Gorman: Blackhawk QB Kincade the real deal
Joe Hamilton is a superstitious sort, which explains why Blackhawk never had a No. 13 on its roster in his first 37 seasons as the Cougars' head coach.
When it comes to Chandler Kincade, Hamilton has learned to make exceptions.
Kincade started at quarterback as a freshman, immediately drawing comparisons to a certain someone at his position because of his 6-foot-5, 218-pound frame and the rifle attached to his right arm.
“Dan Marino. Dan Marino. Dan Marino,” Central Valley coach Mark Lyons said. “That's who he reminds me of.”
That might as well be the kiss of death for a Western Pennsylvania prep passer, as far as unrealistic expectations go.
Yet Kincade has embraced it, going so far as to make a verbal commitment to Pitt as a sophomore and become the first Blackhawk player to wear the same No. 13 as his favorite player.
“Hopefully I can have a little quicker feet getting out of the pocket,” Kincade said with a laugh, “but he has one of the best releases ever. That's an honor to be compared to him.”
But if you go to Blackhawk's Northwestern Stadium expecting to see a reincarnation of the former Central Catholic, Pitt and Miami Dolphins star and Pro Football Hall of Famer, you'll probably leave Darlington disappointed.
Kincade is no Dan Marino.
His play is more reminiscent of the backyard style of Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
“He just has an athletic sense to him,” Hamilton said. “He's very smart out there. He's like Ben. He extends plays.”
Kincade also takes risks, scrambling and slipping defenders, often turning nothing into something.
“If I'm in a game, I hope my teammates think we're never out of it — because I don't,” he said. “The play is never over.”
Kincade entered Friday's game against Central Valley as the No. 2 passer in the WPIAL, with 706 yards and five touchdowns, only to go 11 of 26 for 181 yards — with three picks in the first half alone.
In my eyes, Kincade couldn't have been more impressive. He threw a 27-yard touchdown pass to Cody Bain.
Kincade ran the option for an 11-yard gain to set up a second score. And he almost pulled off a 92-yard scoring drive.
On third-and-3, Kincade rolled right, absorbed a blow and found Tyler Engle for 17 yards. Two plays later, Kincade rolled left, eluded a defender, reversed field and threw on the run to Engle at the 1.
It was nullified when officials ruled Kincade first crossed the line of scrimmage. After a 13-yard scramble, he converted a fourth-and-2 with a 9-yard pass. Then a pass was tipped by three players before being intercepted.
“He's a very, very heady quarterback,” Lyons said.
“He understands the game. What's impressive — and a lot of people don't see this — is he manages the game very well. If you make the wrong alignment and slip up in coverage, he finds it. That's what makes him tough in high school.”
That's not the only thing. Kincade dislocated his right (throwing) shoulder in the fourth game last season but popped it back in and kept playing.
That stretched the muscles around his shoulders, and he missed the next four games.
After a long rehabilitation — Kincade wasn't cleared to throw until July — he was determined to show he is better than ever.
“It's something I thought about every day,” Kincade said. “That's the mentality I have, that I have to prove who I am. I think it's a good attitude because you can never stop pushing yourself.”
Considered the top junior quarterback in the state and one of the best in the nation, Kincade remains committed to Pitt even though he is being recruited by schools such as Alabama, LSU and Stanford.
He remains humble despite the constant comparisons, whether it be to Marino or Roethlisberger.
“That kind of talk doesn't bother him,” Hamilton said. “You can't believe how level-headed he is. What he worries about most is his team and our season.
“He's just a heck of a fine young man. I always thought quarterbacks had to have a cocky side. That's not true. He's not cocky or arrogant. He's got a lot of class.”
It's no wonder that, when it comes to the Class of 2014, no one compares to Chandler Kincade.
Kevin Gorman is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-320-7812.