York-Adams League coaches turning to younger quarterbacks with greater frequency
- Seven Y-A League teams played sophomores or freshmen at quarterback for significant time in 2016.
- Central York's Cade Pribula led the Y-A League in passing in 2016 as a sophomore.
- Northeastern named sophomore Zech Sanderson as its starting quarterback for 2017 without holding a competition.
Central York quarterback Cade Pribula is used to being constantly critiqued by head coach Josh Oswalt.
Two of the latest examples came during a heat acclimation workout on Tuesday, Aug. 8. First, as Pribula was working with a group of receivers and practicing his rollouts, Oswalt calmly assessed mid-play that he wasn't a fan of Pribula's depth on the rollout.
Later, once Pribula had finished with all of his workouts for the day and was working with certified athletic trainer Krysta Sensbach-Gassert, Oswalt shouted for Pribula at the top of his lungs, just to tell him that his younger brother, Beau, "is just as bad as you!" The remark came in response to the younger Pribula, who is only in eighth grade, but will lead the freshman team this season, making a poor decision on a throw.
It's the type of ribbing that Pribula has become accustomed to over the last year, but something the junior wouldn't likely be receiving had he flown under the radar as a sophomore. Instead, when the Panthers took the field in Week 1 of the 2016 season, they did so being guided by Pribula, who was only in 10th grade at the time.
Pribula made good on Oswalt's decision to go younger at the most important position, earning the trust of his teammates by leading Central to a 7-4 record and a berth in the District 3 Class 6-A playoffs just one year after the team faltered to a 3-7 mark. He also led the York-Adams League in passing with 2,027 yards.
"It was cool to get those relationships with the seniors; that doesn't happen a lot of the time," Pribula said about starting as just a sophomore. "They respected me and we bonded well."
Starting as a sophomore isn't an anomaly in high school football anymore, at least not in the Y-A League. Rather, it's actually becoming a trend. More teams are going the route of younger quarterbacks.
There can be any number of reasons to go with a younger quarterback. The primary option would be the idea that, by starting a sophomore, a team is potentially giving itself three years of the same person at the most important position on the field, rather than having to replace its starter every one or two years.
In the case of Pribula, the Panthers will reap that benefit.
Still, there's little doubt that it was also a position he earned through his performance in preseason camp.
"He won that fair and square," Oswalt said about naming Pribula the starter last year. "And I think any other quarterback on the team that is still with the team and in another position understood that it was his. He fought hard for it. He wasn't the kid who was lobbying or politicking. He just goes to work."
Growing trend: In 2016 alone, out of the 23 teams in the Y-A League, seven of them played sophomore quarterbacks for a significant amount of time at the varsity level. Not all of those teams planned on it happening that way. Younger signal callers got the starts for different reasons.
With Biglerville and New Oxford, a pair of teams that went winless, they let sophomores play a decent amount as a way to look toward the future. That was also the case with West York, which struggled to a 2-8 record, but may have found its quarterback to lead it to brighter days in Corey Wise, who threw for 756 yards as just a freshman.
Eastern York went with sophomore Seth Bernstein at quarterback last season. He showcased his dual-threat capabilities to help the Golden Knights go 4-2 in Division II. He transferred to York High in the offseason and is now in a three-man battle for the starting Bearcats' job.
At Spring Grove, because of an injury to senior Jake Messersmith, 10th-grader Nick Shaqfeh was forced into a more prominent role and will now need to prove his worth as a junior in a quarterback competition during camp.
In Division III, Fairfield and Bermudian Springs will each enter 2017 with two-year starters at quarterback. The Green Knights will be led by senior Darian Mort, who took over the starting job as a sophomore, while the Eagles will have junior Chase Dull behind center, who started immediately as a freshman in 2015.
Looking to the future: Then there's Northeastern, which was set at the position in 2015 and 2016 with Shannon Valenti, but after him, the spot would be open.
So, head coach Jon Scepanski planned ahead, bringing up freshman Zech Sanderson from the freshman team last year to be the backup to Valenti, allowing him to get in a couple games late. It also got him around the varsity atmosphere to prepare to take over the starting gig as a sophomore this season.
"As of right now, we're still on that same track," Scepanski said. "He's done a really good job. He's gone to a lot of camps, puts in a lot of time. He's only a sophomore, so you can't ask him to win every game for us, but right now, we want him to manage the game for us and make some plays here and there, but to put a game on his shoulders is not something we want to do."
The Bobcats may not rely on Sanderson to win them games, but Central will with Pribula. It's the heightened expectations of being a second-year starter as only a junior.
So, the verbal jabs from his coach are probably the least of Pribula's worries for this season. That's quite fine with him.
"I don't really feel pressure from anybody else," he said. "I kind of put that pressure on myself. I know we're going to do well this year and this is why we're out here working, so we can be as prepared as we can."
— Reach Patrick Strohecker at firstname.lastname@example.org