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BARONS' QB FEELS AT EASE

Chris McKay is gaining confidence with each snap, and SPC is the beneficiary.

Managing a quarterback is a balancing act.

A coach must quickly ascertain his passer's strengths and weaknesses. Then he has to formulate game plans that aren't so complicated as to overload his student yet have enough variety to keep opponents off guard.

All the while, the leader of the offense has to remain focused on his weekly task while adjusting to the newfound attention.

It's a seesaw experience, but once a coach and quarterback are in synch, the results can have quite an impact. Consider what St. Petersburg Catholic quarterback Chris McKay has accomplished in his first two games this season.

Against Berkeley Prep in Week 1, McKay threw for 349 yards and nearly pulled off a comeback in a one-point loss. Last week against Northside Christian, he threw for 200 yards and four touchdowns in a resounding win.

In two games McKay has passed for 549 yards, which ranks first among all quarterbacks in the Tampa Bay area.

"I found out I was the area's leader a few days ago," McKay said. "I was a little surprised by that. It shows how far I've come."

How far? Consider that in two games, McKay is more than halfway to reaching his total yards passing for all of last season.

"Chris has gained so much confidence and has given us a lot more balance on offense this season," Barons coach Tod Creneti said.

Coaching wisdom often favors experience over raw talent, especially at quarterback, where the mental burden is so great.

For McKay, the burden was initially too much. The first time he stepped under center as a varsity starter last season, he saw defensive linemen snorting, linebackers filling gaps, cornerbacks pressing receivers.

That made for a jittery season.

"I think it was tough at first because I didn't want to go out and make the plays," McKay said. "I wanted others to do it for me. But now I have more confidence. I want the ball, and I'm not worried about whether I'm going to make a mistake."

McKay's eagerness to distribute the ball works in an offense with a constellation of stars. St. Petersburg Catholic returns its top three receivers, led by Julian Smith, who has 228 receiving yards. And running back Keelyan Bryant is back after rushing for more than 1,000 yards last season.

"Having those guys really takes the pressure off me," McKay said. "It's nice because teams can't just key on our running game anymore. I just hope we're able to keep it up."

Bob Putnam can be reached at putnam@sptimes.com.

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