Some area quarterbacks go above, beyond just playing QB

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In a perfect world, maybe, things would be different. But this is high school football, and the average roster in the Peninsula District lists 48 players.

So, sometimes, the best athlete will see extra duty. And, often times, that best athlete is the quarterback.

Few would dispute it's the most critical position in football, if not all of team sports. He handles the ball on every snap, makes decisions on the fly and takes plenty of physical abuse.

But if you have a remarkable athlete like Kecoughtan's Anthony Dorsey or York's Ben Edwards, can you limit their talents to one side of the ball? Or do you put your best player on the field as much as possible — and increase the risk of injury?

It's a delicate balance. And different coaches have different philosophies.

"I just think wherever they can help us," Heritage coach Jason Robinson said, "that's where they should be."

"I don't like to put them in a situation where they could get hit more," Woodside's Danny Dodson said. "The quarterback position is different than other positions."

"I think it comes down to what system you have," Bethel's Jeff Nelson said, "and what kind of numbers you have."

True, true, and true. Hampton's Ronald Curry was a gifted quarterback, but he also was a dangerous punt returner and safety. Ditto Bethel's Allen Iverson, who many still believe could have been a starting safety in the NFL.

But if you run a spread-based system like Oscar Smith, why would you want Phillip Sims covering receivers and returning kicks?

"Personally, I would rather have my quarterback play quarterback," Phoebus coach Stan Sexton said. "I don't mind him so much playing safety because you don't take as many shots back there. If they're playing linebacker, that's a different story."

Four starting quarterbacks in the Peninsula District — Phoebus' Paul Morant, Heritage's Andrew Warren, Warwick's Lamonte' Williams and Dorsey — have started in the secondary this season. Denbigh's Allen Simon sees spot time at safety.

"You can overdo it," Sexton said. "You take (a player) who is a major component of your offense, and you're putting him in situations where he's going to get hit double the amount of times. I definitely don't want my quarterback returning kicks. Why take unnecessary shots?"

Last month, a study by the Center for Injury Research in Columbus, Ohio, concluded that more serious injuries occur during kickoff and punt returns than on plays from scrimmage. The reason is obvious: Two players running at high rates of speed for greater distances equals higher impact. In fact, coaches often avoid live return drills in practice for that very reason.

But four starting quarterbacks in the PD — Williams, Simon, Warren and Dorsey — have served as return men this year. And one ended up lost for the season.

Dorsey was returning a kickoff against Lake Taylor on Sept. 11 when he broke his left leg. He was caught in a pile and his leg was driven back, which could have happened just as easily on a play from scrimmage.

But Dorsey is the Warriors' best athlete. And Kecoughtan is option-based, so Dorsey was running or pitching on most snaps. Did Warriors coach Glenn Tidwell have any reservations about using him that much?

"No, because he wanted to be out there and we needed him out there," he said. "If something does goes through your mind, it's the what-if factor. Who is the one person you really don't want to lose?

"That would be your starting quarterback. You lose that guy and it affects your whole team. That's tough to replace."

Williams is also Warwick's best athlete, and last week he had kickoff returns of 68 and 50 yards against Phoebus. But Raiders coach Juan Jackson isn't thrilled about using him there.

"We didn't have any choice because of injuries," Jackson said. "We already have him going both ways. But I would like my quarterback to just be a quarterback so he could talk with the offensive coordinator and make adjustments instead of being on defense."

Often, it comes down to numbers. The larger the roster, the greater chance the quarterback won't be needed elsewhere.

"If we were like the Northern Region teams and had 75 or 80 guys out there, he's only playing quarterback," Sexton said. "But we've got to do what we've got to do."

"When I coached at smaller schools in the past," Nelson said, "my quarterback was playing outside linebacker for me."

Few handle multi-tasking better than Edwards, who accounted for touchdowns six ways last season — kickoff return, fumble return, punt return, interception return, running and passing.

"I'll have to tell him when to come out, because he's so tough he'll never come out on his own," York coach Doug Pereira said. "I had to take him out defensively after a couple of his long runs against Tabb last week. Like anyone else, he can become a liability on defense when he's very tired."

Poquoson's Tee McConnell also has mastered it. Not only has he quarterbacked the Islanders' offense, he has intercepted 11 passes in his last 13 games in the secondary.

But some coaches, like Dodson and Menchville's John Byron, try hard to limit their quarterbacks to offense.

"We've been in circumstances where we had no choice," Byron said. "Especially if your quarterback is an exceptional athlete."

Few doubt an athletic kid like the Wolverines' Aaron Evans could be an excellent safety or kick returner. But Dodson doesn't want to risk it.

"He holds for kicks and he's a backup punt and kick returner," Dodson said. "But returning kicks … that scares me."

Hampton's Mike Smith has experience with that. Curry, Marques Hagans and Tyrod Taylor were among his quarterbacks who also played in the secondary and returned kicks.

In fact, the most significant play Taylor made in his Hampton career arguably came at safety. With the Crabbers clinging to a 15-8 lead over Stone Bridge in the 2005 Division 5 championship game, Taylor forced a fumble near the goal line to preserve the win.

On the other hand, Curry dislocated his shoulder on a punt return in his senior year. But that came on a muddy field as he lunged for a fumble. Still, Smith has no problem playing his quarterback on defense and special teams if he feels he can help.

"It probably goes back to the athleticism of the kid," Smith said. "And a lot of it comes back to philosophy. If he's a really extraordinary athlete, you have to play him both ways."

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