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Reggie Hayes: A salute to the quality quarterbacks in the Summit Athletic Conference

My initial plan for this column was to rank the quarterbacks in the Summit Athletic Conference. As I started poring over the stats and reviewing the season, I realized something: That’s impossible.

There are too many good quarterbacks too close in talent and production to rank them.

In many ways, this has been the year of the quarterback in the SAC. An exception, ironically, is first-place Bishop Dwenger.

Dwenger quarterback Patrick O’Keefe has the potential to develop. But the Saints’ style of offense leans so heavily on the run, O’Keefe hasn’t had the passing attempts and repetitions of his counterparts. O’Keefe’s 9-of-13 passing for 105 yards and a touchdown in the loss to Snider illustrated some of that potential.

As teams gear up for the final regular season games this Friday, consider this not a ranking, but an appreciation of the quality quarterbacks in the SAC:

Norman Knapke, Bishop Luers

Anyone who throws for 551 yards in a single game (a loss, no less, in the epic North Side battle) is a gunslinger of the highest order. Knapke should surpass 2,000 yards on the season this Friday at Snider, as he sits with 1,939 yards through eight games. He has completed nearly 60 percent of his passes (132 of 221, 59.7) and utilizes a variety of receivers. He has 20 touchdown passes to only six interceptions. He’s especially adept at getting the ball out of his hands quickly under pressure. He has the receivers and the confidence to go deep.

Brandan Young, Wayne

Young has Ohio State commit Craig Young at this disposal, but it’s Brandan’s running of the offense that has made Wayne one of the best teams in the area. Brandan Young’s decision-making has improved by an impressive margin over last season, as evidenced by his 16 touchdown passes to seven interceptions. He can run when necessary, but he’s not a running quarterback. Throwing on the run? He can definitely do that. Young is 71-of-132 passing for 1,160 yards and a major reason why Wayne is 6-2.

Gaven Vogt, Carroll

Vogt has thrown the most passes of any quarterback in the conference (230), and boasts the highest completion percentage (144 of 230, 62.6 percent) with 22 touchdowns to nine interceptions. The Chargers have struggled over the last few weeks, and Vogt has dealt with defenses geared up to disrupt the passing game. He has been sacked 18 times. But, he has also shown an ability to keep his head under pressure and know when to run (he averages 39.1 yards rushing per game) and when to get rid of the ball. His connection with Camdyn Childers (52 receptions, 883 yards, 10 touchdowns) has been a thing of beauty.

Bailey Meerzo, Northrop

Meerzo has been bothered recently by an ankle injury, which forced him to miss a game and a half. He returned to action last week and continues to regain his health. When at the top of his game, he’s a threat both as a passer and a runner. He has completed 68 of 124 passes for 996 yards with 10 touchdowns to five interceptions and has rushed for 408 yards and eight touchdowns. He’s a huge reason Northrop has scored the most points in the SAC (34.2 per game).

“He has the ability to be our best running threat and, with that, defenses have to defend the entire field,” Northrop coach Jason Doerffler said. “He is an effective passer as well and can get the ball to our threats at wide receiver. He can spread the ball around and defenses cannot key on any one person.”

Jake Archbold and Luke Goode, Homestead

I thought the Spartans might eventually settle on one quarterback, but the job share program lasted throughout the season and it’s difficult to argue with the results. The two have combined for 1,816 yards passing (Goode 919, Archbold 897) and 14 touchdowns (Goode 9, Archbold 5) with only two interceptions, both off of Archbold passes. Archbold is a running threat (38.3 yards per game) while Goode isn’t. Either would start at almost every other school in the area. It’ll be fascinating to see where this goes in the year ahead, as Archbold is a junior and Goode a sophomore.

Jon Barnes, Snider; Jake Byrd, Concordia; Ronald Collins III, North Side

These quarterbacks have had some ups and downs, but their “ups” have been impressive. Barnes has proved efficiency is his middle name (61.9 percent completion percentage, second among regular QBs to Vogt’s 62.6). Byrd has thrown for 1,397 yards, 13 touchdowns and six interceptions. Collins can pass or run (62.1 yards rushing per game) and has played a big role in North’s improvement. All three can make game-winning plays as the postseason approaches.

Feature photo of Bailey Meerzo by Reggie Hayes

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