It doesn’t take Jack Stagaard many steps to get to the Phillipsburg football practice field from his home.
“It’s a seven-minute walk,” said the Lopatcong resident and P’burg sophomore.
But now Stagaard will be taking a very big step for the Stateliners. When Phillipsburg takes the field for its season opener Friday night at Mid-State 38 Delaware Division foe Franklin (7), Stagaard will start at quarterback.
“It’s pretty awesome,” said the sophomore about being the Stateliner starting quarterback. “I know I will get a lot of help from my line. As long as I do my job, I know I’ll be alright.”
Stagaard knows what quarterbacks should do. He’s played quarterback ever since he’s played tackle football for Lopatcong. He came to Maloney Stadium for years, sometimes to watch his brother, Richie (Phillipsburg 2008), play wide receiver.
“We didn’t throw the ball much in peewee football, we just ran the ball, and I had a few designed runs,” Stagaard said. “When I went to P’burg games I always would watch what the quarterback was doing and what he was supposed to be doing.”
Phillipsburg head coach Frank Duffy knows what he wants Stagaard to be doing as he dons the garnet-and-gray for his first varsity game.
"I am looking for poise,” said the first-year head coach. “I am looking for leadership. I am looking for Jack to make good decisions. You don’t have to make every single throw; you have to take care of the ball. Sometimes throwing the ball away is making the play, especially in the red zone. Throw it away and play another down.”
And that is what Stagaard knows he can deliver.
“I think the coaches like that I make quick decisions,” he said. “I can throw the ball away, look one way and throw the other and make the right play.”
Stagaard’s teammates like something else that he does well, something that he has earned their respect for.
“Jack can take a hit,” senior running back/linebacker and co-captain Garrett Boures said. “We saw that in the scrimmages. He takes a hit and he bounces right back.”
Stagaard, at 6-1, 165 pounds isn’t the biggest guy on the field – toughness, of course, does not always come in king-size packages --- but he might be the hardest to shake up, physically and mentally.
“He seems very cool, very calm, very collected,” Duffy said. “He almost seems nonchalant out there. He doesn’t seem to get rattled – that is a character trait he has. He’s going to make mistakes, he has made mistakes in the scrimmages, but he can only develop from that.”
In fact, Stagaard made perhaps the biggest mistake a quarterback can make in the game-conditions scrimmage against Elizabeth.
“That was me who threw the pick-six,” said Stagaard of the interception Elizabeth ran back for a touchdown. “It was an out-route and he jumped. I could have led my receiver a lot more, but the Elizabeth kid made a nice play on the ball. After that happened, I figured what else could go wrong? But I know I felt when it happened and I don’t want to feel that way again.”
Mistakes, as Duffy well knows, will happen to sophomore quarterbacks. It’s their aftermath that can be more important – and the support he gets.
“Even if he makes a mistake, he has a senior backfield in me and Ja’Quan (Jones),” Boures said. “He knows we’ll have his back. I am impressed with his attitude. He’s so calm when he’s in the pocket.”
Maybe that’s because Stagaard has the right role model for being a quarterback.
“I have always liked Aaron Rodgers,” said Stagaard, who considers himself a Green Bay Packers and New York Giants fan. “He is mechanically so good, and he just gets it done, like the Hail Mary against the Lions last year. That was crazy.”
Phillipsburg fans might not want games to come down to Hail Marys, but they’d take a Rodgers-esque QB any day.
They’ll get their first look Friday.
“I am excited,” said Stagaard of the Franklin game. “I can’t wait. It’s game week. I am all pumped up.”
Pumped up to take the next big step in his football career – Phillipsburg starting quarterback.
Brad Wilson may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @bradwsports. Find Lehigh Valley high school sports on Facebook.