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. ••