Michael Kelly/Recorder staff
Broadalbin-Perth senior Zach Morreale is shown during Monday’s season-opening practice in Broadalbin.
By MICHAEL KELLY
BROADALBIN -- A year ago, Zach Morreale entered his first season as the Broadalbin-Perth Patriots' starting quarterback with no varsity track record, perhaps the largest unknown on a Section II team with legitimate hopes of contending.
This year? Morreale returns to the Patriots after an all-league season, one of the most proven commodities in the section at his position.
"Miles ahead," is how head coach Jim Pelneau described in a recent preseason practice where his quarterback is now compared to last season at this time.
"He seems a lot more relaxed this year, a lot more comfortable behind us," agreed senior lineman Zach Romeyn. "Now, he's just playing his game."
Entering last season, though, the Patriots were not really sure what that even meant. Thrust into the starting role a year sooner than expected because of the transfer of 2012 starter Gabe Mendez, B-P spent a good chunk of 2013 trying to figure out the best way to use Morreale in its offense. At times, the squad used Morreale as a game-manager; occasionally, he became a fixture in the running game; and, near the end of the season, his right arm became a real weapon -- like in the club's Week 6 game against Schuylerville when he completed 14 of 17 passes for 176 yards and a touchdown.
In 2014, the plan is to utilize all of Morreale's ability to charge up the Patriots' offense, which averaged 26.8 points per game.
"No doubt about it," said Pelneau. "We know what he can do based on last year and now we can build on it, especially in the passing game. He's seeing things there a lot clearer and faster.
"He has so much more command of the offense and he's more of a vocal leader," added Pelneau. "He has an understanding of everything we're doing and now we're really building on it."
In 2013, Morreale completed nearly 60 percent of his passes and threw for nine touchdowns, while rushing for three more scores. While the Patriots are going to continue to base their offense around an electric rushing style, assistant coach and offensive coordinator Vinnie Calderone said more responsibility for making the B-P attack go will be placed on Morreale's shoulders.
"The gloves will come off, if you will," Calderone said.
That is shown in multiple ways. While Morreale was a limited participant in the Patriots' defensive secondary and served as the team's place kicker in 2013, he will start the season as the club's kicker, punter and starting safety -- all in addition to his quarterbacking duties.
For his part, Morreale seems poised to handle the increased role. Asked if the expanded workload is a concern for him, the senior provides a calculated answer.
"Yes and no," he started. "Yes, because it's a big step for me; but, no, because I trust everyone around me."
That is shown, Calderone said, in the clarity with which Morreale has run the Patriots' offense during the offseason and preseason. The trust in his teammates and knowledge of the club's offense has Morreale able to make quicker reads in the Patriots' passing game, a key ingredient to a B-P offense which likes to be able to play at different tempos.
At the center of that attack will be Morreale. A year ago, the Patriots did not know what that meant for them, but after a season with Morreale at the helm, the squad knows how it feels about its quarterback.
"We have," said Calderone, "complete confidence in him."
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