Passing game gives Concord an added dimension
Just two plays into last week’s quarterfinal, Rob Law drifted back and unleashed a haymaker downfield, the ball settling firmly in Seimou Smith’s hands with the Concord High wide receiver never breaking stride until he reached the end zone for a 59-yard touchdown.
The aerial game is not just a passing fancy for the Tide.
“To have as many runners and receivers and a solid quarterback like Robbie certainly keeps defenses off balance a little bit,” said Concord Coach Eric Brown, whose top-ranked and undefeated
Tide hosts No. 4 Exeter in today’s Division I semifinal at 1 p.m. “It’s nice; it doesn’t happen all the time. It’s been a long time since we’ve had something like that in Concord.”
A long time, yes, but when Concord has had a potent passing attack to complement its run, the Tide has sailed deep into the postseason.
In 1982, the only other time Concord put together a perfect regular season, it was quarterback Chris Lyons and receiver Glenn Mathews rewriting the school’s record book. In 1998, when the Tide finished runner-up, it was Dustin Webb setting the passing mark and Dan Poirier breaking records for receptions and TD receptions. And in 2000, Concord’s last championship season, it was Matt Skoby rewriting the passing records to receivers Keith Sawyer and Scott McAllister and running back DJ Proulx.
That brings us to 2013, with Law, a junior, throwing himself into the top four all-time passing seasons at Concord, with a 141.5 quarterback rating. He’s completed 69 percent of his passes for nearly 1,300 yards and 14 touchdowns. He’s also rushed for three touchdowns. In the Tide’s victory over previously unbeaten Bedford four weeks ago, Law completed 21 consecutive passes.
“What makes him such a good quarterback is his accuracy, his patience. He waits for our routes to develop before throwing,” Smith said. “And basically he (took) it upon himself to work at it. During the summer, he would always hit up me or Nick (Comeau) or other wide receivers and tell us to come throw, come run routes. … He just took charge.”
At 5-foot-11 and 180 pounds, Law isn’t a prototypical quarterback. His size is more Doug Flutie than Tom Brady. But with an offensive line that provides him plenty of protection, the results are the same.
“Robbie’s got that calm, collected demeanor. When there’s pressure, he doesn’t get rattled,” Brown said. “… He hasn’t got the strongest arm and he’s not the biggest guy, but he puts the ball where it’s supposed to be and he throws a very catchable ball.”
Just ask Smith or any of the 11 players who’ve been on the receiving end. And that’s part of what makes the Tide’s aerial attack all the more dangerous. It’s not just one target downfield, it’s a plethora of sure-handed receivers, led by Smith, with 31 catches for 583 yards and seven touchdowns.
“He’s great. He runs good routes, he obviously has great hands, he’s fast, but more than that, when he’s not open we have that unspoken connection where he just adjusts his route and I kind of know where he’s going to go,” Law said. “It’s real nice to have that connection with a receiver. And it’s not only him; with all my receivers I have that.”
Smith, who’s being looked at by UNH, among others, is closing in on the most receiving yards in a season at Concord. The 6-1 senior, who also starts at cornerback, has put together quite a highlight reel, from tightrope catches along the sidelines to spin moves that undress the opposition to leaping, ball-stealing catches in the end zone.
“Early in my career … I didn’t make catches like that. I was given chances and I would fail,” Smith said. “As my sophomore year came along, I just started developing and mastering those skills.”
“He’s really special,” Brown said. “… We will single him out to other receivers how he runs routes and why he is so effective, the small things he does. He’s always working hard.”
Those others receivers include guys like Marc Gaudet and Jacob Szulc, with the second- and third-most catches and a combined five TD receptions, and Comeau and running back Walters Ndi, each with more than 100 yards receiving.
“We don’t just focus on one guy, or if we need a first down or need a big play we don’t always go to that one guy, because all of our receivers can do it,” Law said.
The running game is still the Tide’s bread and butter, with twice as many yards coming on the ground as through the air, but the precise and potent passing game has given Concord a dimension that’s been difficult to defend. Eight of the Tide’s 10 games have gone to running time (leading by 35 points or more) in the second half. And Concord has scored more points this season (445) than in any other season in the program’s 116-year history, despite the starters oftentimes not playing much past halftime.
So, how exactly does an opposing defensive coordinator stop the Tide?
“I honestly don’t know. I think that’d be a tough job,” Law said. “I’d have trouble coming up with a game plan.”
He’s not alone.
(Sandy Smith can be reached at 369-3339 or firstname.lastname@example.org.)