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February 11, 2011Shawn Petty was in the proverbial "zone." One week after he suffered through his worst performance of an otherwise stellar season - a fumble and two interceptions, including the game-ending pick, against Wise - the Eleanor Roosevelt junior was taking out his frustrations on a leaky DuVal defense.
In the first half alone Petty completed 7 of 9 passes for 92 yards and four touchdowns, spraying pinpoint darts around like an oscillating pitching machine. When DuVal double-covered his receivers, Petty simply pulled the ball down and gashed them for another 30 yards and a rushing touchdown.
In other words, he was Michael Vick - southpaw release and all.
But the Shawn Petty Show came to a screeching halt eight minutes into the second half. Petty couldn't elude a DuVal blitz and took a vicious hit. His elbow slammed into the turf, and just like that Petty's stellar day was over.
The news got worse. After the X-ray results came back, Petty found out he'd miss much more than one half of football. The Raiders' leader, a three-year varsity player, had a potentially season-ending injury: a broken collarbone.
"It was devastating; I was having a great year and then I go down right in the middle of it," Petty said. "I had to watch my team from the sidelines and I couldn't help. I watched us lose to Flowers and I knew I could have brought us back. But I also knew I had a chance to come back late in the year, so I [rehabbed] hard."
Ironically, Roosevelt's offense may have gotten better without Petty because it forced them to develop a running game. What's more, the Raiders did just fine with B.J. Antoine and Jairus Cook subbing in at quarterback.
But handling mid-level opponents like Oxon Hill and Parkdale is one thing. Beating the likes of Prince George's County powers Suitland, Flowers and Wise without your leader is another story entirely.
"We didn't panic without him," said Roosevelt receiver Howard Wilder, "but there's no question we wanted him back."
All along, Petty targeted the Nov. 6 showdown with Suitland as his return date, which was just one month away. It was a long shot, but after weeks of intense rehab the doctors cleared him to return.
Roosevelt coach Tom Green didn't hesitate. If he could play, Petty was the starter.
Predictably, Petty was rusty in his first game in a month. He completed just 4 of 14 passes for 80 yards. But the Drew Brees-like leadership and big-play knack hadn't faded one iota.
After falling behind 14-6, Petty engineered four straight Roosevelt touchdown drives, including a 54-yard touchdown pass to put the Raiders ahead for good. When the game ended, Roosevelt had upset the top-ranked team in Prince George's County, 34-14. The 34 points were the most Suitland's stingy defense had allowed all season.
"That was absolutely huge for him and for our team's confidence," Green said. "He hadn't played in a month and he helps us put up 34 on Suitland. He put the team on his back and had control in the huddle."
Green may have been impressed, but he wasn't exactly surprised. Petty had been opening eyes since his freshman year when he showed the poise of a veteran. Green doesn't recall him ever making a bad throw, despite playing in a league where linebackers feast on quarterbacks and corners close faster than a prison cell.
"He's always made great decisions," said Green, a former quarterback himself at James Madison. "One of Shawn's best strengths is how coachable he is. If he makes a mistake and you correct him, he won't make it again."
Petty hasn't ironed out all the kinks, but he has developed into one of the better quarterback prospects in the state. Physically, he's sprouted up to an ideal 6-feet-3 and 225 pounds, a linebacker playing quarterback. But the extra pounds haven't slowed him down; he's a true dual threat who can pick up yards in the air or on the ground.
In just seven games last year Petty showed poise (see: game-winning drive against Suitland in the playoffs), precision (over a 50-percent completion rate, only four interceptions) and passing potency (1,300 yards passing, 15 touchdowns). He also added about 400 rushing yards when the pocket collapsed.
But Petty's trademark is his big left arm. Word is, he can chuck the ball 70 yards from the pocket, 60 off his back foot.
"There's plenty I need to work on like my reads and my footwork," said Petty, a former pitcher. "But I do have a good arm. That I know."
Green agreed, touting Petty with "definite Division-I arm strength." But Wilder one-upper his coach. He said Petty is comparable to an all-time college great.
"I just call him Tebow," said Wilder referring to the former Florida Gators quarterback. "He's an aggressive player, he can make plays with his arm and his feet, he's cool in the pocket, his play calling is great and he's a leader. When he's on the field, we're under control as an offense."
Of course, comparing someone to Tim Tebow isn't exactly the most flattering compliment for an aspiring quarterback. After all, Tebow was ripped apart by NFL scouts for his faulty mechanics.
"You know," chuckled Green, "He does have a long windup like Tebow. But, hey, Tebow won a Heisman and is in the NFL, so maybe that's not so bad."
No, not at all. If Petty can be half the quarterback Tebow was, he'll earn himself a Division-I scholarship next year.
But if not, well, there's always defense.
"To tell you the truth, I think with his frame and strength, he could be a high-DI defensive end," Wilder said. "He played defense some last year and he just dominated."
Petty isn't averse to defense, but he made it quite clear what he'd like to do in college. Attacking quarterbacks just isn't in his nature. He'd rather be one.
"I want to play quarterback, and I know I can play in any system if given the chance," Petty said. "With the way I work, there aren't any obstacles I can't overcome."
Taken from a guy who came back from a broken collarbone in just one month, there's little reason to doubt him.