Millard West Super Sophomore from a year ago, Ross Drwal (#14)
Alright that does it, I'm moving to Omaha on weekends during the high school football season. Well, maybe I jumped the gun here, but the quarterback stock in the Big O is pretty high caliber going into the 2012 season. Class A itself is loaded with quality signal callers that possess a nice mix of pinpoint passers, shifty runners, and a combination of both. The nice thing here is that every single one of these youngsters should improve after already posting dynamite 2011 campaigns.
So without further adieu, let's profile a few of these sparklers:
*Isaac Aakre-Millard North -- Typical prototype Mustang quarterback. Two year 1000 yard rusher, a master of trickery and razor sharp precision at running the option offense. After running through the quarterback option drills a gazillion times in the past 2 seasons, Aakre is poised for a 2000 yard rushing season with a seasoned line in front of him and a stout defense that will give him the ball back in a hurry. The one thing about Freddy Petito's Mustangs is that the opponent pretty much knows they are going to run nearly every single play. They just line up, knowing that the folks across the line realize exactly what's coming, and run right at you. Aakre owns a 50% completion rate, but throws only twice a game on average.....ya. Even though, the nimble, swift Aakre (5-11, 185) will burn you inside and outside and seems to be indestructible. Look for Isaac to lead his team deep into the playoffs and challenge Lincoln SE for the Class A crown this Fall.
*Alec Ditoro-Papillion La Vista -- All this guy did as a sophomore was lead Class A in passing with a eye popping 2,634 yards and 28 touchdowns. What seems more impressive is Ditoro's completion percentage. The 5-10, 160 pound Ditoro completed an amazing 193 of his 283 passes...that's 68% folks and also take note he split time with North Platte transfer Trey Moore, who averaged 200 yards a game passing the season before he transferred to Papio. That's only part of the story.
Alec Ditoro, who looks like a middle schooler at best, has some athletic genes.....and how. His grandfather is former Omaha South and most recently Omaha Burke head coach, Jack Oholendt. His great grandpa is Nebraska High School Sports Hall of Fame coach, Bill James. Oholendt is currently serving as Papio's defensive coordinator, but is also a master at coaching quarterbacks....hmmmmm.
When Trey Moore arrived at Papillioin LV a year ago, the first week of football practice was just about to begin. Moore's father, took the assistant basketball gig at Papio after being the head hoops man at North Platte for many seasons. So, it appeared that Trey would be the "man" to take the quarterback reins after throwing for 1,761 yards in 2010 (2nd in Class A for a 2-7 North Platte team). But Ditoro and Moore split time to start and Ditoro eventually logged most of the playing time because of his innate ability to read defenses, be patient, and throw with enough pinpoint accuracy to avoid any interceptions. Some kind of credentials for a sophomore, huh? You have to consider the bloodlines, but still....my goodness, he's just a kid playing in the Metro Conference and probably only shaves once a week.
So, how good did Papillion LV end up being with Alec Ditoro at the controls? It took eventual State Champion Lincoln Southeast all it had to derail the Monarchs in the quarterfinals 28-18 and still Ditoro was 15 of 26 passing for 236 yards and had two 40 yard scoring strikes out of the Monarchs no-huddle, spread offense. And remember, Ditoro set a Papio single game passing record against eventual state runner-up Omaha Burke. The sophomore whiz completed 25 of 29 throws for 390 yards and 4 touchdowns that evening, rallying his team from a 35-13 halftime deficit before the Monarchs eventually fell 42-35.
My advice to you this fall.....keep your eye on the youthful looking Alec Ditoro, but looks can be deceiving, ya know.
*Najee Jackson-Lincoln Southeast -- Oh my, did this kid improve with every game in 2011. Jackson just got better and better every outing and with it gained the confidence it took to lead his team to State Class A Championship. Najee Jackson's arm became a lethal weapon right about when Knights stepped on the field for the second half against Grand Island in the 2nd round of the Class A playoffs. If you recall, Jackson found a streaking Desmond Robinson on the first play of the second half for a 79 yard TD strike that propelled the Knights to a comeback 28-27 win.
Jackson wound up the season a year ago throwing for 1,501 yards, completing 87 of 153 passes for 17 touchdowns. #1 is a master at hiding the ball on run fakes and can slip through those narrow passages. Jackson also possesses a strong arm and has the ability to run full boar one direction, stop to a halt, and throw back the opposite direction and nail an open receiver. Lincoln Southeast loves those crossing patterns, and Jackson is so adept at zipping that ball right where it is supposed to be. Najee Jackson is also a very fine defensive back who can cover almost any wide receiver in "A". He intercepted 3 ariels a year ago for the Knights.
*Zach Martin-Omaha North -- At 6-3 and a 180 pounds, Martin is just the right size for a Class A quarterback. Martin's table is set perfectly for 2012 with an extremely talented backfield to set up the pass and some receivers with blinding speed to run under his accurate throws. Last year Martin completed 115-224 passes for a whopping 1,920 yards and 15 TD's. My sources tell me that Omaha North may have some "new faces" (aka transfers) that will make them even more dangerous this Fall.
Zach Martin is a classic drop back quarterback who executes his ball fake well, has a very slick pump fake, and is difficult to sack because of his ability to release the ball so quickly. Martin does not take off on the run very often, but when he does he is a very smooth runner that just glides through the defense. You will be hearing a lot from Zach Martin this season partly due to the excellent offensive line he has to protect and give him that needed time and space to throw the ball. That could prove to be menacing to most opposing defenses.
*Easton Stick-Creighton Prep -- Let me tell about this young man. Stick is 6-2, 190 pounds and is running under the radar to people outside the Metro due to a early season ending injury. Stick is the real deal, football fans. In just a little over 3 games for the Junior Jays a season ago, Easton Stick completed 29 of 56 passes for 463 yards and 3 scores......as a Sophomore. Stick may have the best pure arm motion of any quarterback I saw a year ago. A drop back style QB, Stick is so very patient and is one of the best scramblers in Class A. He can scramble out of trouble and still have the vision to find his open target with pinpoint accuracy. No, this is not a stretch, Easton Stick can hurl the ball 50 yards in the air and retain pretty good accuracy. The kid is also faaaaaast. You do not want Stick to maneuver the corner because he will outrun many defenses to the end zone. Stick also has nice vision. His vertical leap of 33 inches doesn't hurt matters either. Look for a monster Junior season if he can avoid injuries.
*Luke McNitt-Kearney -- Ever seen a Mack Truck that can run fast? Luke McNitt is somebody you certainly want to take head on if you are zeroing in for a tackle. At 6-2 and a bruising 215 pounds, McNitt can just flat mobile and lay the wood at the point of impact when he runs. Last season, Luke McNitt ran for 724 yards on 138 carries and was even more efficient when he went to his passing game.
McNitt completed an astounding 121 of 193 of his tosses for 1,409 yards and 6 scores. This kid has a rifle arm that could throw a football threw a car wash and never get it wet. Last season I watched him lay a couple of passes over 50 yards in the air and land on a dime. Both went for scores. McNitt knows where his receiver's bread basket is located and can hit it most of the time.
As far as running the ball, Luke McNitt is a skilled player at reading the option as witnessed by his rushing total and is amazingly fast for his size. I'd hate to see what his bench press is this summer. Best signal caller west of Lincoln for certain.
*Jake Shadley-Columbus Lakeview -- All this Sophomore did a year ago is complete 144 of 252 passes for 1,986 yards and 12 scores. Yes, that led Class C-1. Shadley is going to have a supporting backfield cast that will include a 1000 yard rusher (Preston Luedke) and one of the fastest kids in the state in Junior Mark Jarecki. That will open up that passing game and Lakeview may be in line to make a deep playoff run like a year ago. Shadley is super quick, owns a strong arm and is a roll out quarterback extraordinaire. Jake Shadley will kill you with his short passes ala the old Florida State teams. It is also not a good idea to let Shadley escape out of the backfield. The nimble Junior-to-be can get to the corner in a hurry and possesses the kind of speed to get to the house in nothing flat. This guy may just break all kinds of Lakeview passing records for yardage before it's all said and done. Scary quarterback for sure.
*Ross Drwal-Millard West -- Pardon my slang, but OMG! Watching sophomore Ross Drwal play for Millard West a year ago caused some sleepless nights for this guy just thinking about his feats. If it had that effect on me, I can imagine what kind of a stir it caused for opposing defensive coordinators. Honestly, I can't imagine that are too many ways this kid didn't utilize to reach the end zone a year ago. Kirk Peterson's offense at MW has a million different sets and it seems like Drwal was involved at every conceivable spot there was in these various sets. Drwal lined up at quarterback under center and in the gun, running back, split receiver, slot back and blocking back. He also returned punts, kick-offs and played in the defensive backfield. Check out these stats from last season.
Drwal completed 13 passes for 219 yards and 3 touchdowns...you have to remember that the Wildcats had one of the best starting QB's in the state in Marcus Ethan, who completed 91 of a 161 passes for 1,642 yards and 17 scores. Drwal also rushed 63 times for 494 yards and 6 TD's. He nabbed 10 receptions for 226 yards (22 yards a catch) for 2 touchdowns. Drwal returned 3 punts for scores and 5 kick-offs for 103 yards. He also ran an interception back for a 47 yard TD. Impressed yet?
Ross Drwal is 6-2 and a 190 pounds and has it all. At the quarterback slot, he is a magician at reading the option, knowing when to keep, knowing when to pitch. If Drwal keeps it and gets to the corner...goodbye. His first fake to the fullback must look like a blur to the defense. In the 'Gun, Drwal is an excellent scrambler if flushed out of the pocket and has an above average arm when he unleashes a throw. As a ball carrier, Drwal had unreal instincts for a sophomore a year ago....the whole package. Ross follows his blockers well and is very patient and can explode when he sees an opportunity.
In addition, Ross Drwal sparkles as a stop and go runner and loves to cut back against the grain when he gets the shot and makes defenders look silly at times.
Drwal should get the full time quarterback gig for Coach Peterson this Fall, but keep your eye on number 14 when he is on offense....he may line up anywhere, anytime and be gone in a blur.
Here are some of the returning quarterbacks who threw for over a 1000 yards in 2011:
Alec Ditoro-Papillion La Vista......................2,634 Jr. (Class A leader in 2011)
Zach Cook-Omaha Burke............................2,241 Sr.
Jake Shadley-Columbus Lakeview...............1,986 Jr. (C-1 leader in 2011)
Zach Martin-Omaha North..........................1,920 Sr.
Marshall Oetting-Lincoln Lutheran..............1,883 Sr.
Sage Gideon-Burwell...................................1,579 Jr. (D-1 leader in 2011)
Najee Jackson-Lincoln SE.............................1,501 Sr.
Jordon Bellar-Norfolk Catholic.....................1,460 Sr.
Luke McNitt-Kearney...................................1,409 Sr.
Tanner Mazour-Boone Central/NG...............1,250 Sr.
Jordan Kann-Ft. Calhoun..............................1,070 Sr.
Nick Dotzler-Omaha Roncalli........................1,015 Sr.
................This just in, I still may move to Omaha for the weekends in the Fall. "Bakes", be ready to pack my bags!