Westmoreland County football Q&A with Ligonier Valley’s John Caldwell
Think of the trust people put in calculators, traffic signals and parachute packs.
It’s like that with John Caldwell at Ligonier Valley.
The run-and-gun Rams have complete faith in Caldwell, their senior quarterback who uses his smarts and strong arm to guide an intricate spread offense down the field with sky-high heaves and strikes.
And all this program does is win.
“It’s his intelligence,” Ligonier Valley coach Roger Beitel said. “He is a student of the game. John throws guys open. With our (read-pass) system, we’re really dependent on him to make good reads, and we trust he’ll do that.”
Caldwell is ranked No. 1 in his class of more than 100 students.
His talents -- and those of senior wideout Aaron Tutino -- were on full display last week as the Rams (6-0) rolled to a 67-20 win over Purchase Line in the District 6 Heritage Conference. The pitch-and-catch fest produced a few school records for Caldwell and Tutino as the duo went zany.
Caldwell (5-foot-10, 150 pounds) completed 20 of 23 pass attempts for 402 yards and seven touchdowns. The yardage total broke former star Collin Smith’s single-game record of 312 yards. Caldwell threw six scores in a game earlier this season.
Tutino pulled in 12 catches for 286 yards and five scores -- also program records for a game.
Caldwell threw six rainbow scores before halftime and played only one series in the second half, on which the Rams also scored. He completed passes to five receivers.
Beitel said the Rams got the ball back with 2:10 and 50 seconds left in the first half last week and scored on both possessions.
“And both were on his calls,” Beitel said. “With a lot of his throws, our guys don’t have to adjust to the ball.”
“He puts the ball right there,” Tutino said.
Caldwell is this week’s Westmoreland Q&A.
How impressed are you by last week’s performance?
To break records held by a guy like Collin (Smith), a D-I caliber guy, that means a lot to me.
What makes you such a sound leader of such a high-powered offense?
I study a lot of film, and I think that gives me a big advantage. I look for things we can improve on.
What was more impressive to you last week, the yardage and touchdowns, or the 20-for-23 efficiency?
It’s nice to be efficient. But it could have been better. I totally should have had one picked off. I got a little greedy and threw a bad one. It was low enough, though, so they couldn’t tip it.
You seem to be in great rhythm with your receivers. Why is that?
It’s all chemistry. We’re all in the same page, and that comes from reps all summer and in spring ball.
You seem to have command of the team’s spread offense. You must have an elaborate wristband of plays?
I only wear the wristband for two-minute drills. We do have a complex offense, but I have been studying since I was a freshman and sophomore. The spread can be a lot of fun. A lot of times it’s taking what the defense gives you. As the quarterback, you have to be the commander out there.
What is it like having such a talented receiver like Aaron Tutino?
He can’t be covered one-on-one. That’s the reality of it.
You have played this season for former teammate Joey Dubics, who died in July. What would he think of all these records being broken?
I think about him every day. He was a really close friend. He drives me. He’d probably make fun of me breaking the records. He was always lighthearted.
To what do you attribute the team’s success over the last few years (33-2 since 2016)?
It’s coaching. We have the best coaching staff, the smartest coaching staff there is. They always have us prepared.
Will anything other than a championship be considered a shortcoming for this team?
Yes. Southern Columbia is the goal. It’s no secret they’re the best in the state. Our goal is to play them and beat them.
Your coach, Roger Beitel, has a burger named after him at Ligonier’s Forks Inn. The Beitel Burger. What menu item would you want to carry your namesake? And what would they name it?
Probably a steak. I’m a big steak guy. I don’t know about the name. I’d have to think about that one.
You are ranked No. 1 in your class? How do you balance everything so well?
I try to work hard and excel in both (sports and academics). After school I like to get my work done, then I can go have fun.
Who is the funniest guy on the team?
I’d have to say (senior defensive lineman) Lukas Dewitt or (senior left tackle) Blake Bridge. They’re thick as thieves. They love to joke around.