Up to the challenge

Joppatowne's two-way player, C.J. Townes, turned the season around when asked to start at quarterback


November 19, 2006|By Jeff Seidel | Jeff Seidel,Special to The Sun

Joppatowne quarterback C.J. Townes took the snap, moved left, faked a pitchout and cut sharply to his right before running for an 18-yard touchdown in the first quarter against Fallston last month.

That play gave the Mariners an early lead in an eventual 21-0 victory and became a turning point in their season.

Townes said that touchdown showed his teammates that they could trust him as their starting quarterback. Coach Bill Waibel had given him the job a few days before that game, the team's sixth, after making several quarterback changes while Joppatowne struggled to a 3-2 start.

"You could look at it as a shakeup," Waibel said of turning to Townes. "It may have cost me some sleep. But it was just a gut feeling."

It turned out to be the right feeling. Joppatowne's run/option-oriented offense settled down as the Mariners won five straight with Townes (six in a row overall) to finish 8-2 and earn a spot in the Class 2A playoffs.

Before Townes made the quarterback job his own, there seemed to be a revolving door at the position dating back to the preseason.

Waibel considered several players before letting the 6-foot, 178-pound Townes start the season's first game, filling in for the injured Brandon Selby, who took over in the second week.

Selby got hurt again in that contest, and Townes took over before spraining his ankle and sitting out the following week. Waibel then started running back Xavier Martin at quarterback in the third game.

Junior varsity quarterback Ben Tucker even played a few series when Martin was shaken shaken up. Martin finished that game, but Selby returned the following week at North Harford, where he alternated with Townes in a 37-12 loss. Selby started in the fifth week against Aberdeen, but the Mariners scraped out a 6-0 victory that convinced Waibel it was time to make another move.

Waibel had surprised Townes by asking him to work at quarterback during summer practice. Townes, who was a wide receiver on the JV team last year but had some experience at quarterback in recreation ball, played well in the preseason and early in the regular season.

"My teammates and I were always real close," Townes said. "But after we got that first victory against Fallston, that's when they really starting trusting me. They were always backing me up."

Waibel told Townes that he'd remain the starting quarterback as long as he played like that. Townes started spending extra time going over things like how to call plays and working with running backs.

Townes occasionally had some trouble with calling the plays, and the more experienced linemen corrected him in the huddle.

Moving Townes to quarterback was a difficult decision for Waibel because of the junior's success at free safety. Townes ended the regular season with an Upper Chesapeake Bay Athletic Conference-high seven interceptions, and Waibel rarely puts a starting quarterback in on defense.

But Waibel felt he had no choice.

"The quarterback position, to me, is no different than the left tackle," Waibel said. "You're going to put the guy there who gives you the best chance of winning."

Waibel and tight end-linebacker Chad Fike said Townes displayed his leadership ability when filling in during the second game of the season, a surprising 22-12 loss against Havre de Grace.

"He came in during the Havre de Grace game when we were down and they were beating us up, and somehow he got us to start playing well," Fike said. "He's a real positive player and a great leader."

Townes settled in as the starter after the Fallston game. After beating the Cougars, the Mariners pulled out a tough win over Bel Air (14-7) before ending Edgewood's 14-game unbeaten streak with a 23-19 victory in the rain. Joppatowne's offense continued to roll in wins over Harford Tech (40-28) and C. Milton Wright (29-0) in the final two regular-season games.

Waibel said Townes carried the ball seven to 12 times a game and rarely threw, but the quarterback's decision-making ability when directing the offense proved crucial. Townes finished the regular season with over 400 yards rushing and scored three touchdowns.

"He just attacks as a running quarterback," Waibel said. "When we run the option, he attacks and that helps us a great deal. His personality loans itself to a leadership role."

"The strong point is his athleticism," North Harford coach Ken Brinkman said. "He provides a little more balance in their offense. It just seems like they found their comfort level with him."

Townes agreed that the first touchdown against Fallston made him comfortable in the job, one Waibel said he'll get to keep next fall. With each play in each game, Townes said he's feeling more settled and relaxed as the starting quarterback.

"I like it now, and it's really a lot of fun," Townes said. "At the beginning, it was a challenge, but now it's simmered down. I'm used to everything."

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