Parkland football team opens up passing game

Emmaus has a challenging month ahead.

Editor's note: Each week during the regular season, Stephen Miller will examine four Lehigh Valley Conference football topics in this space. Here is his look back at Week 6 and ahead to Week 7.

1. Parkland opens it up. When the Trojans took down Whitehall two weeks ago, they won without completing a pass all game or attempting a pass in the second half.

They changed course last week.

Sophomore quarterback Devante Cross enjoyed his best day yet as a passer, throwing for 234 yards and three touchdowns in a 47-6 win over Nazareth. The Trojans didn't just dink and dunk either. Two of Cross' three touchdown passes to Eli Redmond traveled at least 20 yards in the air, according to coach Jim Morgans.

Parkland's running game and defense allowed the Trojans to pile up wins in the first half of the regular season. Morgans believes Parkland needs continued growth with its passing game to make another extended run.

"We've got some tough games in front of us," Morgans said. "Teams, they've seen our running game. They're doing whatever they can to get people in the box. We recognize that and secondly can go to the passing game.

"I have confidence in our kids. I have confidence in our quarterback. I have confidence in our receivers. It's not like it's a problem."

Expect Parkland to continue to run more formations that feature Redmond as a slot receiver and Kareem Williams in the backfield. Earlier this season, the Trojans spent a lot of time rotating Redmond and Williams at running back but didn't keep them on the field together often. Redmond leads Parkland with 13 catches and 254 receiving yards.

2. Gauntlet time for the Green Hornets. As expected, Emmaus breezed past Northampton last week to keep its share of the LVC lead. Now it's time to find out whether the Green Hornets intend to stay in the league title picture.

Emmaus' four remaining games all come against teams with .500 or better records. After hosting a Liberty team Friday that needs to win to keep its Districts 2-4-11 Class 4A playoff hopes alive, the Green Hornets still must make trips to Whitehall and Parkland. A home game with Nazareth is sandwiched between those road games.

When I visited Emmaus during the preseason, a couple of players spoke of wanting to move beyond what they perceived to be the program's mediocre reputation. The next month will give the Green Hornets that opportunity.

3. Charles not just chucking it. Senior Jeff Charles has provided steady play in his first year as Whitehall's starting quarterback. His ability to flip field position as the Zephyrs' punter has also contributed to their success.

Charles drilled a season-long 57-yard boot last week in a 48-27 win over Bethlehem Catholic. His three punts, all of which came in the second half, averaged 48 yards.

Charles is averaging 40.9 yards on 18 punts this season. He has dropped seven punts inside the 20-yard line.

His constant presence on the field also forces opponents to guard against fakes. Punt returners often drift from the back of a formation to the return position, waiting to see where Charles will line up.

"If he gets to a 43-45-yard average, he gets close to all-state for punting," Whitehall coach Brian Gilbert said. "We've been joking with him about that."

4. A passing fancy? After several years of prolific passing, the LVC has seen a downturn this season.

The top five quarterbacks in the league as measured by passing yardage have averaged 760.4 yards through six weeks. In 2010, the top five quarterbacks threw for an average of 877.4 yards after six weeks. The six-week average for the league's top five quarterbacks topped those 2010 numbers in 2011 (1,062) and 2012 (977.2).

What's behind this season's dip? A few factors seem to be in play.

The league doesn't have a quarterback capable of winning state player-of-the-year honors, as it did in 2010 and 2011 (Central Catholic's Brendan Nosovitch and Nazareth's Daniel Harding). Most of the LVC's teams also feature first-year starters, which may have led to cautious game plans early.

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