As soon as James Way began to walk, he carried a football with him everywhere.
His dad gave him his first football.
Way is in high school now, but York High head football coach Shawn Heinold still makes sure on Friday nights that Way has the game ball in his hands.
Way, a junior, took over as the starting quarterback for the Bearcats in the third game of his sophomore season and displayed his versatility by passing for 851 yards and seven touchdowns and rushing for 500 yards, averaging 5.6 yards per carry.
An impressive debut, for sure, but Way feels he learned something last year that makes him an even better quarterback this season.
"Poise," he said. "I was too worried about the rush last year and who they were blitzing. They (opposing players) were making a lot of noise at the line of scrimmage, and it intimidated me."
The intimidation factor is gone in 2013.
"I learned to play with it, and I learned to be more poised," he said.
Heinold said that Way, who moved to York from Portsmouth, Va., at the end of his freshman year of high school, has done everything he's been asked to do as a student-athlete.
"He puts the time in watching film, he's a great leader, and he gets his studies done," Heinold said.
Heinold is satisfied with Way's development at quarterback, but that doesn't mean he won't raise the bar higher for the junior.
"We can keep giving him more and more because he's able to take information in, process it and go out and perform," Heinold said. "He's able to easily get through his first two reads, and I won't ask to read more than that. By the second read, if it's not there, he's athletic enough to tuck it (the ball) and run."
Way is averaging 7.4 yards a carry this season (52 rushes for 385 yards). He's also connected on 32 of 68 pass attempts for 458 yards and four touchdowns.
If opponents focus too much on Way, he knows there are other Bearcats who can burn defenses.
"We have a lot of weapons in the backfield, and you never know who's going to get the ball," Way said. "We have the receivers, we got our running game together in the second half last week, and our defense played really well."
Coming off big win: York High, trying to rebound from a 3-7 season, is 2-2 following a 33-7 victory over Northeastern last week.
"Northeastern is young, but the victory does give us confidence and something to build on," Heinold said. "It's important for this group to continue getting better each week, and I think we're doing that."
Heinold and his assistants are focusing on developing a run-pass balance in the York High attack.
"We've been through a couple of tailbacks, but right now, we're starting to feel comfortable with Bryshon Sweeney," Heinold said. "Dakeem Dennison (the team's leading receiver) is a senior and three-year starter. He's faster this year and playing a little safety (along with wide receiver) for us. Jahaire Wilson and D'montie Shaw have also made some catches for us.
"Defensively, we got some guys back from injuries and academic issues, and that helped us tremendously last week."
West York up next: This week, the Bearcats will make the short trip to West York for a crossover game against the Bulldogs before opening their York-Adams Division I season the following week against Red Lion.
Way, whose grandfather and father played high school football, is looking forward to the challenges over the next six weeks.
"My father (James Way II) played at York High, and he started me at quarterback," Way said. "He showed me how to throw the ball and grip the laces. It is special to play where he played. I feel this year we have to bring York High back."
Way's coach is wary of the game against the Bulldogs, who are an uncharacteristic 0-4.
"I know they're going to be hungry and prepared," Heinold said. "If we don't bring our 'A' game, it's going to be ugly. This is a big game for us. I don't want to take a step forward and then take a step backward."
The West York game will be a homecoming for Heinold, who played on the Bulldogs' District 3 Class AA title team in 1988.
"It will be neat going back home and standing on the other sideline," he said. "I haven't done that since I coached at Dallastown (as an assistant) eight years ago. It's going to be an exciting atmosphere. I anticipate a lot of our fans going there, and they always have a big crowd."
-- Reach Dick VanO linda at dvanolin firstname.lastname@example.org.