Many of the offensive play calls from the Episcopal Academy sideline provide Maurcus McDaniel with two options.
He can run. Or he can pass.
Both have worked wonders for the Churchmen, who have followed their dynamic dual-threat quarterback to a 4-0 record and the No. 8 spot in the Inquirer’s Southeastern Pennsylvania’s Top 10 rankings.
“I’m confident in my arm, I’m confident in my legs,” McDaniel said before a recent Episcopal practice at the school’s campus in Newtown Square.
That’s about as far as McDaniel, a soft-spoken senior, will go in touting his own play in leading Episcopal to its status as one of the surprise teams of the first half of the regular season.
But few quarterbacks in the state have been as effective and as efficient as runners and passers as McDaniel has been in leading the Churchmen to an average of 32.5 points per game and four straight victories by double-digit margins.
The 6-foot, 185-pound McDaniel is 41-for-57 passing (71.9 percent) for 530 yards with seven touchdowns and one interception. He has rushed 63 times for 478 yards (7.59-yards per carry) for seven more touchdowns.
“He manages the game for us,” Episcopal coach Todd Fairlie said of McDaniel. “He makes great decisions. He’s smart, efficient and makes big plays when we need them.”
Episcopal visits Salesianum of Wilmington on Friday in the Churchmen’s final nonleague game before starting Inter-Ac League play Oct. 12 vs. fellow unbeaten Penn Charter.
McDaniel, who lives in Springfield, decided to attend Episcopal after middle school in part because of a connection one of his youth coaches had with Fairlie.
“I heard so many great things about the school and I liked it here right away,” McDaniel said.
McDaniel is a top student with a 3.6 grade point-average, according to Fairlie. McDaniel has drawn recruiting interest from colleges in the Ivy League and Patriot League, among others.
“He could get into those schools without football,” Fairlie said. "It’s just a matter of finding the right place for him.”
Fairlie said McDaniel is a quiet leader for the Churchmen, on and off the field.
“You won’t find one person here who could ever say he did one thing wrong in his four years,” Fairlie said. “He goes through the day with smile, quiet, compassionate, everything we look for in a student athlete.”
McDaniel is sparking interest among recruiters with his sensational play. He passed for 202 yards and a score and ran for another 172 and two TDs in the season-opening win over St. Mary’s (Md.). He passed for two touchdowns and ran for another in a big win over Brooklyn (N.Y.) Poly Prep and threw for two more scores and ran for another in a triumph over the Hill School.
But the signature performance for McDaniel, and signature win for the Churchmen, came on the road Sept. 13 against a Northeast squad that entered the game as the No. 5 team in the rankings and with a defense that had held opponents scoreless for 11 straight quarters.
Playing against a defense with several high-level NCAA Division I recruits, McDaniel was 11-for-13 passing for 123 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for another 86 yards and two more scores in leading Episcopal to a 26-13 victory.
“We felt could we could accomplish something greater than what other people were thinking,” McDaniel said. “They thought we were underdogs. Turns out we flipped the switch.”
Fairlie said many of the team’s play calls put the responsibility on McDaniel’s shoulders. He can run. Or he can pass. So far, he’s rarely gone wrong, since both options have resulted in big plays for the Churchmen.
“I like being able to make plays at all times, make my decision on the read option,” McDaniel said. “I can throw the ball. I can run. It’s up to me.”