With QB Lainez Progressing as a Passer, Leader, Hun Football Produces Impressive 4-0 Start
MAKING PROGRESS: Hun School quarterback Marco Lainez III rolls out in a game earlier this season. Last Saturday, junior star Lainez completed 11-of-13 passes for 175 yards and one touchdown in a 21-7 win at Suffield Academy (Conn.). Hun, now 4-0, plays at the Hill School (Pa.) on October 16. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
By Justin Feil
Marco Lainez III was focused on being a better decision maker and taking better care of the football for the Hun School team.
The junior quarterback has been better at both in his second season with the Raiders. Last Saturday, Lainez completed 11 of 13 passes for 175 yards and one touchdown in a 21-7 win at Suffield Academy (Conn.).
While Lainez was pleased with his performance, he was more excited that Hun improved to 4-0.
“It’s awesome,” said Lainez. “I think it’s a real testament to how hard we worked in the offseason and how much our guys have put in. We’ve really gelled together as a team. The linemen are our key to our success. Those guys up front, they’re sacrificing their bodies every game and they’re the reason we’re winning right now.”
Lainez posted a gaudy 150.3 quarterback rating against Suffield, spreading the ball to six different receivers.
“I definitely didn’t value the football as much as I would have liked to last year,” said Lainez, who lives in nearby Skillman.
“One thing I learned is the more we hang onto the football, the more we have the ball, the more we have the opportunity to give it to our playmakers.”
Ben Romano had four catches for 67 yards and a touchdown while Dante Barone had three catches for 23 yards. Logan Howland had a 46-yard reception and Francesco Barone had one catch for 24 yards.
“I feel like my decision-making has really taken a big leap,” said Lainez. “That’s because of my coaches and players around me. They make plays for me. That’s a good thing.”
Hun again gave him plenty of help with its run game, something he’s also been a big part of all year. Kamar Archie ran nine times for 86 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Don Deluzio had 10 carries for 56 yards. J.T. Goodman picked up 53 yards on eight carries and Lainez had 42 yards on four rushes.
“It obviously gives us a lot of flexibility,” said Hun coach Todd Smith.
“We’re able to rest some kids and make sure they’re fresh. Dom Deluzio didn’t touch the ball until the second half, and he’s a very physical kid. For us, that’s an exciting thing where we can put a physical kid like that in the third and fourth quarter just to punish defenses that are already worn down. It gives us a little bit of a luxury that way. It also gives the kids some realization that Coach Smith is giving me the ball so I’m going to do the most I can with it. You see the kids giving their best effort every play.”
Hun amassed 277 yards on the ground, using six ball carriers in the process as it wore down the hosts.
“No matter who touches the ball this year, we’re averaging 8.8 yards a clip,” said Smith.
“That’s great for us to be able to run the ball and control the clock and really control the flow of the game. It puts other teams in a bind and forces them to get out of their rhythm and do things they’re not comfortable doing.”
Hun jumped on the board first with a two-yard run for Archie in the first quarter followed by Will McManus’s first of three points after touchdown kicks. Suffield evened the game in the second quarter, 7-7, but Hun’s defense allowed nothing the rest of the way.
“Our defense has been playing exceptionally,” said Smith. “There was a broken play and we let a guy get behind us. They scored a touchdown off that. It was 7-7. That long play was 80 of their 120 yards on the day. The defense played very dominant. The offense played dominant as well. We won the time of possession battle, we just stubbed our toe a few places.”
The Raiders fumbled inside the Suffield 5-yard line, missed a pair of field goals and was stopped on a fourth-and-3 drive in the red zone or they may have scored more. But the Hun got scores when it needed them most, and the defense again gave Hun’s offense plenty of opportunities, led by Owen Wafle, Dante Barone, Michael Gavin, Brian Ingram, and Logan Howland. Howland finished with one sack Saturday.
“We have a rotation of five guys for the front four spots that are the most dominant guys we might have had here in some time,” said Smith.
“We rotate the five for the four spots. They’re controlling the line and when you’re able to put pressure on the quarterback with just four, that’s pretty good stuff.”
After Suffield tied the game, Hun bounced right back with a long drive to take the lead for good on Lainez’s touchdown pass to Romano. Archie added an insurance 22-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.
“The one thing we have to know about football is it’s not going to be a blowout every single time,” said Lainez.
“The beauty of the game is responding and how you respond. That’s one thing we’ve tried to take into account is how is our ability to respond. We’re not always going to be on top or on bottom.”
Hun has been up most of this year. The Raiders are unbeaten heading into a Mid-Atlantic Prep League game at the Hill School (Pa.) on October 16.
“We definitely have a lot more team camaraderie,” said Lainez.
“We have a lot more chemistry with each other. Last year, given the circumstances, it was hard to develop chemistry with each other, get to know each other and personally bond. Now we have personal connections with each other and I think that’s a real reason for our success, because we love each other now as brothers.”
The closeness developed over last year and through the offseason has helped Lainez become a more effective leader. He is more comfortable with the other players in his second year at Hun.
“It’s hard for anyone who comes in and has to get in someone’s face to demand leadership and you don’t even know the person,” said Lainez.
“We’ve built trust over time between the guys. They can finally look at me as a leader. When we get in a huddle, they have to believe.”
This fall, Lainez has given them plenty of reason to believe, having progressed in every way as a quarterback.
“He’s definitely taken total charge of the huddle,” said Smith.
“He’s very comfortable with the offense. He really studies film and we meet every night after practice and we’re just watching film and taking notes and talking ball and you can see it start to translate out on the field. The best thing about Marco is he knows when he does something wrong. The bad thing is he’s his toughest critic. He just has to think, ‘Next play, great play.’ He’s been doing a great job of that. If he throws an incompletion, which there haven’t been that many of this year, he comes right back and throws a great ball the next play.”
For the season, Lainez has completed 45 of 58 passes for 788 yards and seven touchdowns and has not thrown an interception. He has shown an ability to hit the open receiver or to get away and pick up yards with his feet if no one is open. It’s led to a perfect overall passer rating.
“We do have a great run game,” said Smith. “And this year, Marco is not going to force the ball if something’s not there. Marco is our leading rusher on the team and it’s not designed runs. It’s rolling out on a sprint out or waggle and if it’s not there, he puts his foot in the ground and goes and gets yards. That’s going to increase anybody’s efficiency if you’re not throwing those low percentage balls and you’re still getting first downs.”
Lainez has been preparing more diligently this year. He has been picking the brains of Smith and assistant coach Anthony Racioppi. As a result, Lainez feels better prepared to read defenses before the snap and understand what he’s looking for each play. It’s helped to elevate his stock as a high college level quarterback.
“I definitely would focus on that towards the end of the season or after the season,” said Lainez.
“Right now I’m focused on my junior season being the best I can be as a player. The recruiting has been great. Everybody I’ve been in contact with have been really good guys, all of them.”
Lainez and Hun have started well, but it’s only halfway through the season. They are motivated to continue their success as they start the second half of their year.
“I see a lot of focus,” said Lainez. “Everybody is eager, focused and intensely driven. We all want to win for each other.”