November 13, 2009
In the Limelight
Palazzi brings punch of offense
The first year starter from Newfoundland came into the season having started only two games and now leads the league in touchdowns (16), passing yards per game (191.6) and passing efficiency (164.8), while guiding the Crusaders to a 7-2 start and a chance to play for the league championship tomorrow against first-place Union.
At Wallenpaupack High School, Palazzi was a three-year letterman who never played without the support of his cheering parents in the stands. To this day, his parents still come to every game and often offer advice.
"My town has been buzzing," Palazzi said referring to the response he has received from his town in light of his stellar play. "My parents remind me to not let the attention get to my head," he said.
It would be understandable for Palazzi to soak in a smidge of the praise he's been getting lately. When asked what the sophomore means to his team, Head Coach Steve Briggs can't help but beam and say, "everything."
"Rich is running the show," Briggs said. Week after week the young quarterback has ripped defenses to shreds, with his most recent rampage coming last Saturday against league rival Worcester Polytech, as he threw for 193 yards and five touchdowns.
The most impressive figure, however, is the number two, which represents the amount of interceptions he has thrown all season. His 16 touchdowns to two interceptions is the epitome of a low-risk, high-reward player, and as Briggs pointed out, neither of those interceptions came to a league rival (both occurred against Lycoming.)
Palazzi attributes much of his success to his coaches, specifically Briggs and quarterbacks coach Jack Lydic.
"Coach Lydic has done a great job working with me and making me better, and he really helps me keep my focus," he said.
Briggs, meanwhile, believes the success is much more innate. "Rich has a very rare ability that only the great players have, and that is the ability to read defenses well, and do it quickly" he said.
"Rich does both, and that lone trait could help him be great," he added with emphasis on the last word.
They both agreed on one thing, however, and that was his season observing last year's starter and All-Liberty League honorable mention quarterback Derek Pope '09.
"Derek was a great quarterback and he really showed me the ropes last year," Palazzi said.
Briggs agrees, saying that "Pope became very efficient by the end of the year and I think Rich saw the success we enjoyed at the end of the season because of that. He got a chance to start twice and I think that helped him adjust to the speed of the game as well."
Palazzi made quick work in shedding an old image of a one dimensional offense as he opened the season with 143 and 193 yard passing games before exploding for 287 yards in a loss to non-conference rival Lycoming. That set tup one of the most balanced, potent offensive attacks in the league.
Palazzi said he believes it is a result of teams not respecting the passing game.
"Teams stack eight men in the box trying to stop Pav," he said referring to Susquehanna's explosive running back, senior Dave Paveletz.
"They are basically asking me to throw the ball, and play-action (fake hand-off, then pass play) has worked real well," he said.
Whatever the reason may be, it cannot be denied that the young quarterback has added firepower to the Crusader offense that hasn't been seen in a while and gives fans of the Orange and Maroon a good reason to be excited for the future.
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