Junior quarterback Jonathan Boland is an absolute handfull.
The Lions have seen quite a wide variety of opponents this season, but nothing like the Parkrose Broncos. One week, it was a dangerous wide receiver, and another week a speedy running back. Against Sherwood, it was defense and Keegan Lawrences 154 yards and two touchdowns.
As far as threat is concerned, all previous playmakers go out the window in comparison to Jonathan Boland. The junior quarterback at Parkrose (5-2, 3-2 NWOC) has grabbed the attention of opposing coaches, college scouts and casual fans alike, thanks to a jaw dropping performance in the passing game.
All of the hype started after week one, when Boland tore up Franklin for 500 yards passing, completing 19 of 27 attempts and throwing for six touchdowns. Four weeks later, the Broncos defeated Sandy 43-24 in a game where Boland tossed five touchdowns and threw for 416 yards. In addition, he has also rushed for over 100 yards in two games, and for nearly 200 in a 36-21 win over Putnam.
It should go without saying, but disrupting Bolands rhythm is essential to defeating the Broncos. The problem is, thats not easy to do.
In one particular instance during the win over Sandy, the Pioneers Andrew Spencer and Austin Gorski were closing in after having broken through the offensive line. It looked like Boland might go down. Sandys secondary relaxed, only to have Boland evade both attackers, roll to the left and find receiver Vincent Vy for a 42 yard touchdown pass.
Even when he doesnt throw the ball, Boland is a nightmare for the defense to stop. Hell run out of bounds to avoid a big hit, but he doesnt drop after hes touched. Tacklers seem to bounce off, and Boland has the speed to switch sides of the field and still come out ahead. He not only leads the team in rushing yards, but has more yards than the rest of the team combined.
The rest of the threat is the receiving corps. Four receivers have caught at least 14 passes and have over 300 yards receiving. That group is led by Bolands favorite target: senior Marshawn Edwards. Listed as a wingback, Edwards lines up in the backfield just outside the end of the offensive line, and has been particularly effective, to the tune of 36 catches for 431 yards.
What the Lions need to do
Boland has been lethal in taking advantage of defenses who fall asleep. On his big play against Sandy, the outside linebacker left a streaking receiver to guard against the run once Boland broke through the pass rush. The problem was, said streaking receiver was now wide open and once Sandy realized what had happened, it was too late. Staying alert and keeping receivers in front of players in the secondary should make Boland a little more hesitant to sling passes downfield.
By that same note, if the receiver does manage to catch the ball, its far easier to wrap a player up than it is to run them down from behind. Should Edwards or any of his teammates catch a pass a step behind St. Helens secondary, the play is over before it begins. Limiting yards after the catch stops the big plays and the long touchdowns from happening.
Against a team like Parkrose, stacking the box, or moving safety Gage Bumgardner up next to the linebackers, is a dangerous and probably unwarranted move. Because Boland is one of the few rushing threats, the safety is better served to guard against the pass and move up should Boland tuck the ball in and cross the line of scrimmage. The sideline is the best tool for the safety here, as they will watch Boland and call out PASS or RUN. Boland has 11 interceptions on the season, so making him second guess his move can force him into mistakes – especially when a deep touchdown pass is so tantalizing.