Friday, August 21, 2009

Training camp report: Albany Academy

Hunter McCarty rolls out while working on his passing skills during the first week of practice at Albany Academy. (Photo by Tom Killips - The Record)

ALBANY — Hunter McCarty rolled out of the pocket and zeroed in on his target while linemen, linebackers and defensive backs scurried in all directions. He launched the ball downfield to a wide open receiver, who stretched out a pair of palms to grab football’s version of the grand slam – a long, touchdown pass.
Offensive lineman leapt into each other’s arms, running backs high-fived each other and even the members of the Albany Academies’ defensive scout team let out some yelps of happiness over the touchdown pass in a first week practice session.
The joy the passing game creates for players is immeasurable, but the risk of throwing the ball often still scares many coaches into sticking with the running game.
As a freshman, McCarthy, in his first full season of organized football, passed for 1,822 yards – the second highest total among Section II quarterbacks in 2008. Senior wide receiver Jimmer Bennett, who, according to the statistics, is far and a away the most productive pass-catcher in Section II history, certainly had much to do with McCarthy’s success. Bennett caught 77 of McCarthy’s 128 completions and accounted for 61% of the Cadets’ receiving yardage.
In the era of an explosion of spread offenses in the collegiate ranks and a pass-happy NFL, it seemed to be only a matter of time before Section II teams like Albany Academy began to follow suit. McCarthy, however, will likely have a hard time matching his freshman numbers, but that doesn’t bother him at all.
“I like to pass,” he said, “but this year, we adjusted to our personnel more and what will help us is going more toward the run game.
But we’re still looking to mix in the pass. That is what this school has done for the past few years.”
Bennett, Jamel Fields, Prosper Muna and Chris Pelcher – McCarthy’s top targets in 2008 - all have graduated. The passing game might be all the rage in the college and professional games televised every weekend, but for high school coaches, to decision of to pass or not to pass comes down to one issue above all – personnel.
“(McCarthy) still is at the focal point of our offense and we can do a lot of things based on his skill set,” said Albany Academies head coach Tony Fruscio. “We’re going to run the ball and commit to the run a little more, but we’re still throwing 20 times a game. Maybe this year we’re more efficient in the passing game. Hunter can be 12-for-15 and you’re just as effective as he was throwing 25 times.”
Realizing their strength lies in running backs Zay Richardson, Conner Ferris, Renel Potter, Chris Fron and Taylor Clarke, the Cadets are switching to a Wing-T front.

For more on Albany Academy linemen Chris Sainato and Adam Miller, make sure to pick up a copy of The Record's 2009 High School Football Preview section, which hits the newsstands on Thursday, Sept. 3.

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