Southmoreland's Datz develops into leader, recruiter
Jaden Datz is going to be counted on by Southmoreland this fall to make plays on the field as an experienced quarterback, but his summer work convincing some of his friends to play football could prove just as vital for the upcoming season.
Datz and some of his teammates made sales pitches to several top Scotties athletes, such as WPIAL wrestling champion Tyler Griffiths, who previously didn't have football on their radar.
The pitch worked.
Griffiths, baseball standout Cade Richter and others will join Datz on Friday nights.
Being a three-sport athlete helped Datz, a senior, coax some of his wrestling and baseball teammates into playing.
“I just told them that we have a chance to be good this year with how the conference is, and the kids we had coming back were pretty good,” Datz said. “If we could get a few more kids out it could really make a difference. One bought in and then another one did. Once everyone saw more kids coming out to play, everyone got on board with it.
“I've played other sports with them and some of them have played basketball with some of the other kids, so we're all really close.”
The new additions push the roster over 30, a spot Southmoreland hasn't been for a few years. In leaner years, Datz was there to play quarterback, getting his first action halfway through his freshman season against Derry after an injury thrust him into duty.
“Jaden was thrown right into the fire,” Southmoreland coach Mark Adams said. “We taught him five plays and with those five we got a win. He's been growing ever since.”
Since that first night, Datz has bounced between running back and quarterback and settled in under center last fall, throwing for 470 yards. Datz along with running back Ronnie Robinson, who rushed for 917 yards and 12 touchdowns last season, hope to provide a one-two punch for the offense.
But for Datz it's about more than just the numbers. He's looking at every detail and understands he will need to provide leadership to those learning the playbook for the first time.
“The kids coming to play are looking up to me because they know I have experience,” Datz said. “Being the quarterback is already a vital role as it is, so I know they'll be paying attention to me in drills, how I work and how I carry myself. I want to keep a positive attitude and set a good example, because I know that is important.”
Adams is confident Datz can be an effective leader on and off the field.
“Jaden's been there,” Adams said. “He pretty much knows the routine. He knows the speed of the game and the minute details that allows people to be successful on the field.”
Southmoreland is looking to break a streak of 14 consecutive losing seasons.
The Scotties haven't qualified for the playoffs since 1979, which is the longest drought in the WPIAL.
With the Scotties coming off a 1-8 season it may seem like a tall task to break either one of those streaks to those on the outside, but Datz is optimistic this is their best shot to reverse those trends in quite some time.
“We have kids coming in with positive attitudes that are coming out looking to play and earn some wins,” Datz said. “The past years haven't gone as we would have wanted them to, but with the numbers we have out now, I think this is the best opportunity we've had to make the playoffs.”
Jerin Steele is a freelance writer.