By Joseph Santoliquito
Southeastern PA Top 10 Power Ratings For Sept. 5, 2014
- St. Joseph’s Prep (1-0)
- Archbishop Wood (1-0)
- La Salle (1-0)
- Pennsbury (1-0)
- Imhotep Charter (1-0)
- Upper Dublin (1-0)
- West Chester Rustin (1-0)
- Downingtown West (1-0)
- Roman Catholic (1-0)
- Coatesville (1-0)
PHILADELPHIA, PA (CBS) — Anthony Russo sat there in his coach’s office anticipating the words, hoping he would get the news he had been working all summer to hear. Russo was counting on Archbishop Wood coach Steve Devlin to tell him that he just won the starting quarterback’s job.
Only the 6-foot-4, 220-pound junior received something a little different from Devlin when they spoke last Monday afternoon before the Vikings’ season opener against nationally ranked DeMatha (Md.).
“Anthony, we’re going with a sophomore to start, are you all right with that?” Devlin deadpanned. Russo didn’t know how to react. He sat there with a blank expression. He quickly did the math: A sophomore who never played a down of varsity football, Russo asked himself? Seconds passed that felt like hours … when Devlin’s smirk finally gave it away—Russo was getting his opportunity.
Russo beat out incumbent Tom Garlick, a two-year starter, as Wood’s quarterback and promptly directed the Vikings to an impressive 34-13 win over DeMatha last Friday, completing 8 of 14 passes for 98 yards and rushing for one TD.
“All I ever asked for was a chance to prove myself,” said Russo, who throws an 87 mph fastball and is receiving some Division I attention for baseball. “It was definitely tough watching the last two years. Any competitor doesn’t want to sit and watch. It was a grind. My parents and I had plenty of sit downs to think about my future. I even thought about giving up football, and I’ve been playing since I was four. I didn’t want to be handed the starting job; I wanted to earn it. When I got a chance to prove myself, I won the job.”
Devlin and the Wood coaching staff liked what they saw from Russo last season in limited action. So they decided to open up the job again. Garlick and Russo, both juniors, were given equal reps during seven-on-seven passing drills and in summer scrimmages.
“We began seeing things from Anthony last year and ultimately we got to a point that we wanted to allow Anthony to compete [for the starting job],” Devlin said. “Anthony is very confident in himself and his ability, and there is a presence about him, which is something you need in that position. He wants to get better every day and every year he’s been with us he’s gotten better and it’s a credit to him. He’s going to add another dimension to our offense this year.”
Russo’s commitment meant getting up at 7 each Saturday morning throughout the spring to work on his footwork and do speed drills with Wood’s conditioning coach. It meant asking questions and being more perceptive in recognizing defenses. It also meant being patient.
“I put my head down and was determined to do whatever it took to make it hard for the coaches not to start me,” Russo said. “Coach Devlin just had a funny way of telling me. To me, it wasn’t funny at the time, because I was in the moment. But I can laugh about it now. Coach Devlin told me I have the keys to the car. Wherever Tom Garlick goes, they’re getting a good quarterback. I honestly do want to wish him and his family nothing but the best.”
After the Wood staff decided on Russo, Garlick, the Vikings’ starter on last year’s Class AAA state champion, left the school. He transferred into St. Joseph’s Prep this week.
Game of the Week
Don Bosco (0-0) at St. Joe’s Prep (1-0) at Plymouth Whitemarsh High School, Saturday, 6 PM
It’s not lost on the Prep seniors what happened the last time they played this traditional national powerhouse—a rousing, and demoralizing 42-0 defeat. The loss set the tone for the rest of the Hawks’ season. Prep responded by winning the first PIAA Class AAAA state championship in school history. Bosco went in another direction—losing three-straight games, including a pair of defeats to Mission Viejo (Calif.) and Miami Central (Fla.), marking the first two losses Bosco had to public schools since 1996.
The Ironmen are led by quarterback Wes McKoy. He has a pair of game-changers in tailback Malik Bakker and receiver R.J. Trimble-Edwards. The defense could be the toughest Prep faces this year—led by Ohio State-bound tackle Kevin Feder.
Prep’s John Reid, coming off a two-touchdown performance in the Hawks’ 28-27 opening win over Mt. Carmel last week, is a big threat. Senior quarterback Jack Clements showed great poise in directing the Prep attack in his first varsity start.
Prediction: St. Joe’s Prep 27, Don Bosco 13
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