By DAVE O’SULLIVAN Publisher When you see Cedar Creek quarterback Jesse Milza getting his arm loose on the sidelines prior to a game, he has the look of a 5-year-old who got the Christmas present he had been agonizing over for months, wondering if Santa would deliver — that shiny red fire truck. And a bike! And Legos! And a trampoline! And a remote control Jeep! Who is this Santa guy, and how did he get all this stuff down the chimney? If other quarterbacks throughout the Cape-Atlantic League envy Milza, the Pirates’ junior lefty, they do so with good reason. Milza has a stable of playmakers at his disposal that make opposing defensive coordinators buy the big bottle of Tums antacid. At wide receiver he has Ahmir Mitchell (a 6-foot-3, 215-pound University of Michigan recruit), Bo Melton (a 6-1, 180-pound junior who could be the next coveted wideout by major college coaches), and Khamir Harvey (another speedster who, in a game against Buena Regional, took a screen pass 90 yards after making the initial defender miss). He also has the undersized but speedy Louie Pitale as a slot receiver and Isaiah Watson as a running back who can also split out wide (a bruising 6-foot-3, 205-pound junior). The Pirates’ offense has thunder and lightning. And wind, and rain, and hail — you name it. The thing about high school football is, you either have playmakers or you don’t. If you don’t, it doesn’t really matter what offensive scheme you run or how well you block, there is only so effective your offense will be. If you do, man, you can really open up the playbook. Playmakers also allow for some room for error. You don’t necessarily have to be firing on all cylinders all the time. Guys such as Dante Moore and Spencer LaSure of Egg Harbor Township, Ibn Wilkerson and Vinnie Nelson of Absegami, the Horne brothers of St. Joseph, Reggie Jean-Charles of Holy Spirit, Terrence Smith and Kendall Elliott of Oakcrest, Kyle Dobbins and Jose Tabora of St. Augustine Prep — these are guys who can change a game anytime they get the ball in their hands. “It’s a lot of fun. We get to spread the ball around. It’s not like we’re just throwing to Ahmir, we get to have some fun with everybody on the field and kind of just play around and compete with each other,” Milza said. “In any game, big plays give confidence to everybody on the field. When big plays happen it helps our defense out, it helps me out with my confidence, it helps the line with their confidence. It’s a great thing to have. It’s a lot of fun. Isaiah Watson has turned out to be a great running back. And they all have their own style of running, their own style of catching and they are all different sizes. It’s a lot of fun for me to watch.” Holy Spirit's Reggie Jean-Charles is the type of back who can break long runs and change the momentum of a game very quickly. Holy Spirit’s Reggie Jean-Charles is the type of back who can break long runs and change the momentum of a game very quickly. “It’s both. To say these kids don’t have natural talent would be crazy. They are extremely gifted athletically, but one of the things we practice is scoring. We practice finishing the play,” Stetser said. “We see Spencer, David and Dante make (game-changing) plays every day in practice. We’ll let the whistle go a little bit sometimes. We want to see Spencer break tackles. We encourage that, and they like doing it. You put the ball in their hands and they want to get it into the end zone, and they do the things necessary to get it there.” “I think a lot of it is just their innate ability to make things happen. Some kids are born with it and some kids aren’t. At the same time, there are some aspects you have to coach up. Sometimes these guys are too worried about making 500 moves before they take one step with the ball and don’t secure the ball properly. Sometimes that’s a bad habit to break from the junior leagues, where you can get away with that kind of stuff. But every level you go up, everybody gets that much stronger and faster, and the playing field levels out. We really stress securing the ball, then making the play. But a lot of these kids really do have the instincts, the vision, and the athleticism to make them the type of player they are,” Smith said. “There is an experience factor, too. The more they play, the more they realize what their strengths are and they rely on that more often. With a quarterback, with every year they play the game slows down a little bit more. They see the field better and their reaction time is better. Things aren’t moving a million miles an hour at them.” Moore said he would put it at about 60/40. He said you have to have natural talent, but studying film and knowing how a play is supposed to be run — and what the desired outcome of that play should be — is very important. “We practice (game-changing plays) a lot, but it comes down to God and the abilities he allows people to have. It’s definitely something you practice, working on your cuts, but it’s also knowing the blocking assignments, which a lot of people neglect to think about. You have to know where the play is designed to go so that you can make those cutbacks,” Moore said. “It’s a 60/40 kind of thing, with instinct being the higher of the two. Yeah, film work is important, but plays don’t work out exactly all the time, so you have to be able to make that quick decision. You almost have to know what you want to do before you do it.” What makes a lot of the best players in the Cape-Atlantic League so special is their ability to be versatile. Moore can easily line up on the outside as a wide receiver, even though he primarily is a running back. Mitchell takes several handoffs every game and even has played some quarterback during his career at Cedar Creek. Elliott, Oakcrest’s quarterback, is being recruited just as much as a defensive back. “Dante has had some huge runs, but he’s also had some great catches. In the Vineland game, he went up against two defensive backs and literally ripped the ball out of the defenders’ hands. And it’s great because if we can’t get him going on the ground like we want to he’s an option in the passing game,” Stetser said. “And Spencer, we’ve been able to get him the ball through the air, but if we can’t, he’s an option in the return game and he also makes plays for us on defense. They are a huge part of what we do. The fact that they are able to do things in so many different ways allows us to use them in those ways, and that helps us. They aren’t just great at their position, they are great football players.” Moore said there is no better feeling than being able to make a huge play that helps his team get back into a game when they are down. In the season opener, EHT trailed Atlantic City 27-7 at halftime. But after a couple of touchdown runs by Moore, the Eagles were right back in the game, and ended up coming all the way back to win, 41-34. “It’s a great feeling being able to call yourself a leader on the football team and use your abilities to bring the team together and to bring your team back from a deficit or to get through some adversity during a game. It’s a good feeling to have, that you can change things around,” Moore said. “It shows that your teammates are going all out for you and that gives you even more incentive to keep working. When your teammates are working hard, you want to make a play that can get you back in the game.” Contact Dave O’Sullivan: sully@acglorydays.com; on Twitter @GDsullysays [adsense]