Heading into the season as the backup quarterback at Valley/Old Lyme High School in Deep River, Conn., Jack Cox was always ready for the call to take the field. “I had no doubt,” he said.
With senior QB Ryan Santos battling injuries for much of the year, Cox got plenty of opportunities to play for the Warriors, and he made the most of them.
A sophomore, Cox played in all nine of Valley/Old Lyme’s games and completed 36 of 68 passes for 581 yards and 3 touchdowns. “I’m pretty satisfied,” he said. “It could have been better, but I’ve got two more years to play and I’m looking forward to making the most of that time.”
As he prepares for his junior year with the Warriors, Cox can look back fondly at one highlight from his sophomore season. Replacing Santos in a game against Rockville, Valley/Old Lyme was trailing 28-27 with just under a minute to play.
Escaping intense defensive pressure, he hooked up with Jae’len Arnum for a 25-yard pass completion that put the ball on the one-yard line. Arnum ran in from there to give the Warriors a 33-28 win.
How well did Cox handle himself as a sophomore quarterback on a Valley/Old Lyme team that went 7-2? Not only is he No. 1 on the depth chart at QB for 2019, he has been named a team captain.
“That’s pretty great,” Cox said. “And going into next season, it’s my position to lose. It’s a good team and it’s a good program, we usually win a lot of games. I want to have a pretty good year as a junior and hopefully make All Conference at quarterback.”
Gaining quality experience as a sophomore should help make that goal a reality. “It’s definitely going to help me a lot,” Cox said. “I made a lot of mistakes this season, but having gone through it now will definitely help me. My coaches learned a lot about me and what I can do and what I need to work on during the off-season and moving forward.”
Working with NFA the last five years has helped Cox move forward in impressive fashion. “My first time training with NFA, they did a great job fixing my mechanics,” he said. “I was able to throw a spiral with more velocity. I’ve kept coming back and I’ve been keeping my mechanics sound. They’ve given me a lot of great information.”
Last year, Cox earned his first Duel invitation at an NFA immersion camp in Boston. He tied for fifth place among incoming sophomores.
“Going into the Duel for the first time, I wanted to see what other quarterbacks around the country were like and just have the opportunity to compete,” Cox said. “I wanted to see how I stacked up against those other guys. I was pretty happy tying for fifth, but I definitely could have done better. I don’t think I played up to my full potential, but I played pretty well and I’m happy with the way everything turned out.”
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After finishing in fifth place in the 2016 Duel, Shea Lucky Lynch was happy but not completely satisfied.
“I was excited to place fifth, but now I am driven to do better and get another chance to compete in the Duel,” he said.
Now a seventh grader at Higgins Middle School in Peabody, Mass., Lynch received another Duel invite this year in March at a Quarterback Academy camp in Boston, and he finished in second place.
“Placing second in the Duel this year was a big accomplishment for me,” Lynch said. “Coming off the fifth-place finish the year before, I have learned how to compete with some of the best QB’s in the country. It showed me that I can compete on a high level with some great quarterbacks. If I keep working hard, serving my teammates and giving a great effort, I can continue to improve.”
Playing quarterback for the Peabody Tanners-Gladiators Blue in the Northeast Conference Youth Football League this season, Lynch completed 23 of 54 passes for 230 yards and 1 touchdown.
“As a team, we were able to keep our heads up and fight in some tough games and through a tough season,” he said. “As a player, I am happy how I was able to adjust from being the only quarterback to splitting time with another QB. We installed a new offense this year so I was able to work on under center drops, play action and commanding the huddle.”
Lynch has been playing quarterback since he was 6 years old, and he’s shown steady improvement on the field and at the Duel. “I like being able to control the tempo of the game, being a leader on the team, commanding the offense and having the ball in my hands on every play,” he said. “My strengths as a quarterback are play-action passes and throwing on rhythm. I’m working to improve my throwing on the run and consistently being able to have good timing on my 3- and 5-step drops.”
Training with QBA the last five years has helped Lynch fortify his strengths and improve his weaknesses. “QBA has helped me learn to be a better quarterback and be a better leader for my team,” he said. “Serving others on and off the field is something that I feel helps me, not only in football but also in school and family life.”
Lynch is a straight-A student at Higgins Middle School. “I believe being focused in school and achieving high honors carries over to the football field,” he said.
Natick High School had another successful season in 2016, going 9-2 and making a push in the Massachusetts state playoffs.
Looking ahead, the Redhawks’ varsity football program has a very bright future.
As an eighth grader with the Junior Redhawks in the Natick American Youth Football League last season, Will Lederman helped his team go 12-0 (8-0 league record, 4-0 playoff record) and win the Massachusetts state championship.
“The team goal was just to get better as a whole, and win the state championship,” Lederman said. “We had some new players coming in and we all worked hard in the off-season and accomplished our goal.”
As the quarterback of the Junior Redhawks, Lederman had a monster eighth grade season. The 5-foot-9, 180-pounder passed and rushed for a combined 44 touchdowns.
“Heading into the season, I was confident,” he said. “I had a lot of talent around me and I knew I could put up numbers like that. We had a really good offensive line and some awesome wide receivers. I knew with the people around me, we could do it. To win our first state championship, I was really proud. Our whole team contributed and now we’re ready to play in high school.”
While Lederman excelled at QB last season, he also returned a punt for a touchdown and played free safety. On the defensive side of the ball, Lederman had 6 interceptions.
“Playing quarterback helps me a lot playing safety,” he said. “I know that some receivers stare down what side they’re going to and if you look at the quarterback’s eyes, it helps put you in the right position. We also had some good defensive backs and that really helped because I got some tips.”
As a seventh grader Lederman showed his defensive skills in a playoff game, intercepting a pass in his own end zone and running 102 yards for a game-winning touchdown with no time left on the clock.
While he also wrestles and plays basketball, lacrosse and baseball, Lederman is most comfortable on the football field playing QB. “I started playing quarterback in fourth grade but didn’t really start throwing a lot until sixth or seventh grade,” he said. “I definitely like playing quarterback. I like how you have the ability to lead your team and knowing that people are relying on you. And when you score, it’s not just you scoring. The whole line worked, everybody worked and the whole team scored.”
An honor roll student at John F. Kennedy Middle School in Natick, Lederman is always thinking when he plays quarterback. “It definitely helps,” he said. “Playing quarterback, you extend plays and you have to deal with adversity. Sometimes, you have to overcome adversity in school, maybe with a lot of homework. Get it done knowing you have practice later in the day.”
As he eases toward his freshman year of high school, Lederman is already hoping to make his mark with the varsity football team. “My goal is to get better in the off-season, and I want to play some varsity as a freshman,” he said. “It’s possible. There’s no doubt in my mind I could handle it.”
Lederman started training with NFA last year, and that’s helped him set and achieve some lofty goals. The rising young quarterback is looking forward to attending NFA’s next camp in the Boston area in March.
“NFA has helped me a lot,” Lederman said. “The quadrant drill especially helped, with quadrant 1, 2 3 and 4. I used the dropback and quadrant drill this past season and it helped me a lot.”
NFA stresses the importance of leadership to all of its quarterbacks, and Lederman instantly absorbed the message.
“It’s so important,” he said. “You have to be a leader, not only playing quarterback but leading the team. The most valuable player isn’t the most valuable player, it’s the one who makes the most players valuable. I still remember that from the first NFA camp.”
Looking back on his past season with the Spartans in the Peabody (Mass.) Tanners Youth Football League, Shea Lynch has a lot to be proud of.
Being named team captain is very high on the list. “I was voted captain by my teammates,” he said. “That showed me that my teammates considered me a leader and I had a responsibility to help my team, my teammates and my coaches.”
All great quarterbacks are great leaders, and Lynch fits that profile. While guiding the Spartans to a 4-4 record, the sixth grader completed 50 of 98 passes for 675 yards and 9 touchdowns. He also rushed for 339 yards on only 33 carries and scored 5 more TDs.
“I was happy to see my team come together and progress throughout the season,” Lynch said. “My team goal this year was to make the playoffs, but unfortunately we missed making the playoffs by only one game. My personal goals were to throw for 10 TD passes and to run for 5 touchdowns. I missed throwing for 10 by 1 touchdown but I accomplished reaching my rushing TD goal.”
Being able to pass and run are two skills needed to be the best quarterback possible, and leadership is equally important. Those are three reasons why Lynch has such a bright future.
Lynch has been lining up under center since he was 5 years old. “I like playing the quarterback position because I like to help lead my teammates in achieving their personal and team goals,” he said. “I also like to run our no-huddle offense using some R4 techniques and I like to control the pace of the game.”
Learning the R4 system has also spurred Lynch’s growth as a quarterback. He’s been training with NFA for three years. “I’ve attended over 10 camps,” he said. “NFA has helped me as a QB by teaching to serve my team and to be a leader while also developing my release, footwork, and arm speed/path.”
In July, Lynch received his second invitation to the Duel and he finished fifth among incoming sixth graders. “My goal heading into the Duel was to place in the Top 5,” he said. “I was excited to place fifth this year, but now I am driven to do better and get another chance to compete in the Duel. I feel grateful for the opportunity that the Duel gave me as a quarterback and as a leader. My Duel success gave me confidence in myself heading into this year’s football season because I knew if I could compete with the great QB’s at the Duel I could compete and lead my team at a high level.”
Lynch competed in his first Duel before his fifth grade season and will not soon forget the experience. “In the 2015 Duel, I traveled from Boston with my family,” he said. “I had a ruptured ear drum and a double ear infection but I still felt the need to compete even though I lost hearing in my right ear. I didn’t want to the let the coaches, my family or myself down. Competing in the Duel is an honor that I take great pride in. After the 2015 Duel, I wanted to work harder to be invited back and prove to myself that I could compete at a high level against great quarterbacks.”
On and off the field, Jordan Hiscoe is moving the chains.
As the starting quarterback for Bishop Guertin High School in Nashua, New Hampshire, last season, Hiscoe led the Cardinals to a 6-3 record and a trip to the NHIAA Division I state playoffs.
After starting 6 games for Bishop Guertin as a junior and passing for 1,000 yards and 8 touchdowns, Hiscoe passed for 2,500 yards and 32 TDs as a senior while rushing for 6 more scores.
“It was a successful year for our team,” Hiscoe said. “It was a very good senior class. We got a new coaching staff and we took to the new style of play. All the way around, it was a great experience for all of us.”
In the first round of the playoffs, the Cardinals lost a thriller to Bedford High School, 41-39. “It was a heart-breaking loss,” Hiscoe said. “In the final seconds, we scored to make it 2-point game. Then we went for 2 to tie and go to overtime. We didn’t get it, but it was a great season and it was a lot of fun to be a part of it. It came down to that last play. Looking back on the senior class, it was just a blast to be around a bunch of good kids. We had a really fun season. We made it about as far as we could go. It came down to 2 points, but it was one of the best football games I’ve ever been a part of. It was a great game to watch. The way it came down for us, that’s just the way football goes sometimes. You win some and you lose some.”
At the end of the season, Hiscoe was voted the Nashua Telegraph 2015 Football Player of the Year, he was a New Hampshire D-1 West Conference First Team Offense selection and also earned a spot on the USA Today All USA New Hampshire Football Team.
“I think it’s poise,” Hiscoe said when asked what makes him such an effective quarterback. “We didn’t have the biggest or fastest offensive line. Coming from a private school, you get the speed and you get the skill players. But you really don’t get those big 6-foot-5 kids that play line. With the poise, I was able to take hits and still deliver the ball, and I was accurate under pressure and able to extend plays.”
Hiscoe’s ability to make big plays will be on display next season when he suits up for Milford Academy, a powerhouse program that has produced standout NFL players like LeSean McCoy and Shonn Greene.
“Milford Academy is a one-semester deal,” Hiscoe said. “I’ll go for the football season and take four NCAA approved classes. At the end of season, I’ll commit on a school and hopefully be able to participate in spring practice We’ll play it by ear and get it figured out.”
Eye on the future
Attending Milford Academy, which is located in New Berlin, New York, makes a lot of sense for Hiscoe.
“I definitely see myself playing college football at the Division I, Division I-AA level,” he said. “I got some Division I-AA looks this year, but the thing is, coming from New Hampshire you kind of don’t get the respect that players deserve. You’re kind of looked down on. So I’ll go to Milford and get some exposure. They play other colleges so it’s very high competition. I’m definitely going to improve. They send a lot of their guys to high-level schools for football and I’d love to continue that tradition and hopefully join the ranks of some of the alumni that they’ve had. I’m looking forward to the opportunity. It’s very exciting. The sky is the limit by attending that school.”
Before heading to Milford Academy, Hiscoe will play in the Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth-Hitchcock (CHaD) All-Star Football game this summer.
That’s where he is moving the chains off the field as well. After touring Children’s Hospital, Hiscoe has committed himself to raising money for children in need. You can make a donation here.
“Going to the hospital, it was a really moving experience because you kind of see where other people are coming from,” Hiscoe said. “There are people who are struggling and it’s an eye-opening experience. We are trying to raise money to help make their lives a little bit easier as they go through some struggles. I could never imagine being a kid and having to go through treatments every single day because I’m sick. I’d love to do anything I can to help them get better so they can go back to having the normal childhood they deserve.”
And before heading to Milford Academy, Hiscoe will train with NFA for the third year.
“NFA’s done a great job helping me develop mechanics,” he said. “They fine-tuned me as a player. They get down to the fine points and they make sure everything looks good top to bottom. I think that definitely helps me stand out because by going to NFA, my mechanics are at a high level and I think that’s something that stands out to college coaches. It shows we put the work in and we’re willing to get down to the minor details in order to be a complete player. I think that’s something NFA’s instilled in me. I’m very grateful that they helped me along the way. They’ve definitely been a big part of my career.”
NFA Coach/Director of Operations JC Boice is not surprised by Hiscoe’s solid work on and off the field.
“Jordan is a young man that is destined to do great things,” Boice said. “You can just see it in his approach and the way he carries himself. Jordan and I have worked together at several Boston trainings over the years and his hard work has paid off. He is now an impacting quarterback off the field and has a smooth, complete game on the field. NFA is very excited to continue to partnering with him in his on-going pursuit of excellence.”
Connor Degenhardt a super sophomore
Training with NFA the past four years – and receiving invites to the prestigious Duel four straight times – is paying off for Connor Degenhardt.
“NFA has been great,” said Degenhardt, an imposing 6-foot-5, 185-pound sophomore starting varsity quarterback for Westford Academy in Massachusetts. “They’ve really taken me to a different level. They’ve worked with all my fundamentals and turned me into a great leader for the team. The development they’ve done with my overall game is great. My ball speed is at a whole different level now and I can make all the throws on the field. I feel like I can do everything I need to do.”
With Degenhardt at QB, Westford Academy is in the playoffs this season for the first time since 2009. He’s thrown for over 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns wile rushing for 3 more scores.
“I’m happy with the way the season’s been going,” Degenhardt said. “We’ve had some key injuries that have set us back a little bit, and we’re a young team. But every week we’ve been improving. The offense has been getting better and we’ve just been getting more comfortable with the offense every week. I’m improving along with everyone else on the team.”
With two more years as the Grey Ghosts starting quarterback, look for Degenhardt to keep improving. He entered the current season as one of the top sophomore QBs in the nation.
“The biggest improvement I think I’ve made, in the past year, I’ve worked a lot on my ball speed with some of the NFA coaches,” Degenhardt said. “I’ve gotten a lot more comfortable and have been able to slow things down a lot. I also feel like I’ve improved a lot in terms of reading defenses.”
Having great size is a trait you can’t coach, and Degenhardt has exploited his height edge very well. “It definitely gives me an advantage,” he said. “I can see the defense very well and also being this tall, it’s not a challenge to run either. I feel like I can make plays with my feet as well as being able to throw the ball.”
Throwing for over 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns in just 8 games with Westford Academy tells you how good Degenhardt already is. But he is not surprised by the unequivocal success in just his first season with the varsity.
Hard work pays off
“No, I’m not surprised with my performance this season,” said Degenhardt, whose father Chris was a collegiate quarterback at Holy Cross. “I work hard all year to get better, so I’m really happy with the way I’ve played. But I’m not surprised because I put so much work into it all year long. That’s what I do.”
With such a strong work ethic and obvious talent, Degenhardt is positioned to get a flood of college offers in the very near future. But he is far from satisfied with his game.
“I need to get bigger, I need to get faster,” Degenhardt said. “I’m going to continue to work on reading defenses so I can put my team in the best position to score more points and win games. I’m going to continue working on my ball speed and accuracy because you have to keep improving as an all-around quarterback.”
Things are looking up for Connor Degenhardt. Way up.
As he prepares to compete for the starting quarterback job at Westford Academy in Massachusetts this season, Degenhardt is not going to have the physical look of a typical 14-year-old freshman.
“I’d say being tall is a big help playing quarterback,” Degenhardt said.
At 6-foot-4, he already has the height most college football coach’s dream about.
Exploiting his size advantage last season while leading his Pop Warner team to a 6-2 record and berth in the playoffs, Degenhardt displayed amazing accuracy while completing 101 of 153 passes for 1,315 yards and 18 touchdowns.
The 165-pounder also showed he could tuck the football away and run as he rushed for 555 yards and 10 TDs. Being big was, well, a big advantage.
“It was really easy to stay in the pocket and see my receivers and read the defenses,” Degenhardt said. “Being the tallest guy on the field helped me make better decisions and see what was happening around. I’d say it’s a big advantage.” The size advantage should help Degenhardt thrive at the high school level. Even though he’s being bumped up to a strong program, he’s not shying away from the tougher competition.
Heading into summer practice, Degenhardt has one main goal. “My goal is to be on the varsity team and compete for the starting job,” he said.
Is it possible?
Considering he’s been playing QB since he was 6 years old and his father, Chris, played college football at Holy Cross in the 1980s, Connor Degenhardt is well equipped to handle the high school level.
“Over the past few years, I found I’m really good at reading defenses and making decisions under pressure,” Degenhardt said. “Last year, I became much more accurate passing down the field, as well as short and intermediate. I try to throw all around the field. I’m just trying to develop as well as I can; just keep improving. I’m 100 percent committed to football and I’m doing everything I can to get better, whether it’s in the weight room or on the field working on my mechanics. There’s always room for improvement, and I work 12 months a year trying to get better as a quarterback.”
Working with NFA has helped Degenhardt rise to a high level at such a young age. He’s attended NFA camps and the Duel of the Dozens the past three years, and winning the coveted Passio award/T-shirt has been a highlight. “Going to NFA camps and the Duels has really helped develop my mechanics and form and turned me into the best quarterback I can possibly be,” Degenhardt said. “NFA has helped me develop my reading of defenses, my agility, and they’ve really helped me mentally and physically. And there are the life lessons they teach you – it’s not about me and you learn you have to sacrifice for the team and be the best person you can be.”