When Rich Piccinini took over the Peters Township football team three years ago, he did something nearly unthinkable.
In his first season, he called up a freshman to play quarterback on the varsity team. But this wasn't just any freshman, this was a quarterback who Piccinini said runs in the 4.59-second 40-yard dash range, possessing athleticism to bolster the Indians' ball-control offense.
"I heard about his athletic ability and thought he could help immediately on the varsity level," Piccinini said. "He's a smart player, a super athlete and we expect big things out of him."
Cory Owen, a 6-foot-2, 190-pound junior, was the only player on the 34-man freshman team to be promoted to the upper ranks that season.
You could say that Piccinini and Owen are joined at the hip as they arrived at Peters Township three seasons ago and have led the team to three consecutive postseason appearances.
"Him being around so long with me, he and I work well together and have an understanding of what I expect out of him," Piccinini said. "He is a leader and has a very calming influence. I can call a play wrong and he'll correct it."
Owen has been in the mix for the starting quarterback position since his freshman year. He threw for 715 yards his sophomore season, when he became the full-time starter.
This season through the Indians' first two games he has asserted himself as the team's primary offensive threat. He has piled up 277 yards rushing on 21 carries and completed 16 of 44 passes for 215 yards as the Indians have split those games, defeating Baldwin, 33-28, and losing to Penn Hills, 33-15.
"My running ability helps me out a lot," Owen said. "If I don't see the pass, I can run and if I see the pass, then I'll hang in the pocket and make the throw."
Piccinini echoed Owen's modest assessment of himself by highlighting his key attributes.
"He's not only a good quarterback, but he is also a great athlete," Piccinini said. "He has great speed, great quickness, great strength as well as a strong arm. We look for him to dominate games any way he can this year."
Owen's athletic prowess also caught the eye of Thomas Jefferson coach Bill Cherpak in a preseason scrimmage Aug. 23.
"You can tell he is a leader by the look of him; he is a good-sized kid," Cherpak said. "He has a little bit of everything, he can throw on the run, he has poise in the pocket and he is accurate."
With 23 seniors and 20-plus returning lettermen, Piccinini said Owen has taken a leadership role.
Owen has been receiving Division I interest from schools including Pitt, Vanderbilt, Cincinnati and Northwestern. Even though he said he's humbled to receive the attention, he said he's worried about only one thing.
"I just want to win and make a run in the playoffs, I don't care about the stats," Owen said.hsfootball
Kelton Brooks: firstname.lastname@example.org.