Armstrong high school quarterbacks emerge as rushing threats
TribLIVE Sports Videos
To find several of the area's most prolific ball carriers this fall, look no further than the guys who take snaps.
A few quarterbacks are among the rushing leaders in the Alle-Kiski Valley and Armstrong County. To an extent, they are the beneficiaries of favorable schemes and play-calling. But Kittanning's Kevin Barnes, Freeport's Brendan Lynch and Apollo-Ridge's Jesse Zelonka also possess abilities that make them more versatile than most at the position.
“This is kind of unique for me,” said Kittanning coach Frank Fabian, who installed the shotgun spread offense that he previously used at District 9's Redbank Valley. “Most of the kids I had in the past (at quarterback) were big kids and kind of mudders. We mostly used them for short-yardage situations. … But Kevin showed from early on that he has the ability to go the distance.”
Relying so heavily on the quarterback as a rusher bothered Fabian for a bit. But Barnes' durability and productivity — 178 rushes for 741 yards and six touchdowns — through seven weeks eased doubts.
“There's a saying,” Fabian said. “Ships are safe in port, but that's not what ships are made for.”
Fabian's spread system fit with the versatility of Barnes, a 6-foot-1, 185-pound former running back and wide receiver whose carries come from a mix of quarterback-specific runs, give-or-keep read plays and scrambles.
“I like the freedom,” said Barnes, who reached 1,000 yards passing last week. “I'm usually looking to keep it and run (when scrambling). But if I know there's a guy open beforehand, I'll throw it. Usually though, I'm looking to pick up yardage.”
A shift in offensive systems also led to Lynch's emergence as a major running threat.
Coach John Gaillot switched Freeport from an I-formation-based offense to the shotgun zone fly, which relies on motion sweeps and multiple ball carriers, including the quarterback.
“We needed to spread people out but still focus on running the ball,” Gaillot said. “This way, they have to account for three backs instead of one.”
Lynch, a 5-11, 175-pound senior and third-year starter at quarterback, welcomed the change, even if it meant he'd finish with his fewest pass attempts of his three seasons — as a sophomore, he passed 122 times and had 1,326 yards, and as a junior, he threw 67 times and finished with 602 yards. Responsible for 276 rushing yards as a sophomore and 442 as a junior, he'd finally flourish on the ground.
“There's a lot more variety of things they can do with me,” said Lynch, who has rushed 95 times for 850 yards and completed 24 of 49 pass attempts for 501 yards. “I think this offense we're running is perfect for all of us. It fits our skill set.”
What combination of runs and passes will produce the most wins has been debated at Apollo-Ridge, where Zelonka, a 5-11, 151-pound junior and former running back, seemingly alternates between big games by air and by land.
In last week's upset win over Eastern Conference leader Northgate, Zelonka rushed for a season-high 141 yards and passed for just 95, his second lowest total of the season.
In Week 2, Zelonka passed for a season-high 272 yards and gained just 4 yards on the ground.
He is yet to account for fewer than 100 yards of total offense.
“I'd make it like 60-40 run,” Zelonka said of the ratio he prefers for quarterback plays. “I think us running the quarterback is very effective.
“The one thing my brother (Jeff, the quarterbacks coach) told me about (second-year coach John) Skiba is that from day one, he's been comfortable with running the quarterback.”
Bill West is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com or 724-543-1303.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Rossi: Johnston must reach Malkin in Moscow
- Mont. senator’s thesis appears to have been plagarized
- Steelers are in familiar territory going into training camp in Latrobe
- Liriano, Snider lift Pirates to a victory over Dodgers at PNC Park
- New Penguins coach to meet with Malkin
- Pirates notebook: Recovering Cole exceeds expectations in simulated game
- Truck drivers taken to hospital after Pa. Turnpike crash in Butler County
- Hookah bar on tap for Greensburg
- Fitzgerald stacks legislative wins as Allegheny council members struggle
- Rising number of health care workers have less than 4-year degree, study shows
- Health insurers will refund $5.2M to Pa. subscribers, group plans