By Joseph Santoliquito
Philadelphia, PA (CBS) — Kyle Lauletta keeps a private list in his head. It’s an inventory of all the Division I schools that broke promises and made misinformed judgments about him. It’s of all the many college recruiters that made the mistake of bypassing the 6-foot-3, 210-pound Downingtown East senior quarterback.
Because this year, there may not be a better quarterback in Southeastern Pennsylvania than Lauletta. He’s led the Cougars to the Ches-Mont League title, thrown 26 touchdowns against three interceptions, and for over 2,100 yards. More importantly, he’s been the centerpiece of an offense that’s averaging 38.7 points a game and is 9-0 sitting atop the PIAA District 1 Class AAAA standings entering the final week of the regular season.
Lauletta is 18-2 as a starter, and is on the brink of making some history for the Cougars. Since 2003, the first year Downingtown East existed, the Cougars have never gone undefeated throughout the regular season, and have never won a District 1 Class AAAA championship.
Between Lauletta and Michigan State-bound wide receiver Jay Harris, the Cougars look primed to do what no other Downingtown East team has done in its brief 10-year history.
And the Cougars can credit a little ignorance as motivation for their success.
Lauletta, the middle of three boys that all play quarterback, is headed to Richmond. The Spiders’ football program is getting a bargain. Lauletta was hampered last spring when some colleges inquired about him. He was recovering from a knee injury suffered during lacrosse season. Consequently, they saw a mere fraction what he’s capable of doing.
“I believe Kyle got short-changed in the recruiting process; he didn’t show as well in all the one-day workouts and all of those coaches neglected to look at his whole body of work,” Cougars’ coach Mike Matta said. “All of his measurables equal or are better than Jay Harris, in things like close distance, and change of direction. You watch Kyle on film, he makes people miss.”
Film may not even do Lauletta justice. A defense has to encounter him first hand to appreciate the nuance he brings to the position. Matta likes to run a fast, no-huddle offense and for the Cougars to get 80 plays a game. Of those 80, Lauletta calls about 50-percent of the plays at the line of scrimmage, reading what the defense shows.
At the high school level, it’s a skill and awareness that’s awfully tough to combat.
That’s not a bad transition for someone who began playing quarterback at a relatively late stage, as a freshman in high school. Kyle literally inherited the position at Downingtown East from his older brother, Trey, after playing linebacker and running back throughout grade school.
It was a little unusual for Kyle, since he’s from a quarterback family. His father, Joe, was a back-up quarterback at Navy, where he once threw a touchdown pass against Notre Dame. Kyle’s older brother Trey started for Downingtown East and now plays for Bucknell and his younger brother, Bryce, is the starting quarterback of his grade-school team.
“I was a little different,” said Kyle, a major lacrosse prospect who could have gone to a number of nationally ranked schools. “We were always trying to figure out where I fit. I was a decent athlete and I threw the ball pretty well. My family was always about playing quarterback ever since I could remember, but I played linebacker and running back in seventh and eighth grade.
“Defense kind of helped me become more aggressive. It built a toughness and awareness from playing defense. Once I made the transition to quarterback, it was really my brother and my dad that helped me. I knew where I was going to throw the ball and how to manipulate a defense.”
Current Miami Dolphins’ quarterback and former Downingtown East and Delaware quarterback Pat Devlin also played a major role in Kyle’s development. The two sat and broke down film in the off-season. Devlin helped Kyle sharpen his eye toward tendencies and reads. It’s why Matta trusts Lauletta to change or suggest plays during a game.
This is the money time of the year in area high school football. The District 1 Class AAAA seeding meeting will take place on Sunday. Lauletta and the Cougars know they’re going to be targeted as the favorites.
It’s one of two powerful motivational tools Lauletta carries with him. The other he harbors are empty promises he was peddled during the recruiting process.
“I think it’s why I do play with an edge,” Kyle conceded. “A lot of colleges were close to offering me, and I think I’m better than a lot of these kids who are going to these bigger colleges. It was kind of frustrating. I have a good situation at Richmond, and I’m grateful and appreciative for it.
“But it’s a business and I understand it. It was the most frustrating thing I’ve ever been through in my life. I had 20-25 schools and Coach Matta told me and my dad all these schools were recruiting me. They’d call and want to see me, and I wouldn’t hear from them again. It’s why I’m definitely playing this year to prove people wrong. No one really saw me at my best. As a team, I think we have something to prove. In the past, we struggled against Suburban One teams and it’s why Coach Matta scheduled tough non-league teams. I think this is the year we can win it all. I have no problem saying that. We have a very talented team.”
Led by the X-factor—Lauletta.
Joseph Santoliquito is a contributing sports blogger for CBS Philly.