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Gorman: Wilkinsburg senior takes a pass on center

Kevin Gorman
| Wednesday, Sept. 3, 2014, 9:33 p.m.

Jonathan Carpenter always wanted to be a quarterback, but he had a problem preventing him from playing the position.

Instead of being under center, he was the center.

Then Wilkinsburg coach Michael Fulmore offered Carpenter a chance to compete for the starting quarterback job this season.

“It was always a dream, until I got a phone call from my coach saying to come up and throw passes and compete,” Carpenter said. “It was a dream come true. I knew I had to perform.”

So, the 5-foot-9, 188-pound senior made one of the most unfathomable position switches in football.

Russ Grimm was a quarterback at Southmoreland who moved to center at Pitt and went on to a Hall of Fame career in the NFL, but it's unheard of for a player to switch from snapper to signal-caller.

Carpenter, however, embraced the challenge.

“At center, there's only so much you can control at times,” Carpenter said. “At quarterback, you're in control of everything.”

Fulmore said the Tigers don't ask their quarterbacks to do too much, mostly managing the game and handing off to running backs, but Carpenter's debut could change the coach's mind.

Carpenter completed 7 of 17 passes for 198 yards and three touchdowns, on throws of 72 yards to Robert Higginbotham, 14 yards to Xavier Reed and 29 yards to Dremar Everette, in a 24-14 victory over Leechburg on Saturday at Graham Field.

“I'd really like to say I was just amazed, but I'm not,” Fulmore said. “That's what we expect from Jonathan. We keep the standard high, and he met the challenge.”

Most important, Carpenter was proud that he didn't throw an interception in his first career start — at any level — at quarterback.

Make that his first game — ever — at the position.

Carpenter had never played quarterback, which makes his premiere performance even more impressive.

“Especially after looking at the top passer, who had (292) yards,” Carpenter said of Brentwood's Connor McWilliams. “That's not that far away, and that person has been playing the position his whole life.”

Fulmore said his staff's consensus was to keep Carpenter at center and allow him to anchor the offensive line. Carpenter had participated in passing drills over the years and had a tendency to bounce before taking a snap, which would have drawn a flag in a game.

But Fulmore decided to give Carpenter a legitimate shot this summer, and doesn't regret it.

“He made the decision pretty easy,” Fulmore said. “The first thing was, he's a very durable and tough kid. He hasn't missed a snap in the two years that he started for us to injury, and dependability is something we look for in a leader of our team.

“Jonathan has the best arm of anybody I've seen in my tenure at Wilkinsburg. He makes pretty good decisions. He reads the field and sees the field well.”

Better than he did when snapping the ball between his legs to a teammate out of a three-point stance.

When it comes to playing center again, Carpenter prefers to take a pass.

Kevin Gorman is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at kgorman@tribweb.com or via Twitter @KGorman_Trib.

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