East Xtra: Senior QB adapts, helps Penn-Trafford ramp up offense

HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL


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Zach Emerick spent his sophomore year at Penn-Trafford High School learning his role as quarterback in coach T.J. Wiley's pro-style offense.

Emerick threw for 1,018 yards, a rarity for a sophomore, and connected on six touchdown passes.

"It was a difficult offense to learn," Emerick said. "It was tough to get the hang of it, but I had a good grasp by the end of the season. I was starting to feel comfortable and looking forward to my junior year."

Emerick, a three-sport star who also plays baseball and basketball, was thrown a curve after his sophomore year, as Wiley stepped down citing personal and family reasons.

John Ruane, a former Gateway assistant, took over and installed a completely different offense.

"Coach Ruane runs a spread offense with a 'pistol' look," Emerick said. "It's much different than coach Wiley's offense. It was tough to switch gears, learning all the formations and plays, but I'm comfortable with it now."

In 10 games last season as a junior, Emerick completed 73 of 157 passes for 1,112 yards and 12 touchdowns. He also rushed for 340 yards on 57 carries.

"Zach has good size, a strong arm, and a lot of poise," Ruane said. "Having Zach returning at quarterback with a year of experience under his belt made my job a lot easier."

Ruane is pleased that Emerick is a three-sport star.

"Most quarterbacks play multiple sports," Ruane said. "They are the centerpiece of all their teams, and it's no different with Zach. He's definitely the leader of this football team, and the kids respond to him very well. He was voted captain, and I couldn't agree with that pick more. He leads by example."

Ruane is also impressed by Emerick's "level-headedness".

"Zach doesn't get rattled by anything. Nothing seems to bother him," Ruane said. "He doesn't get too excited after a big play, and doesn't get down when he makes a mistake. He's very level-headed. You need that to be an effective quarterback."

Emerick is joined in the Warriors backfield by tailback and classmate Manny Simpson, who rushed for 1,235 yards last season.

"Manny is phenomenal," Emerick said. "He sees the defenses so well. His running has helped open up the passing game. If they stack the box to stop Manny, we can hurt you with the pass."

Penn-Trafford opened the 2011 season with an impressive 42-12 blowout of Peters Township last Friday.

Emerick and Simpson led the way. Emerick completed 10 of 10 passes for 204 yards and two touchdowns. Simpson rushed for 201 yards and three touchdowns.

"It was a great way to start the season," Emerick said. "Hopefully, it's a sign of things to come. Our goal is to qualify for the WPIAL playoffs and compete for the conference title."

"It was a big opening win. We have a veteran group that is acclimated to our offensive system. The experience we had coming back made the difference."

Penn-Trafford placed fourth in the Foothills Conference last season and finished with a 4-6 record after losing to North Hills, 20-3, in the first round of the WPIAL playoffs.

Emerick plans to continue his academic and athletic career in college, but isn't sure of his destination, and the sport.

"I've been getting letters from college coaches for football, but none from baseball or basketball," Emerick said. "I'm considering my options. Playing football is probably my best option, but I'll just wait and see."

Emerick has been receiving recruiting interest from Ivy League and Patriot League schools.

"I try to do well in the classroom," Emerick said. "I have a 4.1 grade point average."

Penn-Trafford travels to Mt. Lebanon on Friday to face the Blue Devils.

"Mt. Lebanon has a great team," Emerick said. "It's a good test for us to gauge where we are at this time."

Emerick has perfect start against Peters



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