By Joseph Santoliquito
Special to MaxPreps.com
Curtis Drake looked trapped. What started as a typical pass play quickly reverted to a mad scramble, with the West Catholic (Philadelphia, Pa.) quarterback about to get mangled. Sensing something to his right, the 6-foot, 175-pound senior went left. Then he turned direction and went right. Nothing there, either. Before him were linebackers converging on him.
That’s when Drake decided to take off, zig zagging down the field, dodging everyone—even his own players—on his way towards a 65-yard touchdown run.
West Catholic coach Brian Fluck couldn’t believe it. Neither did anyone watching. But what they saw that afternoon was typical, actually quite common every time the gifted Drake has the ball in his hands.
Drake is the catalyst of one of the most potent offenses in Pennsylvania. The Burrs are 8-1 and on their way to a third-straight Catholic League Class AA (small school) league championship. What’s more, West Catholic has a chance to win the Philadelphia Class AA city championship, and by all indications, should go deep into the PIAA Class AA state playoffs.
No one seems to be able to stop the Burrs—which begins with stopping Drake. Headed to Penn State next fall, as a projected wide receiver, though he hasn’t ruled out playing quarterback for the Nittany Lions, Drake has the Burrs averaging an amazing 54.8 points per game over their last six games.
This season, West Catholic is averaging 47.2 points a game (425 points), and surrendering just 13.2 (119 points given up) per game.
As a starter, Drake is 26-2, leading West Catholic to its first Philadelphia Catholic League title since 1965 and first back-to-back league championships since 1941. To say he’s a player for the ages might actually be an understatement.
It all starts with Drake’s attitude. It’s about team, and about knowing what he’s capable of each time he has the ball.
“I’m not even sure when it began, or where, but one thing about me, whenever I have the ball in my hands, that’s my monster, I want to score,” Drake said. “I feel every time I run, I could score. I think that comes from being a competitor, and having the spotlight on me. I know my teammates are looking at me to make a play. I can’t let my team down. I want to be the one who everyone looks at to make the big plays. I think that comes from all of the years of playing. But I’m just starting to get used to it; I’m getting comfortable with myself.”
That wasn’t always the case. Drake didn’t like getting hit when he first began playing football, starting in a weight league when he was seven years old.
“I’d get real frustrated, because I used to get killed,” Drake said, laughing. “I used to tell my coach I was injured, though I wasn’t. I just didn’t want to get hit anymore. But once I got the pads on, I went from there.”
And pretty much anywhere he wants to go on the field. He’s produced video game stats, like racking up 26 TDs in nine games as a pee-wee player, to running over and through any opposing high school team to record a combined 14 touchdowns, passing and rushing, and close to 1,500 yards passing and running this year.
“I probably will never have another quarterback like Curtis again,” said Fluck, who is in his 10th season as head coach of the Burrs. “He’s an influence who doesn’t get rattled. Besides being a tremendous athlete, he does all of the intangibles. I personally think Penn State got a steal in Curtis. He works hard and wants to be the best. Curtis would like an opportunity to be a quarterback, but all he asks is a legitimate shot. Curtis may have to play wide receiver, but talking to Penn State, if he’s not the quarterback, he has to have the ball in his hands. He’s just that explosive.”
Wide receiver presents a better chance for Drake to get on the field as a true freshman at Penn State next fall. But it still gnaws at him the criticism he received his sophomore year, when he took over at quarterback for an 0-4 team and led it to a league championship—going 9-0.
“I’d definitely like the chance to play quarterback [at Penn State],” Drake said. “Playing quarterback would definitely be a challenge at that level. But I hear even now that there are some things I can’t do on a football field. I thought it would stop after my sophomore year, when I became the quarterback.
“Coach Fluck believed in me, but I heard a lot of criticism. Things like I couldn’t read a defense and I was a running back playing quarterback, things that black quarterbacks hear all the time. But I liked being the underdog, and I liked hearing the criticism. My team and my coaches believed in me. That helped me a lot. I turned it around into something positive.”
Before adding to his considerable legacy at West Catholic, Drake has some bigger things to accomplish. He’d like to be the first Burrs’ quarterback to win a state championship, something Philadelphia Catholic League schools are eligible for the first time this season.
“Winning the state championship is the biggest priority, though we are taking it one game at a time,” Drake said. “Winning a state championship is everything for me, my grades and winning the states in football, in that order. It would be a nice way to go out.”
Since no one seems to be able to catch him.
Joseph Santoliquito covers high school sports for the Philadelphia Daily News and is a frequent contributor to MaxPreps.com.