In a bit of a surprise, Porter Ridge linebacker Nick Vagnone took the reins as the Pirates’ starting quarterback in last week’s opener at Monroe. It didn’t take long for Vagnone to look comfortable in that role, however, as the junior completed eight of his 13 passes for two scores (with one interception) while also leading the Pirates’ zone-read Option offense on several scoring drives.
“(Vagnone) understands schemes, he understands how to make proper reads,” said Porter Ridge coach Blair Hardin. “He managed the game well. He took what was given to him; he made some good throws, he made some good reads on some run plays and put us in good positions.”
Vagnone said he learned the position from watching last year’s quarterback Lee McNeill, who went 27-3 the previous two seasons and led the Pirates to the Class 4A title game in 2011. While Vagnone called replacing McNeill, now with the Charlotte 49ers, “impossible,” he did focus on emulating two of the former leader’s attributes.
“My goal going into every game is going to be to manage the game and protect the football,” said Vagnone. “It felt good (to get this win).”
Running back Chris Duffy racked up 75 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. Receiver Luke Bayly caught two passes (both touchdowns) for 54 yards while Marcus Freeman hauled in three catches for 59 yards.
Defensively, tackle Devyn Cunningham managed five stops and three sacks, followed by fellow defensive lineman Ryan Dilworth’s two. Linebacker Austin Moore led the team with seven tackles, followed by Vagnone with six.
For Vagnone, the win over Monroe was an extremely good sign, given the holes the Pirates needed to fill this season.
“We wanted to get right back to winning, and we worked our butts off this past offseason because we knew we were going to miss a lot of people like (McNeill) and (former receiver) Jordan Oakley,” said Vagnone. “We knew we had to make up for that with hard work and studying and preparation.
“It’s a sigh of relief knowing we got this first (win).”