Boys’ Latin’s Freddy Bopst and St. Paul’s Anthony Pino like everything about playing quarterback for their high school teams – especially the pressure.
That’s good because they’ll need steady nerves when they square off in Sunday afternoon’s Quarterback Challenge at half time of the Raven’s game against the Houston Texans at M&T Bank Stadium. It will be the first time they ever compete in front of 71,000 people.
"I actually love the pressure," said Pino, who has been a quarterback since he was 7 years old. "I like everyone rallying around me and putting all the pressure on me to succeed. I like being the leader. I like being the guy everyone turns to when maybe things aren’t going that well."
A junior, Pino has plenty of experience in high-pressure situations. The Crusaders went undefeated last season and won the MIAA B Conference championship, 28-27 over John Carroll, on his conversion pass in overtime. They’ve now won 14-straight games going into Friday's game against Landon.
Bopst, whose Lakers hope to end that streak -- if it’s still going – in the 60th meeting between the two schools on Nov. 1 at St. Paul’s, has the Lakers at 2-0 heading into Saturday’s game against Kiski Prep, from Pennsylvania.
The Lakers senior had to wait his chance to play quarterback because his rec coach's son played the position. But since he started quartebracking in middle school he’s thrived.
"It’s a leadership position," Bopst said. "You’ve got to be the smartest guy, you have to make everyone around you better and you have to set a positive example for the rest of the team. It’s a challenge. The pressure and all that, it makes it more exciting. It makes me want to take the challenge. I like the pressure. I don’t get nervous.”
The two, who grew up playing in the Bel Air Rec Council, never played together because they are a year apart in age. But they've seen a lot of each other and respect each other's abilities.
“He’s pretty good,” Bopst said of the nimble 6-foot, 185-pound Pino. “We’ve played against him, of course, and some of the kids, we were talking about him this week. I see him as a Johnny Manziel-type quarterback. He’s able to scramble really well and find open guys.”
Bopst, 6 feet 3 and 195 pounds, is more of a drop-back passer, and Pino said his best asset is probably his arm.
"He’s nice and tall and he's got a big arm. I think he’s very good," Pino said.
Both have been practicing their passing a bit more this week, because the QB Challenge rewards the player who can complete the longest pass. Pino, whose longest touchdown pass has been 58 yards, said he’s been throwing between 55 and 60 yards. Bopst is hitting around 50 or 55 yards, but he has thrown a 65-yard touchdown pass.
In the QB Challenge, each player brings two teammates and will pass once to each one. The one with the longest completed pass wins. Pino will aim for teammates Hunter Pearl and Tre Hamer while Bopst will pass to Tal Bruno and Nick Gesualdi.
While the quarterbacks are looking forward to the competition, they're also big Ravens fans who usually attend a game or two each season. They can't wait to see the game and all it's surrounding festivities as Ray Lewis is inducted into the Ring of Honor and Ed Reed returns to M&T Bank Stadium as a Houston Texan.
“I’m looking forward to being on the field,” Bopst said. “It’s a bigger game, too, because Ed Reed’s coming back to town and Ray Lewis is supposed to make his speech at halftime, so it’s a really hyped-up game. I know a ton of kids from my school who are going to be there, so it’s pretty exciting.”
Those kids will be caught up in the hype of the QB Challenge, too, because the teams are archrivals.
"It’s going to be an unbelievable experience," Pino said. "There’s going to be a lot of my friends there and with St. Paul’s-BL, even though it's only a little throwing competition, you always want to beat them.
“It just makes everything a little more interesting.”