CHESTER — Joe Battiato’s favorite NFL quarterback is Aaron Rodgers.
Battiato loves watching the Packers' future Hall of Famer turn would-be sacks into game-breaking passes.
The Chester senior is developing his own knack for keeping plays alive in his third season as a starter.
When Battiato starts scrambling, Jacob Delgado and Kevin Smith, his top receivers, are ready to cut off their routes and find an open pocket in defenses. The chemistry between the three classmates led to some staggering numbers against Liberty on Friday.
Battiato threw for 456 yards, the fifth-highest total in Section 9 history. Delgado (181 yards) and Stein (210 yards) both caught 10 passes in the 40-37 win.
“You see the field much better after a while,” Battiato said. “You learn defenses, what they are going to do and how to defeat them. (Liberty) was sending a lot of pressure; that's why the run game wasn't working. It was one-on-one with the receivers, and we have an advantage when they go one-on-one.”
Creating plays on the fly is nothing different from the days when the Chester seniors played football during recess in elementary school.
“It was intense,” said Delgado, a slot receiver, whose team is off to a 2-0 start. “Sometimes, they would make us stay inside because we were a little too rowdy.”
Stein, who is now 6-foot-3 and 225 pounds, and Battiato played on the same youth football team in first grade as an offensive lineman and wide receiver, respectively. Delgado moved to Chester in second grade and was a teammate of Stein through the youth ranks.
Battiato left football in second grade and returned his freshman season. Following an injury to the jayvee quarterback, Battiato moved under center and has remained there.
Battiato’s 456 yards were 32 yards shy of Vinny Aloi’s school record set in 2014, the season in which Chester advanced to the state final.
“It's cool to look back on it and know where we came from as little kids,” Stein said. “We were in sixth and seventh grade going to the varsity games, seeing Chester going to the Dome and seeing all the history happen and now, we can be a part of some of it.”
Battiato currently leads the section with 664 yards and seven touchdown passes. Stein tops the section with 16 catches for 295 yards and has caught 22 touchdown passes, mostly from Battiato, over the past three seasons. Delgado’s 14 receptions are second in the section. He’s averaging 17.5 yards per catch.
Three years and countless connections have built trust in Battiato with his receivers.
“It makes it much easier for me because I know I can rely on them to make a play,” Battiato said. “Even if they are not open, I can throw it up to them and one of them can make a play.”