Over the summer, Old Forge head football coach Mike Schuback considered his options at quarterback for the season, knowing that he had one option he could count on.
When he and his staff sorted through the rest of their potential successors to Brenden Wahl, Schuback saw the decision was crystal clear.
“We knew Jake Manetti was a quarterback when he was younger, and that he had the mindset to be a leader,” Schuback said. “We knew what we would get from him.”
What the Blue Devils got from Manetti was the steady hand they were looking for, got enough to post a 9-1 record in the regular season heading into the District 2 Class A playoffs as well as another Lackawanna Football Conference Division III title.
Manetti was smart enough to realize what was needed for the team to succeed, and it wasn’t going to be him throwing the football all over the field.
“There wasn’t much pressure taking over. I knew we were more of a power football team with all the guys up front,” Manetti said. “We weren’t going to throw as much as Brenden did. I had to be a different kind of quarterback, limit turnovers, more of a game-management, ball-control quarterback for us to be successful.”
Game management is a term some quarterbacks shy away from, because outsiders can mistake that for meaning a lack of talent, but Manetti has embraced the idea, much to his coach’s joy.
“Coaches use the term game manager,” said Schuback and one can hear him wince over the phone. “He makes great decisions, and he hasn’t put us in bad situations all year. He works hard, and has gotten a lot better throughout the season.”
As a result of Manetti putting his team’s success over individual glory, Schuback has watched his offense operate smoothly all season.
“It’s more of a control game. Everyone likes statistics, but as long as we’re winning, it doesn’t matter what statistics I put up,” Manetti said. “I know I don’t have to throw it 30 times a game.”
But he knew he needed to be effective throwing the ball to alleviate pressure off the running game, to prevent teams from stacking the line. Manetti had some concerns, but had the right background to address his worries over the summer.
“I was a little bit worried about reading coverages,” Manetti said. “But I knew I could handle it. I had a head start from playing safety. A lot about calling coverages is understanding what the offense is trying to do, so that gave me a head start.”
Manetti has become the latest defensive back-turned-quarterback for the Blue Devils, joining the likes of Mark Alexander and Wahl, among others.
“I believe in it, 100 percent,” Schuback said. “Seniors are in positions of high responsibility, with the younger players filling in the secondary.
“Jake’s been back there three years, and he really has the knack for seeing what teams are trying to do to us.”
So while he was hitting the weight room, looking to make himself stronger and faster, Manetti started looking at game film a little more, trying to get quicker at anticipating what defenses were going to do.
“I watched a lot of films; there’s a lot of mental preparation,” Manetti said. “It’s a big part of the game.”
Manetti’s ability to become what Schuback needed from his quarterback has gone a long way in forging the Blue Devils’ success this year.
Being selfless, displaying leadership and confidence in the huddle and having the right touch has made him an important cog for Old Forge.
Not bad for someone who wasn’t even the quarterback of the team until the summer.