"The offensive line is doing an amazing job this year," he said. "They're the biggest part of our spread offense, because without them I wouldn't have time to take my drops, go through my progressions and hit my receivers like I have been."

In Westminster's pass-heavy offense, Kern knows that the pressure is on him to perform at a high level.

In an intense second half against Martinsburg, he was the definition of a clutch player. Kern completed 16 of 30 passes for 245 yards and four touchdowns in the second half alone as Westminster gamely fought off several Martinsburg comeback attempts.

"It was the greatest experience of my life," Kern said of the Martinsburg game. "Going out there and having chills on the football field, seeing my parents and all of my friends watching me, and knowing that this was such a huge game, I didn't want to let anyone down."

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"I knew we had to win that game, and our team gave it everything that we could," he said. "That's all I wanted to do."

Kern also gives a maximum effort on the basketball court, where he plays point guard for the Owls.

"I like being the leader in basketball," said Kern, the son of John and Diane Kern. "Basketball also helps me with my agility and stamina, because you're always running up and down the court. It's not like football, where you run a play and then get a break."

Wilson believes that Kern's quiet leadership and poised approach helps steady both teams.

"I wouldn't say that Deryk is a very vocal leader," Wilson said. "He leads by example. He's poised in the pocket, and can make things happen with his feet. Deryk is a student of the game who understands what we need to do against every defense. He tries to get everybody involved, which has helped us tremendously."

Kern, whose intended college major is business management, would love to play NCAA Division I football next year. But he has plenty to think about before making his college decision.

Kern realizes that the Owls have a chance to go further than any Westminster team since the 2005 squad reached the Class 3A state championship game. But he isn't looking beyond the next game.

"We knew that we had a lot of potential and that there were high expectations of us, because of what last year's team did," he said.

"We're doing our best to be the best team in the state, and we all have to keep the same mind set."