To say that Sean McGeehan and Luis Rodriguez (top photo) entered the preseason without much experience at quarterback would have been quite the understatement. Not only had the projected starters at North Arlington and Kearny respectively never played a varsity snap at the position, neither had done it in many years, if at all, on any level of football.
Based on their respective performances this weekend, you never would have realized that they were newcomers to the position.
On Friday night, Rodriguez, a junior, ran for 11 yards and three touchdowns, while also throwing for 70 yards with a TD to help lead Kearny to a 43-8 victory over Ferris. He also had a fumble return for a touchdown, an interception and a safety on defense.
Less than 24 hours later, it was McGeehan who went a perfect 7-for-7 through the air for 205 yards and three touchdowns, while also rushing for 38 yards and a TD as North Arlington went to Saddle Brook and earned a 41-12 win.
It was the first career win at quarterback for the two first-year signal callers, as well as the first victory of the season for their respective teams.
The stellar performances of Rodriguez and McGeehan make them The Observer Co-Athletes of the Week.
“I’m pleasantly surprised at how quickly (Luis is) excelling,” Kearny head coach John Policano said. “His confidence and leadership on the field are growing.”
“Despite having an 0-2 record coming in, Sean had played really well and exceeded expectations for sure,” said North Arlington head coach Joe Borkowski. “His numbers through three games really show how smart and athletic he is.”
Prior to this year, McGeehan’s athleticism proved incredibly valuable as a running back and defensive back for the Vikings. McGeehan was also the unofficial emergency wildcat quarterback in case starter and All-County quarterback Devin Rivas got injured.
“It all kind of started like two years ago, almost like a joke. Last year, it got a little more serious,” McGeehan said about the handful of practice reps he had at the position. “But as soon as last season ended Coach Bork was like ‘you’re probably going to be our guy next year.’ That’s when I started training in the offseason and putting in the work to be a quarterback.”
McGeehan’s first game as a quarterback on any level was a mixed bag. Falling behind early at Hawthorne, McGeehan had to throw the ball 36 times on opening night and while he totaled 309 yards and a touchdown, it also came at the cost of three interceptions.
Rather than be discouraged, he threw for 207 yards and a TD the next week against Pompton Lakes.
Overall, his 721 passing yards through three games are the third most in Bergen County according to stats submitted to NJ.com. For good measure, he’s run for 258 yards and four touchdowns.
“He’s a fighter man,” Borkowski said. “He’s a tough kid and he put those thoughts (of confidence issues after the first game) to rest the last two weeks.”
“I thought I would have been rushing the ball a lot more instead of passing it,” said McGeehan. “But whatever helps get those wins, I’m going to try to do it.”
While McGeehan’s rise to the QB1 spot at North Arlington was months in the making, Rodriguez’s ascent to the role at Kearny feels like a whirlwind in comparison.
It wasn’t until late July that Rodriguez, a junior, decided to come out for football, following the lead of good friend and basketball teammate Jonah Menendez, who also joined.
Rodriguez had played quarterback on the rec level when he was 10 and 11 years old, but was moved to wide receiver and then, eventually, focused his attention on basketball. But after not playing football the first two years in high school, Rodriguez immediately turned heads to become the starter at quarterback.
“He signed up for football and we always said that if one of us played, the other one would as well,” said Rodriguez.
“I knew I would love to get him on the football field because he is so athletic,” added Policano, who serves as a JV boys basketball coach, making him familiar with Rodriguez’s athletic ability. “My expectation was that he could play any skill position from watching him in basketball.”
Rodriguez completed 9-of-13 passes for 123 yards, a touchdown and an interception in the Kardinals’ season-opening loss at Memorial of West New York.
“I was really nervous (when I was named the starter) because I didn’t come into the football season expecting to play quarterback,” Rodriguez said. “I thought I would be more of a running back or a receiver.
“The first two scrimmages, I was really nervous. But once the season started, I felt really comfortable with the team and with football in general.”
If early results are any indication, it won’t be the last time Rodriguez or McGeehan put up big numbers at their new position.
Learn more about the writer ...
Jason Bernstein | Observer Sports Writer
Jason Bernstein joined The Observer as its sports writer in March 2022, following the retirement of Jim Hague. He has a wealth of sports-writing experience, including for NJ Advance Media (nj.com, The Jersey Journal, The Star-Ledger.)