PAULSBORO — He’s not really a quarterback, but plays the position out of necessity because of his extreme athleticism.
He’d rather work out of the shotgun than be under center, putting his ability to survey the field to the test.
And with the ball in his hands, magical things can happen in the blink of an eye.
It’s no secret that Anthony Averett is the focal point of the Woodbury High School football team. The Alabama recruit is a four-year starter who has the speed, power and vision to take over and change games at a moment’s notice.
“He’s a natural runner. Those are some of the intangibles you need as a runner,” coach Zack Valentine said.
“The target is on Anthony and everybody knows that. Being a Division I player, you need to rise above everyone else. That’s what he comes to practice to do and it translates to games.”
Despite throwing three interceptions, Averett was clearly the most explosive player on the field Saturday. The senior rushed for a season-high 233 yards on 21 carries and scored three touchdowns to lead the Thundering Herd past Paulsboro 20-10 in a Colonial Conference Patriot Division game.
“I had a rough day passing,” Averett said with a bit of smile. “After the three interceptions, I knew I had to step up and try to carry my team on my back.
“I kept finding a lot of seams. When I was in shotgun, I would just roll out and wait to find my blocking. I found the seam and just hit it. There was something different about today.”
Behind his linemen — Lawenzo Clarke, Nazir Harris, Marquis Alston, Jahlil Robinson and Max Belko — Averett led a ground attack that produced 320 of the Herd’s 326 total offensive yards.
“There’s a lot of talent on this football team, maybe more than that 2009 team that won the (South Jersey Group 1) championship,” Valentine said. “There are a lot of kids who are contributing to the success of this team. It doesn’t just start with Anthony. Those linemen have improved.
“What has made this team much better is the focus of this team. They know we can move the ball and we can defend the ball. They come to practice and work hard.”
Woodbury’s offensive line opened plenty of holes, the biggest coming late in the first quarter which allowed Averett to set the tone with two minutes left.
With Paulsboro (2-2) ahead 3-0 on a Mike Maccarone 30-yard field goal, Averett went into shotgun formation in his own end zone. One look, a cut and a few seconds later he was in the opposite end zone — a 98-yard TD run, and he was never touched.
“We needed a big play,” Averett said. “They always look at me to make a big play. I found a seam and just took off.”
Said Valentine: “He knows how to get to the end zone. That’s a great thing to have. Even on broken plays he has an opportunity to do that because of his speed and power.
“When we moved him from halfback to quarterback, we knew the type of kid we had. He works so hard. It’s not something that just happens. These are things he works on.”
It was just the first of many big plays. Averett would pick up six first downs on the day, put Woodbury ahead to stay with a 6-yard TD run in the third quarter and give the Herd some breathing room on a 1-yard keeper with 6:39 left in the game.
“We just couldn’t seem to stop Averett enough times to get our defense off the field,” said Paulsboro’s Glenn Howard.