.”

McDermott will have seven returning offensive starters to help aid his transition, while he’ll also play with a senior class that romped to unbeaten eighth- and ninth-grade seasons in 2011 and 2012.

Among that group of 17 seniors are players like All-Delco linebacker Dario Falcone, who broke out in his first full varsity season last year after missing the bulk of his sophomore year with an ongoing ankle injury.

“Just taking the frustration of not being able to play my sophomore year and just that will to compete, applying it to my junior year and going forward, I think that’s what led to such a good season,” Falcone said.

Wilson, DiCarlo and Hino also double up as defensive backs, while Simpson flips to linebacker on the defensive side. Returning right guard/linebacker Griffin Monaghan, tackle Colin Bradley and defensive lineman Alex Denolfo are other seniors primed for big roles in their final high school season.

On defense, Falcone and company know they need to improve their tackling and the way they approach run plays like off-tackle, with which they frequently struggled last year.

“We can’t miss tackles,” Falcone said. “That’s huge this year. We have to wrap up and we have to take them to the ground. It can’t be a question.”

The experience Falcone’s class brings could help Radnor shore up some of the kinks. It could also help the Raiders capture a few more victories than they managed a year prior.

“We know what we’re up against,” Falcone said. “We know what we need to do. We already have a standard set for ourselves, and it’s just meeting that standard and going beyond it. Just improving from last year is the ultimate goal.

“It’s not like we’re starting over.”

This story appears in the Delco Times Football Preview, available on newsstands Friday.

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