It looked like just a trick play in a season opener.
Instead, it was Shane McGovern’s audition.
McGovern is a senior on the Father Judge High School football team, and when the season began, he had his hands full playing safety and wide receiver, catching passes from Aidan Dooley.
But Dooley got hurt four games into the season. Four games later, Dooley’s backup, Mike Van Horn also got hurt. The Crusaders needed a quarterback.
“I played football in pound ball years ago, and in the opening game against Lansdale Catholic, we ran a trick play and I threw a 40-yard pass,” said McGovern, a Fox Chase resident. “So we knew I could play quarterback a little bit. But it was a lot different, going from pound ball to high school.”
At least McGovern had an easy schedule to work with, right? After playing in relief against Roman Catholic, McGovern’s first start was against St. Joe’s Prep, one of the best teams in the country. After that it was Archbishop Wood, and then a rematch against the Hawks in the Catholic League playoffs.
But despite the tough competition, McGovern had fun.
“I had a lot of help, both injured quarterbacks came to practice every day and helped me,” McGovern said. “They helped me a lot. I needed it because they played in games like that before. And everyone helped me. It was different coming out as the starter, but we practiced against Prep and Wood’s defense, so I was definitely ready. We had everything ready, I just went out and played.
“I definitely have a new respect for quarterbacks. I think it’s the hardest position to play. I remember games thinking, ‘I was open, why didn’t they just throw it?’ You don’t get much time back there. I know that now.”
McGovern doesn’t have a lot of time left in his high school football career. The Crusaders have just one game left on the schedule, a big one, when they travel to Abraham Lincoln for the annual Thanksgiving Day game. The Railsplitters are having a great season, going 9-2 and winning a playoff game before falling to Northeast in the Public League 6A semifinals.
Judge hasn’t had the year it wanted to, winning just two games. But a win on Thanksgiving would mean a lot for the young Crusaders, and it would give McGovern and other seniors a chance to go out winners.
Either way, McGovern has had nothing but fun this season.
“We came a long way this year,” McGovern said. “You have a new coach, and we have a lot of new guys. When the young guys came up, we started going in the right direction. It wasn’t the year we wanted to have, but we stayed together the whole year. There was no finger pointing, we just tried to get better.”
Judge did start young players at many key positions, and McGovern did his best to help them improve. He saw a lot of improvement as the year went on and he’s optimistic about the future of the program.
“We aren’t going to win (a championship) this year, but they’re definitely going in the right direction,” McGovern said. “There’s some really good young kids on this team and they’re going to be good. We had a new coach, so we all learned a lot this year and it’s going to help them.”
McGovern has high hopes for the future, too.
Next year, he wants to play college football. He’ll likely go to one of his main positions, either receiver or safety. He’s also eyeing a career in sports medicine.
“I’ve talked to a few coaches, and some are telling me that I can help them on defense and others say they like what I do offensively,” McGovern said. “I’ll play either. I’ll be happy at safety and I’ll be happy at receiver. I’ll go wherever I think fits best, but I really don’t care what position I play.
“I want to do something in sports, either sports medicine or physical therapy. If college football doesn’t work out, or even if it does, after football, I want to stay involved in sports. I love football.”
Just like college, he’s open to playing any position for his final game at Judge.
He doesn’t care if he’s behind center, going out for passes or playing safety. He just wants to make sure he ends his high school career with a win, in front of all the fans and his family.
“It would be pretty cool to play quarterback in the last game, I like quarterback because you can throw it or take off and run,” McGovern said. “But Mike might come back for that game and if he does, I’ll be happy to play receiver. It’s not what I want, it’s what’s best for the team. I’ll be happy doing either.
“I think it will be a fun game. Lincoln is good, and it’s always a fun game. I played sophomore and junior year. It’s good for the seniors, and this year it’s our senior year. We want to beat them.”