WPIAL coaches succeed with multiple QBs

Chris Harlan
| Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012, 8:59 p.m.

Montour coach Lou Cerro wanted his three quarterbacks to prove which one deserved to replace a graduated 6,000-yard passer. They all would play until someone grabbed the job.

But two wins later, the Spartans' rotation remains intact.

Tynen Greer, Max Rosinsky and Ryan Mihelcic combined last Thursday to upset Central Valley, the No. 1-ranked team in Class AAA. Greer was the star that night, but all three have contributed. This three-headed approach is a change in philosophy for Cerro, whose former passers reside near the top of the WPIAL's career yardage list.

But it's working, so why stop?

“Has it grown on me? Yeah, I guess so,” Cerro said. “I wish there was one, but it's working. When it doesn't work, then we'll make a decision.”

Yet, should Montour defend its WPIAL title, could Cerro's three-QB approach become popular throughout the WPIAL? Cerro hopes not.

“I don't know if I want to start that trend,” he said with a laugh.

But unconnected to Montour, a number of WPIAL teams already are consistently using multiple quarterbacks as part of their gameplans. Clairton, Northgate, Norwin, Peters Township and others have decided more is better.

These substitutes aren't just wildcat runners, which also has grown in popularity. These extra quarterbacks will throw the football, too.

Three-time reigning state champion Clairton uses three quarterbacks with a different twist than Montour. Clairton starts Armani Ford, switches its offense with dual-threat Bryon Clifford and also deploys Tyler Boyd as a wildcat option.

“The advantage is it keeps everybody fresh,” said Terrish Webb, a senior wideout committed to Kent State. “Armani is a good passer. Bryon is our more athletic guy; he can run and pass. Tyler can do it all.”

Montour has used a consistent quarterback rotation, changing after each possession. But when Greer led Montour on a last-minute touchdown drive against Central Valley, Cerro stuck with the junior for overtime. Greer threw a touchdown on the first overtime play, proving the decision wise.

“I think, as the season goes on, during games, we'll stay with someone who has the hot hand,” Cerro said.

Northgate takes a different approach to multiple quarterbacks. Second-year coach T.J. Wiley needed to replace 2,000-yard passer Jon Girvin, so he evaluated his options. The first was senior Cody Walter, the team's tailback a year ago. The second was sophomore wideout Johnny Camello, who shined as the freshman backup.

Two weeks into this season, Wiley has decided to use both.

“There may be a couple series where we have Cody at quarterback and then the next series he's at tailback,” Wiley said, “and then Johnny moves from wideout to quarterback. It's only been two games, but it's working well.”

Walter (5-9, 175) has completed 6 of 18 passes for 104 yards and one TD. Camello (5-10, 160) is 6 of 7 for 134 yards and three touchdowns.

That offensive flexibility has been a good weapon.

“We're doing it to keep people honest,” Wiley said. “We're also doing it to use Cody's strengths in certain situations, and also use Johnny's strengths in other situations.”

Also, it's a way to use an underclassman without overloading him with pressure.

Norwin's Art Tragesser has taken that approach. The Knights have used three under center this season: sophomore John Driggers, sophomore Sean Bowen and freshman Nick Amendola, until a broken wrist removed Driggers.

The Knights (0-2) are building for the future.

“We wanted to get them experience,” Tragesser said. “They're all young, and they're all good. They have a good future ahead of them — all three of them.”

Like Tragesser, other coaches have decided there's no reason to leave a talented player standing on the sideline.

Peters Township coach Rich Piccinini has used junior R.J. Pfeuffer and sophomore Corey Owen with success during its 2-0 start. The two should play again Friday when the Indians face No. 3 Upper St. Clair.

“They both bring something different to the table,” Piccinini said. “R.J. is a great field general. Corey is a super athlete. He comes in and gives teams something different to prepare for. We think our quarterbacks are too good not to have both of them on the field.”

Staff writer Kevin Gorman contributed. Chris Harlan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5666 or charlan@tribweb.com.

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