Walling 'passes' with flying colors
Although there are still four games left in the regular season, the Pleasant Valley football team has already accomplished some big things in 2010.
Through six games, the Bears already have as many wins (five) as they did all of last year - which was their most since 2004. Their current five-game winning streak is their longest such streak since 2000. And thanks to those two things, Pleasant Valley is currently ranked No. 3 in the District 11 standings.
The program's growth can be attributed to its offensive play, as the Bears' offense has exploded since it switched to a spread attack. Pleasant Valley scored 210 points last year and has already put up 206 (34.3 ppg) so far this season. So who is the man behind this aerial assault? Quarterback Derrik Walling.
Walling's play over the first month and a half has been great and he put together another strong performance last Friday. The senior left-hander completed 16-of-23 passes for 281 yards and four touchdowns in a 40-22 win over Pocono Mountain West. After the Panthers returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown, Walling responded by leading his team to points on all four of their first-half drives.
Two weeks after helping teammate Rich Irving receive the honor, Walling has found himself in this week's spotlight by winning the TIMES NEWS Player of the Week Award.
"I thought it was a great team effort," said Walling. "When you have great receivers and great athletes around you it makes it easy to execute the game plan and do things right. When you have great playmakers it makes your job a whole lot easier.
"I love the spread offense. I love being able to throw the ball. I also love being able to run when I have the opportunity to do so. Coach (Jim) Terwilliger calls the plays. I just do what he tells me do to."
Over the past three games, Walling has put up the type of numbers that the program has never seen before. In three wins over Pocono Mountain West, Tamaqua and Lehighton, Walling has completed 40-of-70 passes for 698 yards and 11 TDs.
Quarterbacks are ultimately judged on their decision making and that is something Walling has improved on over the first half of the season. It is evident in recent play, as he has thrown just one interception in the last three games.
"Derrik's decision making has improved ten-fold," said head coach Jim Terwilliger. "If you just look from week one until now, he has improved tremendously. If I put the film on from the first game and then last week's game you can definitely see a huge improvement - not only in throws, but also where he is putting the ball and how he puts the ball into different places."
Walling is currently the area leader in completions (70), percentage (64.8), yards (1,001) and touchdowns (14).
"I think I have definitely improved in my second year with Coach Terwilliger," said Walling. "I think my biggest improvement has been checking the ball down and not throwing the ball up into double coverage. I'm taking what the defense gives me.
"There are a lot of things going through my mind when I walk up to the line. Number one is identifying the coverage. Once I identify the coverage I pretty much know where I am going with the ball. If that's not open I try to check it down or run."
The most important thing in Terwilliger's eyes is how Walling has been able to bring the offense together.
"He is playing within himself and within this offense," said Terwilliger. "And that's a key for a quarterback. You have to do what you do well and fit the pieces of the offense together."