Freeman, McAnally fuel Episcopal’s fast start

NEWTOWN SQUARE >> Jon’avin Freeman split from Episcopal Academy football practice a bit early Wednesday afternoon.
“I have to catch the bus home,” he said as he hurried off E. Newbold Smith Field.
In the blink of an eye, EA’s quarterback was off and running to the SEPTA stop. That’s precisely how the Churchmen responded when they opened their season with a 48-14 victory last Friday night. Wyoming Seminary, the host team, couldn’t keep up with EA’s fast pace.
CJ McAnally, who is in constant competition with Freeman, took the opening kickoff 85 yards to the end zone. The Churchmen never looked back. McAnally finished with 184 kick return yards, while Freeman completed 4 of 6 pass attempts for 51 yards and a pair of TDs. McAnally connected on two passes for 30 yards.
Together, the juniors were instrumental in leading the Churchmen to an impressive Week 1 display.
“We’re not afraid of anyone this year,” McAnally said. “We just believe in each other and we’re confident that we can get the job done against any team, no matter what caliber they are.”
The camp competition at quarterback is paying dividends for the Churchmen. Freeman and McAnally each proved capable of handling the responsibility. But for both players, all they care about is doing whatever’s necessary to help EA’s football program return to its winning ways.
“CJ is a very competitive person and I think that it did a lot to help the both of us,” Freeman said via cellphone on his bus ride back to his home in Philadelphia. Freeman is also the team’s Mike linebacker. “I definitely want to be the quarterback, but we’re all out here with the same goal. We all believe in each other.”
McAnally, who is a Division I lacrosse recruit (Maryland), takes pride in wearing multiple hats, whether it’s offense, defense or special teams.
“(Freeman) really drove me every day in practice. I knew I could never take a play off because Jon’avin is a great kid and a great athlete,” McAnally said. “He really brought out the best in me, and I think it’s really helped the team a lot. Whoever is out there, we just want to do what’s best for the team. I think it’s definitely been a big help and the competition has been awesome.
“I try to be my best at whatever position the coaches put me in. Ever since freshman year, I tried to do whatever it takes to get on the field. Hopefully it’s in a positive way and it helps the team. That’s really my main goal and my focus this season. Whatever position I’m at, I’ll give it my all. That’s my mindset when I go into different positions on the field.”
Episcopal coach Todd Fairlie went into the summer trusting that Freeman and McAnally would answer the call. Fairlie is confident both of them will thrive in their dual roles as complementary quarterbacks.
“We try to find competition for our players at every position to make sure they don’t get complacent. When you have two of the better athletes, better leaders and better football players competing for the same spot … I think it brings the best out in both of them,” Fairlie said. “We didn’t plan to go with two quarterbacks, it’s just the decision we made after all the evaluation. We constantly communicated that with them and I think it’s a constant learning experience. They showed a lot of maturity. I’ve told them that they showed a lot of professionalism through it, and that’s kind of weird to say knowing that they are only 16- and 17-year-old kids.
“Their focus and their drive have been terrific. It was a hard decision to make, but they understand that whatever decision that we make it’s for the betterment of the team.”
Whether it’s Freeman or McAnally engineering the offense, the Churchmen are in good position to win games after 2014’s disappointment. While they are not considered a title favorite in the Inter-Ac League just yet, the Churchmen can change a lot of people’s perceptions in the weeks before the league portion of their schedule kicks into gear in October. It continues Friday night when the Churchmen travel to Central League power Conestoga.
“I was telling everyone (last week), let’s go out and make a statement,” Freeman said. “That’s what we want to do every week.”
With Freeman and McAnally sharing QB duties, and All-Delco running back Dee Barlee and senior athlete Christian Feliziani showing the way, the Churchmen have the pieces in place to win a lot of games this year. But they know they can’t get cocky.
“We know we’re not good enough to get complacent,” McAnally said. “Conestoga is a really good team and they’re a big test for us. We have to be prepared and keep taking steps forward.”

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