Springdale's Jones takes reigns at quarterback
Like many Class A schools, Springdale doesn't have the roster numbers to field a junior varsity, so everybody on the team plays varsity. That's fun for some but often a dilemma for a young quarterback eager for real snaps.
Josh Jones found himself in that dilemma a year ago, on the sideline watching then-senior Sammy Carey throw for more yards in one season than any passer in school history.
“It's nerve-wracking,” Jones said. “He's one of my good friends, but when I'd see him out there, I'd say: ‘Oh, gosh, how can I match that?' ”
Carey graduated after a 1,146-yard, 13-touchdown season, so he now has his chance to try.
The junior takes over a Springdale offense that finished 6-6 overall last season, 3-4 in the Eastern Conference, and qualified for the WPIAL Class A playoffs for the 14th time in 15 seasons. The senior-heavy team returns six starters from the lineup that reached the quarterfinals, so there's reason for optimism.
The 6-foot, 170-pound passer entered summer camp knowing he'd be under center come August, and quickly his teammates saw a quarterback who was physically ready.
“He's got an arm,” senior running back Josh Harmon said. “If he builds up confidence, it's going to be a good season, I think.”
That confidence will come in time, Springdale coach Seth Napierkowski said.
“With Springdale being a small school, we really haven't had a JV team for the last couple of years,” Napierkowski said. “His development has been slowed a little bit because of that. Any time you play against live competition, you're going to get better.
“So we're just trying to get him confident in what he's doing here, trying to keep it simple for him,” he added. “As you see, he throws the ball really nicely, and he's athletic. He can get outside the pocket. He can run. We're just trying to take advantage of the things he does well and not ask him to do too much.”
Napierkowski, a former high school and college quarterback, has played a vital role in Jones' development. The first-year head coach was the Dymanos' quarterbacks coach the past two seasons.
That coaching continuity was key. Jones said he's leaned heavily on Napierkowski, a former quarterback at Burrell and Carnegie Mellon.
“Very much,” Jones said. “He understands how it feels and all the mechanics. He's helped me so much with my throwing, my footwork and that. If it wasn't for him, I wouldn't be where I am now.”
Sometimes, Napierkowski's message to the young quarterback is simply don't overthink.
“If I'm in the huddle and I'm thinking too much, he'll yell at me to stop thinking,” Jones said with a laugh. “He gets on my case and pushes me.”
His previous playing time at quarterback was limited to preseason scrimmages or lopsided blowouts. But Jones said Napierkowski has helped him improve on the physical and mental aspects of the position.
“At first I wasn't really getting it,” Jones said, “but I broke through that barrier and I'm starting to get it now. Every day I'm learning something new.”