SKOWHEGAN — There was a time, the Skowhegan Area High School football team treated the position of quarterback as a necessary evil. The Indians rarely threw the ball, and in the double-wing offense, the quarterback’s job was to hand the ball off, and lead block.

Things have changed. New head coach Matt Friedman came from Madison and brought with him a no huddle, spread attack that calls for more passes than the Indians have thrown in years. Junior quarterback Adam Clukey, a first-year starter, grins when he thinks of it.

“It’s a lot different. Going through new pass protections, staying in the pocket, in the run game, not having to lead block,” Clukey said.

In four games, Clukey has completed 58 passes, just 18 fewer than his two predecessors completed in the last three seasons combined. Clukey has completed 58 percent of his throws, and his 855 yards passing is just 12 yards shy of what Skowhegan’s starting quarterbacks threw over the last three seasons.

It’s a new, wide-open world, and Clukey, who threw for 298 yards in Friday’s 24-13 win over Lewiston, is loving every minute. When Friedman was hired to replace longtime coach Mike Marston, Clukey knew he’d be learning a new offensive system.

“I was excited. I knew it was a change for the better. I really looked forward to it, and started working even harder, getting ready for it,” Clukey, who has seven touchdowns and four interceptions, said.

Friedman is happy to have a quarterback who, on Day 1, could handle the duties of a spread offense.

“It’s a really pleasant surprise, stepping in here and having somebody who can throw the football as well as Adam,” Friedman said. “He’s also a very smart kid, and very coachable. He picks things up very quickly, and he’s willing to do the extra work to do better.”

Friedman keeps the quarterback’s reads in the passing game simple. Clukey has a couple of defenders to key on with each play. If defender X does this, Clukey knows receiver Y should be open.

“I’m getting a lot better at reading the defenses, and just taking what they give me, not forcing anything,” Clukey said.

When Clukey connected with receiver Owen Mercier on a 59-yard touchdown pass down the right sideline against Lewiston, it was in part because Friedman gives Clukey the freedom to change up the play if he sees something in the defense he likes. In this case, Clukey saw the Blue Devils leaving Mercier uncovered.

“We have hot reads if it’s a blitz. Nobody covered Owen Mercier on that one, so I kind of looked at him and told him, ‘Go deep,'” Clukey said. “We’ve practiced it. We know what we’re doing. We’ve been playing a while together. We communicate pretty well.”

Added Friedman: “This offense is based on being able to take what the defense gives you. Not only from a coach’s standpoint, but a player’s standpoint as well. They have to have that freedom to understand, if what we believe we’re going to do isn’t going to work, then we have option B.”

Learning to read the defense when executing a run play is just as important as reading the defense when it comes time to throw. When the Indians run, they run a lot of option plays, and Clukey is learning when to pitch the ball to his back, and when to take off.

“For me, coming into a new school with this offense, the first thing I want to do is stress the reads the quarterback needs to make on the run game,” Friedman said. “To me, that’s a harder read than reading a pass defense. We work on that a lot.”

Clukey felt last week’s game, against Lewiston, was when he really started to see improvement when he looked at himself on film. Friedman saw his quarterback making strides much earlier.

“I think he took a big step in the exhibition game against Mt. Blue. Adam stepped up in the pocket on the passing plays and really led that offense. Especially after Mt. Blue scored on us twice quickly, he kept us settled down, and we were able to move the football against them,” Friedman said. “Since then, every week, he’s gotten a little bit better at different aspects of the game.”

At 2-2, Skowhegan is a playoff contender in the Pine Tree Conference Class A division. To be one of the top four teams and earn a spot in the postseason, the Indians have to continue to get better, Clukey said.

“We definitely have the potential. I think we can do it, we just have to win the games we’re supposed to win. We have to start coming together,” Clukey said.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

 

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