Giving Owls shot in arm

His turnover problems behind him, quarterback Kevin Clancy leads a Westminster offense averaging nearly 40 points a game.

October 26, 2005|By RICH SCHERR | RICH SCHERR,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Brad Wilson never had any doubt that Kevin Clancy possessed the kind of arm that could take him places. Trouble was, for much of last season, it was taking him straight back to Westminster's bench.

Often forcing the ball downfield in an effort to rally his struggling team, Clancy wound up with 18 interceptions, most occurring in the midst of the Owls' 3-5 start.

"He could always throw the ball," said Wilson, Westminster's second-year coach. "I just knew that if he could learn this offense like I know it, he could do some good things with it."

These days, doing "good things" has become a weekly ritual for Clancy, a senior who has thrown for 1,775 yards and 18 touchdowns through seven games this season, making it almost certain that he will become the first county quarterback to throw for more than 2,000 yards during the regular season.

South Carroll's T.J. Swanson, now a redshirt freshman at Northern Colorado, threw for 2,451 yards in 2003 when he was The Sun's All-Metro Offensive Co-Player of the Year, but more than 500 of those came during the postseason.

Clancy's efforts have helped the Owls to a 6-1 start, putting them in prime position for their first trip to the state playoffs since 1981.

His mastery of the Owls' complex pass-oriented offense, a derivation of the run-and-shoot, has come from countless hours of watching film and repeating plays in practice. Wilson is so confident in his quarterback and receivers that he gives them the freedom to change plays at the line of scrimmage based on the formation of the defense - a rarity at the high school level.

The results have been hard to argue with, as the Owls are scoring an average of almost 40 points a game, nearly achieving their goal of never having to punt. Even Clancy's least productive game managed to impress the opposing coach.

"He's a college quarterback. He's going to have a lot of success playing next year somewhere else," said Linganore coach Rick Conner, whose team held Westminster to a season-low 10 points in handing the Owls their only loss. "He threw the ball about 40 times against us, and just about all of them he threw to the right place. He's got a nice touch on the ball, he's got a good arm and he's smart."

All this from a player who, according to his father, was never that interested in even becoming a quarterback.

"He was afraid he would forget the plays," Kevin Clancy Sr. said.

Clancy had spent the bulk of his recreation league days as a running back. That all changed in seventh grade, when a coach noticed his strong throwing arm, and asked him if he'd like to try his hand at running the offense.

"That was actually the first time it crossed my mind," Clancy recalled.

Once he reached high school, his dedication to the position increased dramatically. He even gave up baseball - a sport he had played for years - to attend football camps each spring and summer, including an entire camp on how to read defenses.

By the second game of his sophomore season, he was elevated to Westminster's varsity, seeing his first action against West Virginia powerhouse Martinsburg. Even in a 54-0 loss, his father could see the potential.

"From the first play to the last play, he looked like he belonged there," Clancy Sr. said. "He was very confident and very sure of himself."

That confidence only increased when Wilson took over the team in 2003, eschewing its run-oriented offense in favor of a more aggressive passing attack. Clancy threw for nearly 2,000 yards a year ago, but felt some growing pains along the way, struggling with turnovers, especially early in the season.

"He can throw the ball. I knew that from the first time I saw him," Wilson said. "I also knew that he had to go through a learning process.

"We teach them, `Just keep us out of a bad play. If it's not there, change it to something else.' Now he's learned that if it's not there, throw it away and try to avoid the sack."

With an improved offensive line that had allowed just three sacks through the team's first six games, Clancy has had the luxury of being able to take his time and pick apart defenses. On the other end of those throws are sure-handed receivers adept at finding holes in the defense and making the catch.

Through Week 6, Westminster's Ryan Payne, Ryan Finch and Chris Maienshein were the county's top three receivers in both receptions and yardage.

Clancy also has a healthy dose of confidence.

"He's got a little swagger about him, but not to the point where he's cocky and turns people off," Wilson said. "He's confident in what he does."

Clancy said that he has added a significant amount of arm strength since becoming more immersed in weightlifting earlier this year, and can now throw the ball about 65 yards.

"It's a lot easier to throw the deep ball now than it used to be," said Clancy, who also has worked to improve his quickness.

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