Jake Wolfe may not have started his high school football career as a quarterback.
“I was a receiver, changed to quarterback,” this Montour senior said Friday night.
Now three games into his final season, Wolfe is making quite the case to end his tenure with the Spartans as one of the WPIAL’s best dual-threat signal-callers.
Wolfe ran for four touchdowns, and threw for another score, Friday night to lead Class 4A Montour back from a 17-point, second-half deficit and secure a 42-35 non-conference victory against Class 5A South Fayette in the Spartans home opener at Thomas J. Birko Memorial Stadium.
Montour now is 3-0 and benefiting from what Wolfe credited as the experience gained from his third season as a starting quarterback and plenty of development from Spartans assistant coaches Jared Buck and Randall Labrie.
“When I run, I love to run,” Wolfe said. “Coach Buck, Coach Labrie, they’ve been working with me at quarterback, getting my arm right. Now I feel like an actual quarterback.”
Wolfe outdueled another strong starting quarterback in South Fayette senior Nico Lamonde during Montour’s latest win.
The 6-foot-2, 195-pound Wolfe completed 17-of-27 passes against the Lions for 273 yards, while carrying the ball 29 times for 170 yards. He scored on runs of 1, 2, 10 and 6 yards, while connecting with junior receiver Daniel Batch for a 51-yard touchdown pass.
Lamonde completed 22-of-34 passes for 255 yards, 2 touchdowns and 1 interception against the Spartans.
“Jake’s our guy,” said Montour coach Lou Cerro, who earned his 200th career victory courtesy of Wolfe’s heroics. “He’s the heart and soul of this team right now. We’ll look to him for guidance and to get better each and every week. He makes plays. That’s all we can ask.”
And that was certainly true on the Spartans’ game-winning drive.
After inheriting the football on the South Fayette 34 with 3:25 left in the game, Wolfe led Montour on a seven-play drive, which culminated when he crossed the goal line with 1:17 left from 6 yards.
It was the Spartans’ first lead since senior kicker Matthew Marcinko kicked the first of his three field goals to hand his team a 3-0 lead with 7:44 left in the first quarter.
“It felt great,” Wolfe said. “It was amazing to get up on that team. I carried all the momentum and ended the game.”
Montour trailed, 28-18, at the half, and by as much as 35-18 in the third quarter, before scoring 24 unanswered points to end the game.
Cerro said Wolfe’s effort was typical of what he has come to expect from his quarterback.
“As things were flowing here tonight, we knew we could keep the ball in his hands, we could trust him and get it done,” Cerro said. “That was big for us tonight.”
The road to Wolfe’s strong showing against South Fayette began in his first year as a starter as a sophomore in 2021. He completed 60-of-123 passes that season with 733 yards, 4 touchdowns and 4 interceptions, while also rushing for 290 yards and 3 additional scores.
Wolfe only got stronger as a junior when he completed 109-of-182 passes for 1,473 yards, 17 touchdowns and 4 interceptions. He also rushed for 350 yards and 4 touchdowns in 2022.
“He’s just matured physically, mentally each year,” Cerro said. “He’s a tough kid, nothing bothers him.”
In a 37-28 victory at Mars in Week 0 as a senior, Wolfe passed for 191 yards and a touchdown, while also rushing for 95 yards and 2 scores. He followed that performance by completing 24-of-51 passes for 387 yards, 5 touchdowns, 1 interception and 139 yards rushing in a 35-21 Week 1 win at Moon.
“Over the summer, we put in the hard hours just for a moment like this,” said Wolfe of his team’s fast start to the 2023 season. “The team has great chemistry. We always know if we’re in a bad situation we can always come back.”
It is that kind of leadership which has earned Wolfe the respect of his teammates.
“Jake, he’s one of the best leaders I’ve ever had,” Batch said. “Last year, I didn’t know the plays at all, he helped me, sat with me, to know all the plays.
“This year, he’s helping everybody. The young kids, to know the plays, even the young quarterbacks who, even though they’re trying to win his position, he’s helping them.”
Batch said aside from Wolfe’s leadership, his teammates most importantly have ample faith in their quarterback’s ability to make plays.
“When he throws the ball to me, I know it’s going to get where it goes,” Batch said. “When he throws it to anyone else, I know it’s going to get where it goes. When he runs that ball, he can run that ball, I know he’s going to get yards.”
Wolfe and his Spartans will need to be at the top of their games moving forward.
Montour next will travel Friday to Heinz Field for a game against defending WPIAL Class 4A champion and PIAA runner-up Aliquippa.
“I feel like we’ve got momentum,” Batch said. “We know Quip is good. They’ve got good players, but we know we’ve got good players, too, even if everyone else doesn’t know that. We know that we’ve got elite players. They’re going to come for us. We’re going to come for them.”
Considering how Montour finished against South Fayette, Wolfe said his team should have plenty of confidence against the high-powered Quips.
South Fayette senior running back Nate Deanes carried the ball 17 times for 123 yards and a touchdown, while receiver Michael Gimigliano caught seven passes from Lamonde for 85 yards and two scores.
How the Spartans rebounded to outscore the Lions, 24-7, in the second half, however, will be what Wolfe and his teammates choose to focus on from their most recent victory.
“We couldn’t ask for much more going into Quip week,” Wolfe said. “It’s a great team, great athletes. We’re going to have a great game plan. We’re going to give them a shot.”