Backup QB Kovacs shines in Judge loss

  • Taking advantage: Kevin Kovacs entered the Prep game with his team down 38-3. He led the Crusaders to 20 unanswered points, shining in his first action under center this season. BILL ACHUFF / FOR THE TIMES

  • Taking advantage: Kevin Kovacs entered the Prep game with his team down 38-3. He led the Crusaders to 20 unanswered points, shining in his first action under center this season. BILL ACHUFF / FOR THE TIMES

Call it con­struct­ive com­pet­i­tion. Call it un­con­di­tion­al sup­port.

Whatever the la­bel, Fath­er Judge seni­or quar­ter­back Kev­in Ko­vacs al­ways has felt con­fid­ent that his de­sire to play foot­ball doesn’t in­ter­fere with the pos­it­ive re­la­tion­ship he shares with ju­ni­or team­mate Zach Car­roll.

Even though Car­roll is the Cru­saders’ start­ing quar­ter­back?

“Ab­so­lutely,” Ko­vacs said. “We’re friends, and we’re team­mates. Of course I want to play all the time. That goes without say­ing. But I am not com­plain­ing. That wouldn’t help the team in any way.”

On Sat­urday night at Ply­mouth-White­m­arsh High School, Fath­er Judge dropped a 38-23, Cath­ol­ic League AAAA Di­vi­sion out­come to St. Joseph’s Pre­par­at­ory School. Truth be told, the fi­nal score was mis­lead­ingly close.  

The Prep con­trolled the clock and forced turnovers, and it led 17-0 after one quarter and 31-3 at half­time. The game was ba­sic­ally over at that point.

When the Hawks (6-1 over­all, 3-0 di­vi­sion) in­creased their lead to 38-3 with 2:51 re­main­ing in the third quarter, the of­fi­cials en­gin­eered a man­dat­ory “run­ning clock” be­cause the de­fi­cit had reached 35 points.

The Cru­saders (5-3, 1-2) re­spon­ded by dom­in­at­ing the fourth quarter for three touch­downs to make the score much more re­spect­able. While sopho­more Yeedee Thaen­rat (102 yards on 18 car­ries), seni­or Ar­ren Mon­tele­one (7 catches for 45 yards), seni­or Tom Bay­er (three tackles for losses) and seni­or Shawn Scor­naien­chi (blocked punt) en­joyed standout mo­ments, Ko­vacs was the play­er who was most re­spons­ible for al­low­ing the Cru­saders to feel a whole lot bet­ter ex­it­ing the field.

He swept left and scored on a 10-yard run. Then he bul­lied 13 yards for an­oth­er touch­down. And on the last play of the con­test, he fired a per­fect, 28-yard scor­ing spir­al to sopho­more Prince Smith in the middle of the end zone.

Judge’s fans erup­ted. The Cru­saders high-fived. They bid their op­pon­ent a fond farewell dur­ing the ob­lig­at­ory hand-shak­ing ce­re­mony.

And an un­likely in­ter­viewee, a backup quar­ter­back who be­fore the game had not thrown a single pass this year, was asked for his as­sess­ment. 

“I wish we had more time,” Ko­vacs said. “I think we were on such a roll that we could have scored more.”

Des­pite his out­stand­ing per­form­ance (8 for 13, 84 yards, one touch­down passing; 5 car­ries for 49 yards, not in­clud­ing an 11-yard loss via sack, and two touch­downs rush­ing), Ko­vacs was well aware that, when Judge suits up to meet Ro­man Cath­ol­ic this week­end, he will re­turn to the bench.

Al­though he ac­know­ledged his past suc­cess as an oc­ca­sion­al wild­cat-type run­ning back (131 yards on 19 car­ries), Ko­vacs wishes he could con­trib­ute more to his team’s for­tunes.

“I’m a com­pet­it­or,” he said. “I’m a foot­ball play­er. Of course, I want to be out there. We all want to play. That goes without say­ing. The best way I handle it is by pre­par­ing as though I am go­ing to play, so when my op­por­tun­ity comes, I can take full ad­vant­age of it.”

Fath­er Judge coach Mike McKay re­cog­nizes that Ko­vacs wants to play more. He also knows that his prob­lem -— if it can even be called that — is a good “prob­lem” that most teams don’t have to deal with.

Stand­ing alone near mid­field as the play­ers headed to­ward the park­ing lot, McKay praised Ko­vacs for his standout per­form­ance.

“Kev­in did a great job,” McKay said. “He’s been hanging in the wings and really came through for us. He made some great plays against a very good de­fense.”

As a mem­ber of St. Mat­thew’s par­ish, Ko­vacs played CYO foot­ball as a quar­ter­back and de­fens­ive back from fifth to eighth grade, and dur­ing the winter plays CYO high school bas­ket­ball. He also plays lacrosse for Judge in the spring.

Nev­er be­fore had he been re­spons­ible for three touch­downs. He ad­mit­ted that the achieve­ment meant a bit more be­cause he did it against ar­gu­ably the best team in the en­tire Cath­ol­ic League. 

“They’re ranked 115th in the na­tion,” Ko­vacs said. “They do good things on de­fense. Their stunts are im­press­ive, and they have good d-backs.”

Ko­vacs ad­mit­ted he was nervous when he entered, but a 10-yard run on his first play ob­lit­er­ated his angst. From that point, he was simply de­term­ined to help his team score as many points as pos­sible.

He did just that. Quite a feat for a backup quar­ter­back who de­sires to be so much more, but un­der­stands that his job is to be ready, will­ing and able to an­swer the call, whenev­er that call — however in­fre­quent — may be. ••

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