There's a catch to being on receiving end of play

Receivers: There's more to being a standout wide-out than just catching a pass. Sometimes, confusing the defense on a running play or making a key block can be just as crucial.

September 03, 2002|By Lem Satterfield | Lem Satterfield,SUN STAFF

Roderick Wolfe, If you're a good receiver, says Mount St. Joseph's Brandon Taylor, you almost never come up empty-handed.

And that doesn't necessarily mean catching the ball.

"It's about creating confusion in the defense -- running my routes, 100 percent every single time so that the cornerback never knows if it's a pass or a run," said Taylor, part of an run-and-shoot-oriented offense.

"Whether it's a 7-yard square-in, a corner hook, a comebacker, post or a flag pattern, as long as I keep going -- even if I don't get the ball -- I need to keep that cornerback out of the play," Taylor added. "If I do that, then I feel that I've done my job."

The best receivers not only can alter the course of a game; they can cause coaches to change their offensive strategy.

Until Antonio Freeman came along in 1989, legendary Poly coach Augie Waibel mostly ran the ball.

But with the arrival of Freeman, an eventual Virginia Tech graduate who won a Super Bowl with the Green Bay Packers, Waibel used the combination of Freeman and quarterback Chris Lafferty to crush opponents.

A similar situation happened at Mount Hebron. After three losing seasons, the Vikings finished 6-4 last fall due in large part to second-team All-Metro receiver John Zabel.

"Our most successful formation was a triple formation with Zabel being a single receiver on the back side," said Mount Hebron coach Larry Luthe. "If teams were double-teaming John, we tried to run the ball strong-side. If they went single-coverage on John, we threw the ball to him. John was so successful, it forced teams to double up on him and opened up our running game."

A receiver has to be a heads-up player in other ways, Luthe said.

"A good receiver catches every 50-50 ball, and knocks down a bad throw to keep the defense from getting it," Luthe said. "I believe that its harder to find a quality high school receiver than it is to find a quarterback who can throw the ball."

In Arundel's run-and-shoot offense, the receivers are the true workhorses.

"In our offense, our receivers are the go-to-guys. In a daily practice, with all the running they do, they probably cover three or four miles," said Arundel coach Chuck Markiewicz, who guided North County to a Class 4A state title in 1994.

Where Overlea's 6-foot-4, 195-pound Antwan Bell is an intimidating target, Arundel's best receiver, Justin Lee, stands only 5-8 and weighs 155 pounds.

Lee can be equally as dangerous as his larger counterparts, having caught 55 passes for seven scores last fall.

"In our system, you don't have to be the biggest or the strongest," Markiewicz said, "but do have to be willing to work your butt off."

Besides running precision routes, "the No. 2 thing our receivers work on is blocking," Markiewicz said.

"You block downfield and on sweeps. You work on that in practice along with your routes," Lee said. "You're always tired every day, but when you make the big catch in a game, you know it's all paid off."

As part of a prolific offense -- one coached by former college quarterback Pete Pompey -- Edmondson's 6-5, 190-pound Roderick Wolfe caught 63 passes last season for 1,100 yards and seven touchdowns.

But even Wolfe recognizes that the art of deception is a key part of a receiver's craft.

"If I can be a decoy, that's also rewarding," said Wolfe, who runs a 4.4-second 40-yard dash.

"If I can run fast, as soon as I do a fade pattern, the other team's going to put two or three guys on me. They're going to key on me," Wolfe said.

"So I'm going to push myself because that's three guys that aren't in the play. So I can sacrifice myself to help the team, and that's almost like scoring a touchdown."

Almost.

"I guess after running all that way, after all the work, it's more satisfying to catch a pass," Wolfe said. "Better yet, it's better to catch one for a touchdown."

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