Watching Spring Grove quarterback Matt Runge operate the Rockets offense last night, one might have a hard time believing he did not even play the position full-time last year.
In fact, Runge only started one game under center in 2011 — Spring Grove’s final contest of the season.
But the 6-foot-3 senior has been a steady, efficient presence for the Rockets (6-2, 3-0) this year, and one of the keys to Spring Grove’s incredible turnaround from one-win doormat to Division I favorite.
Take last night’s 50-24 rout of William Penn, when Runge turned in his best passing performance to date. He completed 12-of-22 throws for 216 yards and three touchdowns. In the first half alone, he went 10-of-16 for 158 yards.
Yes, junior tailback Jeff Delaughter remains the Rockets bell cow (he surpassed 1,000 yard for the season Friday). But Runge’s development has been essential to Spring Grove’s evolution into one of the league’s better offenses.
After Friday’s game, I asked Rockets’ second-year coach Russ Stoner if he was surprised by how quickly Runge has grown into the position.
“It’s probably my fault that he wasn’t the quarterback last year, and the reason he wasn’t the quarterback is I didn’t know anything about him,” Stoner said. “I was trying to get him an opportunity to get to college. I played him all over the place so we could get him some film. Call it a rookie mistake.
“Tonight, and this entire season, his composure … I would tell any college coach in the PSAC, ‘You want this kid, because he’s a field general and he doesn’t get rattled at all.’ ”
Case in point: In Spring Grove’s two signature victories this season – over Central York and William Penn — Runge completed a combined 19-of-37 passes for 407 yards, six touchdowns and no interceptions. In those two games, the Rockets scored 41 and 50 points, respectively.
Runge also adds a power rushing dimension to Spring Grove’s hurry-up, spread attack. He’s second on the team with 551 rushing yards and five touchdowns, in addition to his 784 passing yards.
“You can’t just sit there waiting for our run, all of a sudden Matt Runge is lighting you up,” Stoner said. “You’ve seen in twice now, in big situations against Central and William Penn, the kid has stepped up to the occasion and completed passes.
“As far as him developing? I can’t be happier.”