When you're a high school football coach and your quarterback is Joe Flacco, you don't run the Wing-T.
That's what former Audubon (N.J.)
head coach Ralph Schiavo discovered in the fall of 2002, Flacco's senior season.
Schiavo took over the helm of the Audubon program after spending several years there as an assistant. During that time, Audubon's offense revolved around the typically run-heavy Wing-T system.
With 6-foot-5, 200-pound Joe Flacco behind center for his senior season, that was not an option for Schiavo.
"When I got the job, I just felt that with his abilities as a thrower, no matter what we had on the outside or up front, we needed to get him in the shotgun and let it rip," Schiavo said.
Audubon, a small school with approximately 500 kids, was not blessed with many Division I skill players.
"We did not have a guy that ran under a 4.9," Schiavo said. "They were all 5-8, 5-9, 5-10 guys that ran great routes."
Nonetheless, Audubon shifted its offense to suit Flacco, to impressive results. According to Schiavo, Flacco suggested his own plays, flawlessly made reads and, occasionally, aired the ball out 60 yards down field.
Schiavo, who is now the head coach of Haddon Heights, was as much a fan as a coach.
"I was like holy crap, not only is this fun to coach, it's fun to watch," Schiavo said.
Audubon finished 4-6 Flacco's senior season, mostly due to its defensive struggles.
However, Flacco and the team's offense thrived. In a game against West Deptford (which Audubon lost 62-37), Flacco set South Jersey records for passing attempts (55), completions (37) and yards (471).
Flacco originally signed with Pitt before transferring to Delaware, where he blossomed into an NFL prospect before the Ravens drafted him in the first round of the 2008 draft.
Flacco's youngest brother, Tom Flacco
, will be a senior at Eastern (Voorhees, N.J.)
in the fall.
He's having similar success in a spread offense. If he tops 1,900 passing yards as a senior, he will break the state's all-time passing record and become the only player to throw for more than 6,000 yards in state history.
On Sunday, Schiavo and many others around South Jersey will be rooting for Flacco to pick apart the Patriots' defense the way he dissected defenses around South Jersey a decade ago.