Junior QB Holl stepping up for Seneca Valley
There was no shortage of storylines surrounding the Seneca Valley football team as this season got under way. It was believed by those outside the program that the Raiders would be void of the talent that earned them a spot in the WPIAL semifinals in 2012.
Then, there was much focus Quad North opposition. There were three-time defending WPIAL champion North Allegheny, the hot assistants-turned-head coaches in Pine-Richland's Eric Kasperowicz and North Hills' Pat Carey, and the hype surrounding Central Catholic.
All of the drama left the Raiders out of much of the preseason conversation.
As the season heads down the stretch, the Raiders are back in the conversation in a big way, thanks in part to junior quarterback T.J. Holl and some of his long-time teammates.
Holl, who spent all of last season playing strictly defense, quietly earned the starting quarterback job. But since the opening game, the new starter has been anything but quiet on the field.
The Raiders opened the season beating rivals Pine-Richland and North Allegheny for the first time in a decade. The team dropped its only game to Central Catholic before rebounding at Shaler two weeks ago. Holl threw for 251 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for four more, helping the Raiders keep pace for a possible share of the section title.
“I knew I would have to step up this year,” Holl said. “I like being the QB; I like the responsibility. I know some people can be critical because I am the coach's son, but I think I have proved to the doubters that I am the right guy for the job.”
Holl said the biggest challenges for him were learning how to read a defense and knowing exactly where to go with the ball post snap.
“What I bring to the offense is intensity and the fact I am a dual threat with my running and throwing,” Holl said. “I think I have a high football IQ thanks to my dad being the coach and my brothers. Because of that, I was able to learn what I had to very fast.”
Although he likes to throw and run the ball, Holl was adamant that he is willing to do whatever it takes for the team to win.
By spending much of last year on the other side of the ball, Holl was probably an afterthought on offense for those outside the team. But Holl and other players contributing on offense knew what they could do when their opportunity came.
“Me, Eric (Mrkonja), Brad (Hensler) and Mason (Dehart) have been together since eighth grade,” Holl said. “We knew Mason would be big time, and Eric and Brad are just so consistent. We all worked out together all summer and knew we had to step up.”
Mrkonja knew that Holl was the right guy to lead this team.
“T.J. has a lot of heart, a lot of skill and is an amazing football player,” Mrkonja said. “He picks up players who are down and will push people to the limit.”
Holl noted that the win over North Allegheny was the testament of hard work paying off for the Raiders.
“They were a stake in our sides, and we felt the weight on our shoulders,” Holl said. “It was a relief, it was gratifying and the fact we beat NA made it 10 times better.”
Holl's dream since eighth grade has been to play for and win a WPIAL championship.
The dream has a chance to be a reality for the Raiders because many of the skill players are juniors.
“We just have a connection,” Mrkonja said. “Ever since we were in seventh grade, T.J. and I have had a connection. It's like when he is scrambling out there, we can read each other's minds.”
Jerry Clark is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-779-6979 or firstname.lastname@example.org.