By Dan Guttenplan
---- — NEWBURYPORT — When Michael Shay is asked to give a scouting report of himself, the latest Newburyport quarterback talks about his running ability for a few sentences before getting to the part that typically separates Newburyport’s quarterback from others in the Cape Ann League.
“I can throw when I need to,” Shay said.
What? A Newburyport quarterback who will only throw when he needs to?
Shay is set to break the mold of the prototypical Newburyport quarterback when he lines up behind center for the Clippers’ opener at Lynnfield tomorrow at 11 a.m. The Clippers will switch to an option rushing attack after years of running a pro-style passing offense under the likes of quarterbacks such as Joe Clancy, Ryan O’Connor and Connor Wile.
Clancy, who started from 2006-08, is now the quarterback at Merrimack College, where he led the nation in passing yards per game last season. O’Connor, who started in 2009 and 2010, was a state-champion pitcher at Newburyport High before continuing his baseball career at Bentley University. Wile, who started in 2011 and 2012, broke the program record for single-season passing yards as a junior.
Shay is the first Newburyport quarterback since the start of the Clancy era who will look to run first.
“We’re going to keep the ball in his hands more on running plays,” Newburyport coach Ed Gaudiano said. “We’ll let him make decisions in the running game with the option. The guys we’ve had in the past are drop-back guys. That’s not to say we won’t get to that eventually, but it might be down the road.”
Shay, a junior, flashed his athletic ability last spring as a sophomore lacrosse player under Gaudiano. He finished as one of Newburyport’s top scorers. He capped the season by scoring nine goals in a playoff game against Norwell.
Gaudiano entered this season with another player on the roster with varsity experience at quarterback in Drew Bourdeau, who started the first five games last season before Wile returned from a torn labrum. Still, the coach slotted Shay at quarterback after seeing him dominate on the lacrosse field.
“It’s definitely related,” Gaudiano said. “Seeing the confidence he got on the lacrosse field as a sophomore was a factor. But playing varsity lacrosse is different from varsity football. Very rarely do you take a freshman to play varsity football. For him to come in as a junior is equivalent. He’s had two years of preparation for this.”
When asked if he thinks he’ll be nervous before the opener, Shay answers quickly, “Yeah.”
“Lacrosse games are my only varsity experience, and we don’t get that crowd,” Shay said. “This should be pretty exciting. Football is definitely the biggest sport around this town. Lacrosse doesn’t get the same glory or attention. I’d say I’m more nervous for football than lacrosse.”
The good news for Shay is the Clippers are opening a week later than normal. They had their bye in Week 1, giving the first-year starter an extra week to prepare.
“The bye week is definitely a good thing,” Shay said. “I’m hoping to put on a good show. I’m really excited.”
The Clippers’ Quarterback Tradition
Name: Joe Clancy
Years started: 2006-08
High school: Broke NHS passing records for single-season yards and TDs.
College: Led nation in passing yards per game last season at Merrimack College.
Name: Ryan O’Connor
Years started: 2009-10
High school: Had 2-0 record on Thanksgiving, won state title in baseball.
College: Member of Bentley University baseball team’s pitching rotation.
Name: Connor Wile
Years started: 2011-12
High school: Broke Clancy’s passing records for yards as a junior in 2011.
College: Starting his freshman year at UNH, not playing a sport.
Name: Michael Shay
Year started: 2013
High school: Will start at quarterback for first time tomorrow at Lynnfield.