MORRISON: Local QBs Set The Standard

It’s certainly not a phenomenon but it seems to me that quarterback is a strength in the Mountain State this year. That is, on the prep level.

Not in the J.R. House recording-setting sense.

If, however, you are looking for guys with efficient numbers, there are a few good men.

Four quarterbacks went over 2,000 yards in West Virginia this year, and 38 more passed for more than 1,000 yards. To me that certainly illustrates how much the game has changed.

The Kanawha Valley has its fair share of successful signalcallers, with Hurricane’s Austin Hensley, South Charleston’s Kentre Grier and Capital’s Tyrhee Pratt.

The Eastern Panhandle can check in with Martinsburg’s Malique Watkins, Jefferson’s Andrew King or the now-injured Troy Markley of Hedgesville.

Central West Virginia has Austin Norman of Fairmont and Jake Delaney of East Fairmont, who interestingly enough, are separated by just 11 yards passing (1,885 to 1,874).

Southern West Virginia boasts Isiah Kinder from Greenbrier East, who is third in the state in passing with 2,096 yards.

Area fans will have a chance to see Grier (and his 1,969 yards passing) in person Friday night when Park hosts the Black Eagles in the opening round of the Class AAA playoffs.

Of course, fans here are not unaccustomed to seeing great quarterback play.

Look no further than some of the local quarterbacks who will be leading their teams into first-round playoff action.Wheeling Park’s Zach Phillips, Bishop Donahue’s Jesse Padlow, Madonna’s Ross Comis and Magnolia’s Jacob Brill lead a cast of several who have put up great numbers this season.

The talent seems to be on overload.

For instance, there is Wheeling Park’s Phillips.

Nobody has been more consistent, and accurate, than the Patriots’ pass-throwing senior.

For the season, Phillips is 88 for 141 passing for 1,531 yards with 18 touchdowns and just two interceptions.

That’s a pretty good completion percentage of 62 percent.

Lately he has heated up.

Since the second half of the Patriots’ lone loss, to Morgantown (41-38 in overtime on Oct. 11), Phillips is an eye-popping 44 of 57 for 845 yards and 10 touchdowns and no interceptions. In two games he didn’t play in the second half.

That adds up to an astronomical 77.2 completion percentage.

“He gets the ball from point A to point B as fast as anyone I’ve ever had,” Wheeling Park coach Chris Daugherty said. “Teams have a hard time adjusting to that if you don’t see it every week.”

The son of Keith Phillips, a former college defensive coordinator and current Park DC, Phillips has learned the game from the ground up without leaving home. It has definitely paid off.

With an offer from Concord on the table, a several more sure to follow, Phillips will play at the next level.

An excellent student, Phillips is also getting interest from both the Patriot and Ivy Leagues.

“He is 1-2-3 on a lot of people’s (recruiting) boards,” Daugherty said. “When people start making moves in the next month or so, he’s going to rise on a lot of them. It wouldn’t shock me if he doesn’t start getting offers from some of these schools soon. Somebody is going to get an excellent quarterback.”

There is Padlow, who has been on fire of late. He is 129 of 203 for 1,998 yards (two shy of being the fifth QB is the state with 2,000 yards) , with 20 touchdowns and just two interceptions and he missed most of two games.

After returning from an injury on the first drive of the Clay-Battelle game early in the season, and missing two games, Padlow has exploded in the last four weeks, going 66 of 103 for 1,069 yards and 10 touchdowns with no interceptions.

He has a myriad receivers, and he uses them all. In five games he completed passes to seven or eight different receivers.

That, coach John Durdines said, keeps everybody excited.

“The receivers know they are going to get opportunities, so they run crisper routes,” the coach said.

Padlow is also heady, a student of the game. Durdines said Padlow has the ability to audible out of a play in any situation, and, eight to 10 times a game, the quarterback does just that.

“It’s hard to believe that a kid at this level has such a great understanding of the pre- and post-snap reads,” Durdines said. “But that is what makes Jesse great. He is highly competitive, hates to lose, but he is all about the team. If I told him we were going to hand the ball off 50 times and win the game, he wouldn’t say a word.”

Chances are when the Bishops travel all the way to Man Saturday, that won’t be the case.

Comis is probably the best athlete of the bunch, and he shows it with stats that almost look like a misprint.

Class A No. 1 Madonna (who plays host toTucker County on Friday night) led by the quarterback who last year, during a run to the Class A state championship game, had more than 1,000 yards of total offense. Turns out that was a harbinger of things to come.

His coach, Doug Taylor, minces no words when talking about the senior standout.

“He’s not a one-dimensional quarterback, he can run the ball and he can throw the ball,” Taylor said. “He’s just a big-time player. He is one of the top players, if not the top player, in the state. That’s my opinion.”

He isn’t alone in that thought, though it would be hard to top what Morgantown running back Chazzy Thomas has done this season. Comis has numbers to back up his coach’s claim.

Those numbers: Comis has rushed for 1,254 yards and 22 touchdowns and passed for 1,299 and 20 touchdowns. That’s 2,553 yards of offense and 42 touchdowns if you are scoring at home.

“He’s getting a lot of interest from Division-II and Division-III schools,” Taylor said of the 6-foot-1 quarterback. “I think he can play Division-I football. If he has to sit out a year, get in the weightroom, I think he’d be willing to do that. He has everything a team wants. He can scramble around and make plays with his feet. He has been really good passing the ball. He combined the two and really helped us out of a jam against (Steubenville) Catholic Central and Toronto. He’s the complete package. I know we have some mighty big shoes to fill here.”

So did Wheeling Central when Parker Henry, The Intelligencer Sophomore of the Year who suffered a season-ending injury before his junior year last season and then had the same injury, to the other leg, midway through this season.

No problem.

In stepped Isaac Rine, a freshman, and all he did was help Central advance to the Class A playoffs once again.

He has passed for more than 500 yards and rushed for more than 200 heading into Friday night’s playoff game at No. 4 Williamstown.

“He has done an admirable job,” Coach Mike Young said. “I could say, and I’m sure he would be the first to tell you, the kids have really rallied around him. They want to see him do well, whereas with Parker, he was so talented and such a great leader, it was just expected of him. He is headed in the right direction. He is a student of the game.”

Potentially, the next great Ohio Valley quarterback, Rine mixes a little of all of the quarterbacks. Like Phillips, he is a student of the game, the son of Central offensive coordinator Jason Rine. Like Comis, he has shown flashes that he can run as well as pass. Like Padlow, he is already ahead of the curve in being able to read defenses, not just throw passes around the yard because a certain route or play is called.

“There are great quarterbacks here, certainly Phillips at Park and Comis at Madonna, guys who are senior quarterbacks and leaders,” Young said. “Being exposed to that is going to make Isaac a better quarterback, make him keep learning and working to reach that level.”

Brill, of Magnolia (which faces No. 3 Valley-Fayette Saturday at 1:30 p.m. at Charleston’s Laidley Field) got off to a quick start this year. The numbers fell because Magnolia has been brilliant in running the wildcat with running back Drew Keller. It’s worked so well that Brill hasn’t had to do much passing of late.

Make no mistake, he can, and will, throw. With precision. Brill is 67 of 109 passing for 1,023 yards. He has 11 touchdown passes. Just one interception.

Coach Mark Batton is hardly surprised, mentioning several times that Brill studied under Kennedy Award winner Justin Fox (2010) and two-year starter Tanner Hanna. Pretty good guides.

That doesn’t even take into account the many fine gunslingers in Ohio, guys like Steubenville Catholic’s Brenton Colabella and Bellaire’s Spencer Badia, both having surpassed 7,000 career passing yards and Monroe Central’s Curtis Nixon, who seemingly rushes and passes for more than 100 yards on a weekly basis.

Or other local guys who topped 1,000 like Paden City’s Zach Heasley (139 of 248 for 1,686 yards and 18 touchdowns) and Brooke’s Aaron Walker (88 of 143 for 1,060 yards and seven touchdowns). Both return next fall to a local stadium near you.