It’s pretty safe to say that if there was one position in L-L League football that took the biggest graduation hit following the 2020 season, it’s quarterback.
Look at the signal callers who called it a prep career after last season:
Manheim Township’s Evan Clark (Penn State) and Warwick’s Joey McCracken (Maine) were the quarterbacks for Pennsylvania’s Big 33 team; Lampeter-Strasburg’s Sean McTaggart (East Stroudsburg) was the MVP in the East/West game and was crowned PA Football News Class 4A POY; Lebanon’s Isaiah Rodriguez (Wilkes) finished his career among the top 25 passing-yard leaders in league history (along with McCracken); and Elco Veer wizard Braden Bohannon (Lebanon Valley) made everyone’s all-star and all-state list last fall.
Also gone: Penn Manor’s Luke Braas, Cedar Crest’s Chris Danz, Wilson’s Kaleb Brown, Cocalico’s Carson Nash, Solanco’s Mason St. Clair, Garden Spot’s Jesse Martin, Ephrata’s Miracle Wratto, Donegal’s Trent Weaver and Pequea Valley’s Nate Fisher.
It’s a pretty daunting list.
So who’s back? By our count, seven full-time QB’s are due back for the start of camp, with heat acclimatization week set to start Aug. 9. Also by our count, it looks like 13 QB’s overall with varsity experience are due back.
Here’s that list — with four returning all-stars on it — with some notables and stats about the returning QB’s around the league …
Will Cranford, Lancaster Catholic — Stepped in as the full-time starter for first-year skipper Chris Maiorino last fall and handled the gig quite nicely, going 51-for-108 for 817 yards with three TD tosses against five picks. Cranford was the 15th-ranked passer in the league, and after a sluggish start, he helped guide the Crusaders to back-to-back wins to cap the 2020 campaign — so Cranford and Co. should have plenty of mo heading into 2021.
Robert Footman, Columbia — Say hello to the returning Section 4 first-team all-star QB; in his first season behind center for coach Bud Kyle’s Crimson Tide, Footman went up top early and often, completing 97-of-185 passes for 1,516 yards with 14 TD strikes and 12 picks. FYI: Those 1,516 passing stripes were third-most in the league. Expect more special air deliveries from Footman this fall.
Joey Gunzenhauser, Ephrata — Spot starter last season when Wratto was out with a nagging injury. And Joey Gunz got the job done for the Mountaineers: 22-for-49 for 345 yards with four TD flips and just two interceptions. He was the ninth-ranked passer in the league, and once again, he should get ample snaps for Ephrata this time around.
Cam Harbaugh, Hempfield — Talk about making a splash. Harbaugh earned the starting gig last fall for first-year coach George Eager, and he did not disappoint. Flashing a big arm and some wheels, Harbaugh clicked on 82-of-138 passes for 1,173 yards with eight TD tosses. Here’s a snazzy number: He was picked off just one time. Uno. And Harbaugh — who earned Section 1 honorable mention all-star honors — was the fifth-rated passer in the league, and one of just five L-L League QB’s to earn a passer rating of 100 or better. He’s a cool customer.
Jay Huber, Cedar Crest — He didn’t have quite enough passing attempts to make the stat leaderboard, but Huber certainly had great success in a short sample size last fall. Check out these nifty numbers: 12-for-15 for 107 yards up top with two TD tosses and no picks. Not too shabby. He’ll have the full-time gig this time around for the Falcons.
Macoy Kneisley, Conestoga Valley — Vet Buckskins’ boss Gerad Novak gave Kneisley, then a relatively untested sophomore, the keys to CV’s offense last fall, and after a wonky start, he thrived. Kneisley clicked on 55-of-103 throws for 809 yards with eight TD strikes and eight picks. But this was our favorite CV stat last fall: After a COVID-19 shutdown and a 1-2 start, Kneisley and the Bucks rattled off five wins in a row. Plenty of mo in CV camp, especially with Kneisley back to guide the O.
Judd Novak, Manheim Central — A terrific breakout season behind center last fall for the Barons’ signal-caller, who had a lot of success flying the friendly skies. Novak, the Section 2 second-team all-star pick, went 97-for-197 for 1,580 yards — second-most in the league — with 21 TD strikes and seven picks. The 21 TD tosses were second-most in the league behind McTaggart, who guided L-S to the Section 3 and D3-4A crowns. Novak was the fourth-ranked passer in the league last fall, and there will be plenty of eyeballs on him — and Central — to get back to their winning ways this time around.
Jack Reed, Warwick — Talk about stepping in and stepping up: When McCracken was on the shelf with a cranky knee at the start of last season, Reed took the reins of the Warriors’ offense and led Warwick to a quick 2-0 start — on the way to winning the Section 2 title. Reed’s numbers: 21-for-38 for 320 yards with a TD toss and a couple of picks, while backing up McCracken, the Big 33 QB. Reed, who is more than ready to slide into the full-time job, was the 14th-ranked QB in the league last year.
Matt Remash, McCaskey — It hasn’t been a great stretch in the win-loss column for the Red Tornado lately, but Remash has learned a lot on the fly, and he’s poised for a breakout campaign this time around. Last fall, he went 20-for-76 for 353 yards with three TD tosses against seven picks. Gut hunch: Remash’s numbers will improve and — more importantly — McCaskey gets back in the W column this fall.
Josh Rudy, Elizabethtown — Rudy has spent the last two seasons kind of sharing the Bears’ QB duties with Patrick Gilhool. Last fall, Gilhool — a 1,000-yard passer two years ago — ended up at receiver, and Rudy took a bulk of the snaps, going 38-for-76 for 438 yards with four TD throws and five picks. According to coach Andy Breault’s preseason depth chart, it looks like Rudy will remain behind center and Gilhool will stick at receiver heading into Bears’ camp.
Grady Stichler, Northern Lebanon — When rookie coach Jason Rice heads into his first camp with the revamped Vikings, it looks like Stichler will get first dibs on the full-time QB gig. Last fall, he shared the duties with Nate Shirk, going 33-for-73 for 345 yards with three TD tosses and six picks.
Weston Stoltzfus, Octorara — What a breakout season for the Braves’ gunslinger, who helped Octorara push Elco in the Section 3 race and win six game. Stoltzfus was superb: 62-for-116 for 1,098 yards with 10 TD strikes and 10 picks up top, plus 409 rushing yards and seven TD keepers. Dual threat kid here, and the Braves are thinking big once again after last year’s breakthrough.
Cole Thomas, Elco — After four unforgettable years, Bohannon has finally packed up his locker and shuffled off to college, and yes, the Raiders will miss him. But Thomas knows the drill in Myerstown; he was Bohannon’s understudy behind center, and when Elco skipper Bob Miller shifted Bohannon in the backfield to get more touches as an RB in the past, Thomas took snaps. Last fall, he only uncorked a pair of passes, but he rushed for 245 yards and five scores, so he’s dangerous.
Here’s one more name to remember: Lampeter-Strasburg’s Berkeley Wagner is set to slide in for McTaggart behind center for the Pioneers, who will be angling for their third D3-4A title in a row. Wagner, know for his defensive prowess at safety, got the start behind center two years ago when L-S took on the Elco in the first round of the D3 playoffs. He didn’t play QB last fall, when the Pioneers went to the state semifinals for the second year in a row. Wagner will have some gigantic shoes to fill behind center, but he has taken some snaps — albeit not recently — before. He’ll do it this fall for first-year coach Victor Ridenour, who is stepping in for John Manion.
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