Sports

Trojan royalty

Northwestern quarterback Will King is on pace to obliterate the Trojans' single-season passing and touchdown records.
Northwestern quarterback Will King is on pace to obliterate the Trojans' single-season passing and touchdown records.

Northwestern's Will King played wide receiver on Northwestern's 9th-grade football team his freshman year and sat out his sophomore season to play fall baseball.

He was a backup quarterback in middle school at Rawlinson Road, so last year when he decided to give football another shot, he won the job under center and became a starting quarterback for the first time since recreation football in the sixth grade.

How could those other coaches have missed him?

King passed for 1,564 yards and 16 touchdowns while leading the Trojans to a 6-6 record. After getting the Trojans off to a 3-1 start, he's almost there this year.

"When I went to spring practice my sophomore year, I went and stood with the quarterbacks,'' King said. "The coaches knew I was coming out and knew where I wanted to play and gave me a chance.

"We lost some good receivers to graduation, but the new ones are doing great. It's because we have a new offensive coordinator, Kyle Richardson, who put in his 'Air Raid' offense. It's not just me and the running backs as much. Everyone is involved now.''

And the offense, which is a variation of the spread with three, sometimes four receivers, takes advantage of opposing defenses through the air with short, intermediate and long passes.

Coaches who play Northwestern this season have taken notice. Clover coach Jet Turner, whose No. 3 and undefeated Blue Eagles host the Trojans tonight at 7:30 calls it fast-break basketball on grass.

Turner said Tuesday that he's told his defensive backs to be ready, that they will not face a passing game like Northwestern's all season and will be in for a busy night.

In addition to having the Trojans are off to a 3-1 start, King is quickly approaching the numbers he posted last season. If he continues at his current pace, King will rewrite Northwestern's passing records.

In the opening game, he broke the school single-game passing record for yards, set in 1974 by Leland Greeley, a Rock Hill attorney, with 372 yards.

Bart Blanchard set school single-season records for yards (1,932) and touchdown passes (22) in 2004. King has already passed for 927 yards and 10 TDs this season.

Richardson, who played quarterback at South Point High School in Belmont, N.C., said he learned the offense working three years at Southeastern Louisiana as head coach Dennis Roland's wide receivers coach.

Roland learned it from Hal Mumme, who started it at Kentucky and stills uses it at New Mexico State, for which he left Southeastern Louisiana the year before Richardson arrived.

Richardson said at least five Division I schools he knows of use the offense.

"When we put it in during spring practice, I told Will we're taking the ball out of his hands and getting it to our playmakers,'' Richardson said. "The idea is to get guys into open spaces and let them find room to run.

"When I came here, I saw Northwestern was based out of the run. I began talking with Will, teaching him the offense. We got better and better at it this summer in the 7-on-7 passing tournaments, but we still haven't put everything in yet.''

King said the offense is "awesome,'' that it was hard to learn at first, but that he's getting more comfortable with it each game. All he does, King said, is throw the ball and let his teammates make the plays.

The summer passing tournaments helped, but so have the chalkboard sessions King and Richardson have nearly every do.

Another helping tool is the way Richardson coaches. Rather than sit in the press box and call down plays, he stands on they sideline and signals them in to King. Richardson wants to be on the field when King comes off, so they can huddle and talk about what the opposing defense is doing.

"Will has a tendency to wanting the throw the long ball, but I was a quarterback and so did I,'' Richardson said. "This offense is set up to take what the defense is giving, what's there for the taking.

"There are times when I have to rein in Will and tell him what we need to do. And there are times when he comes to the sideline and tells me what he's seeing and what he wants to do and I let him. We have a good relationship and communicate well.''

King, a 6-0, 190-pound senior, is a three-sport athlete. He plays shooting guard on the Trojans' basketball team and pitches, plays second base and in the outfield on the school's baseball team.

He is a 3.8 student and has academic scholarship opportunities. But he wants to go to college and play sports. No serious offers are out there and as far as the sports go, he will consider any offers and make the choice which is best for him.

"I play three sports because I love sports,'' King said. "When I was 12, I went to Cooperstown (N.Y.) and played in the Summer Dreams Tournament. My Pee Wee football made it to the state championship, but we lost to Dillon.''

King played baseball the summer before his junior season, and didn't pick up a football until the first day of practice because he played summer baseball.

"I believe baseball helps me keep my arm strong,'' King said. "This past summer, I threw a football almost every day. When it wasn't in the passing league to my receivers, it was at home with my dad. I knew I had to be ready to play.''

• NOTE: Northwestern and Rock Hill will play their inaugural alumni flag football game Saturday at 1 p.m. at District Stadium South next to South Pointe High School.

Two dollar donations will be accepted to help fund a new district program. During the game, there will be a silent auction for footballs signed by the players and coaches from each of Rock Hill's three high schools.

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