ANDOVER, Mass. -- Last Wednesday, a good hour before the start of practice, Andover quarterback C.J. Scarpa was huddled inside the team meeting room along with his coaches, discussing and strategizing various offensive schemes on a large white board.
While the rest of his teammates began filtering into the stadium locker room next door a short time later to dress, Scarpa, already suited up, was using this extra time to work on the intricacies of his trade.
This routine is nothing new for Scarpa. A noted student of the game, the senior is constantly looking for ways to make himself better than he already is.
Now in his second season guiding the Golden Warrior offense, Scarpa is regarded by many as one of the best in the state at his position. His development over these past two years has been nothing short of remarkable.
“C.J.’s sophomore year was his development year,” said Andover head coach E.J. Perry, now in his third season. “He did a tremendous job at the junior varsity level but he broke his finger in the 10th game that year. If that had not happened, he might’ve gotten a few snaps at varsity in our Thanksgiving Day game and playoff game that season because he was coming on so rapidly."
Although the broken finger served as a mere setback for him, Scarpa spent the following off-season attending various quarterback camps as well as putting in his own individual work. As a result, it allowed his skills to flourish immensely.
Last season, Andover finished 7-4 with Scarpa tossing 21 touchdowns. This year, he has already thrown 27 with only four picks and 2,088 yards as the Golden Warriors stand at 8-1 and possess a shot of earning a berth in the Division 1 Eastern Mass. Super Bowl.
“No doubt his personal accomplishments have been truly amazing," Perry said. “But what I tell C J all the time is the only stat that matters are wins. I tell him that is how you are truly measured as a quarterback."
What makes these feats all the more amazing is Scarpa is 5-foot-8 and 160 pounds. While he has heard his fare share of naysayers who say he is to small to play the position, Scarpa refuses to listen to any of it.
“Yeah, I’ve heard it from a bunch of people,” Scarpa said. “But I’ve never doubted myself. My thinking is don’t let anyone say you cannot do it. The difference between 5-8 and 6-4 is obviously the height. But if you are 5-8, like me, then you need to get into the film room, study and get into the weight room and be as strong as you can. I’ve leaned to never let anyone doubt you.”
Scarpa says ongoing conversations he has had with former Brockton standout quarterback Tom Colombo has helped him a tremendously. Colombo, himself small in stature standing 5-foot-7, had heard the same criticisms while lining up behind center in the late 1980's for the Boxers. All Colombo did was become the state’s all-time leader in touchdown passes thrown (85), before the mark was eclipsed a year ago by Everett’s Jonathan DiBiaso. Upon leaving Brockton, Colombo went on to have a sensational career at Villanova University.
“Just talking with him and hearing about what he did at the high school and college level, and his height being simlar to mine, he just told me to ignore the criticisms and that I could do it too just like he did,” said Scarpa, who will play at Elon College next season. “That really meant a lot to me."
Because of Scarpa’s ability to read defenses so quickly and make adjustments on the fly, the Golden Warriors have effectively been able to run it’s up-tempo-style offense to almost near-perfection.
“The biggest thing C.J. has is the mental aspect to the quarterback position,” said Perry. “The offense we run here is quick and fast and you need to pick up blitzes and understand the routes our receivers are going. In this type of offense a lot of kids may have difficulty picking these things up. But C J understands the entire game and runs it well. What we tell C J in this offense is that it’s not about the last play but the next play. If we lose two yards or the coaches or him make a bad read who cares. We just move on to the next play.”
Perry’s devotion to Andover’s no-huddle, spread offense should come as no surprise to anyone. His brother John, head coach at Merrimack College, runs a similar style. So too does his other brother James, a former Brown University exceptional quarterback who still holds most of the Ivy League passing records, and is now the offensive coordinator at Princeton University.
“C.J. understands this offense and knows what everyone is doing on every play, including our offensive line,” said Perry. “As a coach, that is the biggest concern you have with a quarterback because in our offense sometimes we have five guys speard out running various routes and you want to be sure the quarterback knows where everyone is going. Fortunately for us, C J does.”
Adds Scarpa, “I know I can read defenses better than other kids. You understand a lot more with each game and each play. I think it is sometimes better that there really isn’t a lot of time to think in-between plays. You just go out there and whatever you see you throw the ball in that direction. Fortunately I have some great players around me and some great coaches who have helped me along the way.”
Andover has a plethora of receivers for Scarpa to choose from. Cam Farnham, Will Heikkinen, Andrew Deloury, Cam Davey and running back Jack Sylvester have all proven their worth catching the football many times over this season.
“I am definitely confident in my abilities,” Scarpa said. “I know this is such a great team. With everyone here putting in the needed time and getting to know everyone and what they can do has been truly special this year. I feel everyone here believes (a Super Bowl) can happen and for me, that’s the most important thing. Here, everyone believes we can do it and understands to never get complacent. As a senior you only get one shot at this so I believe you might as well do it the right way. As a team that’s what we have been doing.”