By Bill Doyle, Staff Writer
August, 22, 2012
Worcester, MA --- Junior A.J. Scerra and senior Graham Asum started at quarterback for Marlboro High, but for Worcester State, Scerra plays wide receiver and Asum is a cornerback.
They miss taking snaps from center.
"You get to touch the ball every day," Scerra said. "The ball is in your hands and you get to decide where it goes and how your team performs. I had been a quarterback all my life, so I do miss it."
"I went from touching the ball every play to barely touching it," Asum said.
These days WSU opponents try their best to keep the ball out of Scerra's and Asum's hands.
Scerra, a 5-foot-6, 165-pound junior, led the New England Football Conference last season with 10 touchdown catches and Asum, a 5-foot-9, 188-pound senior, has intercepted 11 passes in 27 career games.
Two years ago, Asum picked off seven passes, so opponents stopped throwing on his side of the field as much last fall. Four of those seven interceptions came against Westfield State and he returned one of them for a touchdown. So last year, Westfield didn't throw any passes in his direction until the game went into overtime. The Owls figured he might have tired by then, but they were wrong.
"One of their receivers came up to me and told me, 'Our game plan is to avoid you,' " Asum said.
WSU ended up winning, 42-40, in three OTs.
Asum started at QB for Marlboro as a senior in 2008 and he threw one of his touchdown passes to Scerra. The following year, Scerra called the signals. Their high school coach, Sean Mahoney, played quarterback for Worcester State's club national championship team in 1984.
When he came to WSU, Asum shared the quarterback duties with Tony Tokarz for two games before he missed two with a quad injury. In his absence, Tokarz established himself in the position, so Asum asked to switch to cornerback, and he has played it ever since. He was also the team's top kickoff returner last season, averaging 24.4 yards on 19 returns.
Scerra expected to play cornerback for WSU, but coach Brien Cullen switched him to wide receiver and he led the team last season with 43 catches and 635 receiving yards.
"He's our Wes Welker," Cullen said. "He's not really big, but he works hard, he's very athletic and he's a tough kid. All those Marlboro guys are tough kids."
Scerra's younger brother, Adam, another Marlboro High grad, transferred from Assumption and figures to start in the defensive backfield. One other Marlboro High graduate is a WSU freshman this fall, wide reciever Mike Tirpak.
Skeptics have told Scerra he was too small to play football for most of his life. As a senior at Marlboro, he weighed only 140 pounds. Scerra admitted that his mother, Lisa, worries about him every second of every game, but his lack of size hasn't held him back.
"I make sure I don't leave myself vulnerable as a smaller player," Scerra said.
Asum and Scerra, former high school teammates, felt honored to be elected captains this year along with Corey Spencer and Joe Sweet.
"It means a lot to the whole town," Asum said. "Our coaches are happy, our town's happy, I'm happy."
Scerra believes playing quarterback in high school helped mold him and Asum into leaders.
"I wasn't expecting to be a captain this year as a junior," Scerra said, "but it's a compliment to both of us knowing that our teammates want to have us lead them and respect us."
Scerra does whatever he can to improve. Last spring, he and his brother worked to improve their speed by combining with wide receiver Justin DeAndrade and running back Kyle White to form a 4-by-100 relay team on the WSU track team. This fall, they hope the Lancers will outrun the competition again.
Photo Above Courtesy of Worcester Telegram & Gazette