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College Football: McDaniel quarterback position battle heating up

Quarterbacks, including from right, Colin Akins, Tyler Palermiti and Kevin Sheckells, roll out during practice at McDaniel College in Westmisnter Tuesday, August 20, 2019.
Quarterbacks, including from right, Colin Akins, Tyler Palermiti and Kevin Sheckells, roll out during practice at McDaniel College in Westmisnter Tuesday, August 20, 2019. (Dylan Slagle / Carroll County Times)

Tyler Palermiti almost made it out of practice Monday evening before spying a handful of his McDaniel College football teammates — and large ones at that — using the hill between fields for conditioning purposes.

Palermiti pulled his helmet back down over his head and joined the Green Terror linemen for their final few incline sprints. Can’t let the big guys do them alone, he said as he trotted toward them.

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The optics of Palermiti’s move may not have been spotted by any of his coaches, but it likely speaks to his determination to win the starting job at quarterback for 2019.

The junior played in seven games last season for McDaniel, which struggled to compete with its Centennial Conference counterparts in terms of statistics. Palermiti threw for 783 yards, but completed less than 50 percent of his passes and finished with six interceptions against four touchdowns. Meanwhile, Ben Igo saw action in seven games and went 53-for-120 for 600 yards, one TD, and six 6 INTs.

Igo didn’t return this fall, and Palermiti finds himself in a position battle with a host of other quarterbacks on McDaniel’s roster. First-year coach Demarcus White said three QBs have emerged so far, with two weeks to go before the season begins — Palermiti, sophomore John Allan Furgeson, and junior Kevin Sheckells, who came to the Green Terror last winter from Wesley College.

McDaniel College quarterback Tyler Palermiti prepares to throw during the second half of the Terror's 14-9 loss to Moravian in Westminster Saturday Sept. 8, 2018.
McDaniel College quarterback Tyler Palermiti prepares to throw during the second half of the Terror's 14-9 loss to Moravian in Westminster Saturday Sept. 8, 2018. (Dylan Slagle)

“I think it’s a huge battle that’s going on right now,” said White, whose team is set for a scrimmage Thursday against Stevenson. “We’ve had a number of intra-squad scrimmages where the reps were split evenly. ... Everybody knows that the job’s open.”

Furgeson came to the Hill from Damascus, where he helped lead the Hornets to a Class 3A state championship in 2016. The 14-12 win over Franklin was Furgeson’s first career start.

Sheckells, a Pasadena native, started his college career as a walk-on at Old Dominion, but left there in 2017 for Wesley. The left-hander made his latest move after not seeing any action at quarterback with the Wolverines last season.

Whtie praised all three quarterbacks on how they’ve handled the position battle so far.

Palermiti, a Florida native, said his focus is simple — be better than he was during his sophomore season, when he lost the QB battle to Igo but came in for him in Week 2 and saw his first start in Week 3.

“My biggest thing is just to have fun,” Palermiti said. “I think last year I was too uptight with things, and it got in my head. So this year I’m just having fun with it.”

White said he sees Palermiti’s enjoyment during practice, along with the rest of the quarterbacks. Creating depth at the position is vital, the new coach said, for an offense to jell. So when Monday’s evening session wore down, and White divided his squad into smaller groups on offense and defense, the three quarterbacks had their repetitions with the first-team offense.

White said he loves the competition that’s going on right now in practice as McDaniel prepares to host Misericordia on Sept. 7 in the season opener.

Palermiti has accepted the challenge of being a team leader, White said, mentally and physically. Sheckells has the size advantage at 6-foot-4, 240 pounds, with Palermiti (6-0, 195) and Furgeson (5-10, 170) next.

Quarterback Kevin Sheckells throws a pass during practice at McDaniel College in Westmisnter Tuesday, August 20, 2019.
Quarterback Kevin Sheckells throws a pass during practice at McDaniel College in Westmisnter Tuesday, August 20, 2019. (Dylan Slagle / Carroll County Times)

White said perhaps things will become clearer following McDaniel’s scrimmage Thursday, but if not he’s ready to crank up the competition with one week to go before things get real. Palermiti and his fellow quarterbacks likely have their own list of things to work on as the season nears.

“I just tell myself to let it go," Palermiti said. "It’s never going to be perfect for everything, and I know that. That’s how the game goes. So once a bad thing happens, let it go and move on.”

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