KARNS CITY, Pa. (EYT/D9) — Being a quarterback at Karns City can often be a very lonely job.
While other high school football teams have embraced taking to the air more and more, moving from punishing running games to spread offenses that feature the pass, the Gremlins have remained steadfast in their proven old-school approach.
Run the ball. Run the ball. And, run it again.
It’s worked quite well for more than two decades. Last year, Karns City had one of its best ground games to date with a pair of 1,000-yard backs in battering-ram Luke Garing and shifty speedster Jayce Anderson.
Those two combined for 2,064 yards and 35 touchdowns behind a dominant offensive line.
This year, though, there may be a dramatic sea change in Karns City. Those two backs are gone. So is the entire offensive line.
But quarterback Eric Booher is back for his third year as a starter.
He may not be so lonely this year. Karns City may throw the ball more than ever before.
“I mean, we don’t want to get away from the running game — that’s been our M.O. for a long time,” said Karns City coach Joe Sherwin. “We’re still going to do that.”
But there’s a but coming.
“But I do think we’re going to be more balanced this year because Eric is coming back for his third year,” Sherwin added.
That means Booher will get more of an opportunity to display his passing chops.
He’s been solid over the last two seasons for Karns City.
Last year he completed 57% of his passes (54 of 95) for 954 yards and 10 touchdowns to just six interceptions.
Booher, now a senior, is ready to improve on those numbers.
“I feel like I’ve grown a lot,” Booher said. “The experience has been unreal. It’s been great. The friendships I’ve made I’ll remember. Looking on to this year, it’s exciting to get at it and try to win another District 9 championship, have a three-peat. That would be a great way to go out.”
Booher is surrounded by a wealth of receiving talent.
Micah Rupp returns. Now a senior, Rupp caught a team-leading 21 passes for 453 yards and six touchdowns last season. He’s a mismatch for most teams Karns City faces with his height (6-foot-5) and leaping ability.
Booher will also have weapons in Nate Garing and Cooper Coyle, who are also seniors.
Those two combined for 17 receptions for 328 yards and five TDs.
“Really, since I first started in the 10th grade, these guys have been here with me,” Booher said. “Through it all, we’ve only lost two receivers and that was two years ago.”
Coyle said that kind of cohesion is hard to replicate.
“It makes it a lot easier,” Coyle said. “We have the chemistry.”
Booher has put in as much work as he can on his game.
He’s been a regular in the weight room and has added weight to his 6-foot-2 frame.
“I’ve been lifting a lot and I’ve bulked up more,” Booher said. “I did some skill work with the wide receivers. I’ve been just putting in the work to help make everyone else better. In the winter, you can’t really throw that much. This spring, though, we went out and hit it to get the chemistry back. We’ve been working on deeper routes.”
Booher also has the ability to run when needed.
Karns City has some designed running plays for him in the offense. He has deceiving burst and can also put his head down and drag defenders with him.
He gained 311 yards on the ground and scored two rushing touchdowns last season.
“If there is no one open, I am taking off and running,” Booher said. “I’m going to try to do what I can to help out the team.”
Karns City has had some quarterbacks over the years who have put up big numbers.
Relative to the Gremlins’ style of offense, of course.
Anthony Stimac threw for 1,587 yards and 19 touchdowns in 2007.
Dylan Hipple had 1,056 yards passing and 10 TDs in 2009.
Jacob King had a big year in 2016 with 1,471 yards and 16 touchdowns.
But the standard is Tyler Kepple, who threw for 1,279 yards and 13 scores as a junior in 2012 and followed that up with one of the best seasons ever for a Gremlin QB with 1,710 yards passing and 28 touchdowns in 2013.
Booher could be the next KC quarterback to turn in a big season.
“We have all our receivers coming back from last year, too, so we want to get the ball to them,” Sherwin said. “They’re dynamic players and we want the ball in their hands and it helps to have Eric, who has a lot of experience.”