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Friday, April 20 High School Sports

Previewing the season: 10 high school quarterbacks to watch

Brandan Bisack, Warde: Bisack's numbers as a junior were unspectacular (five touchdowns, 11 interceptions), but he delivered a strong showing at the Grip It & Rip It 7-on-7 tournament last month. The Mustangs finished in the top six at the 40-team event, going 8-3. Only so much stock can be put into a passing camp, but the Mustangs are hoping the experience that the 6-foot-5 Bisack gained under center last year translates into success in 2014.

Coach's take: "Tall. He's got a ton of height. He's a competitor." -- Ludlowe's Vin Camera

Ryan Dunn, Ridgefield: Much of the credit went to Dunn and bruising tailback Will Bonaparte for authoring the biggest surprise of last year's postseason: a 35-33 upset of top-ranked Newtown in the Class LL first round. Bonaparte, a 1,938-yard rusher, is now off to the University of Maryland to play lacrosse, leaving Dunn as the engineer of Ridgefield's offense. There's little reason to think that Dunn won't thrive as a senior, especially after throwing for 2,371 yards and 27 touchdowns last year.

Coach's take: "Ridgefield runs the spread, but it's a different version than Greenwich and Darien. They like to run the quarterback a little more if they can. ... He's as good an athlete as they have on that team. It always seems like they put their best athlete at quarterback." -- McMahon's AJ Albano

Timmy Graham, Darien: The Blue Wave junior is easily the least-experienced player on this list, having attempted only 14 passes at the varsity level. The situation he finds himself in, though, is perhaps the most intriguing. Silas Wyper graduated after passing for 3,052 yards last year, but Graham takes over an instant contender.

Coach's take: "He's had a great offseason. He has all the tools. He's 6-foot-4, he's a good athlete. He has to pick up where Silas left off in terms of leadership." -- Darien's Rob Trifone

ANFERNY ITH, Danbury: There was change at the top -- with former Cheshire coach Mark Ecke replacing Dan Donovan -- but stability under center. Ith was productive in 2013 despite the Hatters' 3-8 record, throwing for 1,736 yards and 16 touchdowns as a junior. Ith also showed an ability to scramble, running for 500 yards and three scores.

Coach's take: "He's a tremendous athlete. He can hurt you with his arm or his legs. He's very unpredictable, which creates headaches for the defense. ... You've got to try and bottle him up." -- Ridgefield's Kevin Callahan

Jake Kasuba, Foran: Any time you throw for nearly 3,000 yards, you're going to get the defense's attention. And when you're the state's leading returning passer, like Kasuba is, the spotlight's truly going to be on you. Kasuba picked apart opponents as a junior, passing for 2,918 yards -- seventh-most in the state -- and 27 touchdowns, yet Foran missed the Class M playoffs at 8-3. No matter how many trophies the CIAC believes it needs to hand out with its remodeled playoff format, the Lions won't go anywhere this year without Kasuba at his best.

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Coach's take: "He sees the field extremely well. ... Very, very smart kid. It goes well beyond his athletic ability. Before he snaps the ball, he always puts our team in an advantageous situation." -- Foran's Jeff Bevino

Michael Kreiger, Derby: The Red Raiders were dealt a blow when star tailback Tyrae Small went down last October with a broken shoulder. Kreiger made up some of the production on the ground that was lost, rushing for 728 yards and eight scores. Even better, the junior threw for 2,214 yards and 24 touchdowns.

Coach's take: "He gets it. He just has that `it' factor. ... He's cool, he's calm, he's collected. During a game, if a play goes wrong, he turns nothing into something." -- Derby's George French

Matt Marzulla, Greenwich: The Cardinals flourished after turning to the then-unproven junior Marzulla in Week 4 last year. Marzulla's numbers weren't eye-popping -- five touchdowns, three interceptions and 754 yards -- but all he did was win. In fact, he did so seven times in eight starts. It will be Marzulla's job to lose in 2014, with the Cardinals coming off an 8-3 campaign.

Coach's take: "He's got great leadership qualities. He can run and throw the football." -- Staples' Marce Petroccio

Jai'Quan McKnight, Ansonia: Over the last two years, McKnight had the luxury of handing the ball off to Arkeel Newsome. And Newsome ran, and ran some more, all the way to the top of the state's all-time rushing chart. But with Newsome now at UConn and McKnight entrenched under center at Ansonia for one more season, the focus shifts. It's now on the dual-threat McKnight (1,008 passing yards, 555 rushing yards, 22 total touchdowns in 2013) to steer the three-time defending state champs.

Coach's take: "I think it's a matter of us giving him a little more responsibility. ... He has the chance to be the marquee player in the state of Connecticut with the ball in his hands." -- Ansonia's Tom Brockett

Mark Piccirillo, Shelton: A rash of injuries slowed the Gaels last year, enough so that they missed the Class LL playoffs despite a 5-1 start. Piccirillo wasn't to blame, though, as he remained a steady presence under center. Piccirillo not only punished defenses with his arm (1,888 passing yards, 19 touchdowns), but he also kept them honest with his legs, running for 689 yards and 18 scores.

Coach's take: "He's the strongest quarterback I've ever seen. He's built to a T. Whatever he lacks in height (5-foot-8), he makes up for in every other feature." -- French

Colton Smith, Fairfield Prep: A first-year starter, Smith was as instrumental as anyone in guiding Prep to its first state final in 25 years. Smith was dangerous with his arm, passing for 1,708 yards, and he was even more electric with his legs. His 1,899 rushing yards and 29 touchdowns on the ground were second to only Barlow's Jack Shaban (2,211, 36) among quarterbacks. Now a senior, Smith will again have Boston College-bound tackle Anthony Palazzolo protecting his blind side.

Coach's take: "He's a heck of a player. He can run it and he can throw it. It's very similar to what we have here (at Shelton) with Mark. When you're playing Prep, you've got to stop him." -- Shelton's Jeff Roy