Tigers look to make best of tale of two QBs
NEWTOWN SQUARE >> Chris Gicking passed for 53 touchdown passes as the quarterback at Marple Newtown, not one of them under the pressure of being removed from a game.
He was All-Central League, All-Delco and All-State, but mostly he was the Tigers’ quarterback all the time. He was No. 1. If there was a No. 2, it didn’t seem to matter.
So what was Gicking doing in his sixth offseason as the Marple Newtown head coach, running a competition for his No. 1 quarterback spot, and even considering a two-passer system?
Might it be junior Brian Joslin? Or would classmate Joey Paoletti be the better choice?
“I hope to not alternate,” Gicking said. “Each one brings something else to the table.”
Both played some as sophomores, sharing time late in the season and even in a postseason loss at Radnor. Paoletti is known as an efficient pocket passer, with Joslin more accomplished at throwing on the run. Both provide value.
“It’s interesting, working with the offense in different ways,” tackle Ryan Lain said. “But we know however it goes, it will work out for us.”
Each quarterback took training-camp reps at defense, with Joslin at linebacker and Paoletti at free safety. So each is bound to contribute in some fashion. Either way, Gicking is confident his quarterback depth will help the Tigers survive, and perhaps thrive, in a classic rebuilding season.
Even if gifted baseball pitcher and thumping outside linebacker Andrew Cantwell recovers from what Gicking described as arm issues, the Tigers will have just 13 seniors. Marlon Weathers, Marple Newtown’s all-time leading rusher, graduated after running last season for 1,063 yards and 10 touchdowns. So did Gicking’s top five pass-catchers and nine defensive starters.
But the Tigers enjoyed a robust offseason program, were successful at a team camp at Lebanon Valley College, and are certain they can improve on their 4-5 2018 Central League season.
“I think it’s going to be a great team,” said senior linebacker and H-back Rob Reilly. “We have a lot of kids who come to the weight room and actually love the sport. And I think we’re going to be really good. A lot of kids are invested.”
Reilly is just one of a small number of returning starters, including Joslin, Paoletti, Cantwell, Lain, senior outside linebacker Cain Tarquini, wide receiver Tyler Lynch, two-way linemen John Ebert and Joe Goodman and sophomore defensive back Charlie Box.
Versatile seniors Christian Aquila, Shane Benedict, Jelani Estes, Josh Jacobs, Ethan Law, Josh Mabry, Marc McMaster, Cole Thiruselvam and Ricky Wysocki will provide veteran leadership as the younger Tigers develop.
“We’re thrilled because of the way they’ve worked in the offseason,” Gicking said. “We’re excited to see what happens. Usually hard work does pay off.”
As for the traffic jam at quarterback, Gicking prefers to consider it a strength.
“Competition brings out the best in everybody,” he said. “And they are both great kids from great families. They are doing great. They are also practicing other positions offensively and defensively because they are great athletes. And we want to make sure, because it is our job as coaches, to just get them on the field and put the best kids on the field.
“That’s our job as coaches, to put the best athletes on the field.”
The Tigers did that often enough last season to win a District 1 Class 5A playoff spot, but believe they can improve on their 5-6 overall record.
“We were OK,” Gicking allowed. “We ended up losing a heartbreaker in the playoffs. We’re looking to build on that. As young as we are, people don’t expect much. But that’s OK. We just said, ‘Listen, let’s just work hard, take care of one game at a time, one series at a time and one play at a time.’”
And, just maybe, two good quarterbacks at a time.
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Offensive Player to Watch
Ryan Lain, offensive line >> Just a junior, the imposing 6-3, 270-pound two-way lineman turned heads in summer camps at Villanova, Penn, Bucknell, Fordham and Delaware.
In addition to protecting quarterbacks, he can be a force along the defensive line.
“We only have a few seniors, but we don’t think that brings us down at all,” Lain said. “We can all work together well. We looked really good in the team camp. So I am really excited to see what we can do.”
Defensive Player to Watch
Rob Reilly, linebacker >> A team having lost nine defensive starters to graduation, Marple Newtown is expecting big things from Reilly as a returning leader and hitter.
“Robbie is very intelligent,” coach Chris Gicking said. “He gets to the ball. He just has a nose for the ball.”
That comes from his passion for football.
“I just love the feeling of Friday nights, the lights, the fans,” said Reilly, who will mix in some H-back duties. “It’s just amazing.”
By Jack McCaffery, firstname.lastname@example.org