Given the option, and he almost always has the option, Ryan Gallagher would rather run than pass.
He also would rather hand off or pitch than run.
"The best part of being a quarterback is making decisions to allow my teammates to make plays,” says Gallagher, Garnet Valley’s standout quarterback.
The 6-foot, 180-pound senior has led Garnet Valley on an eight-game winning streak since a season-opening loss to Downingtown West.
Garnet Valley (8-1), which has risen to No. 9 in The Inquirer’s Southeastern Pennsylvania Top 10, can clinch the Central League title for the second straight year and secure a high seed in the District 1 Class 6 A playoffs with a win Friday at Ridley.
Thrust into action as a sophomore and junior by injuries to quarterbacks ahead of him on the depth chart, Gallagher has developed into a poised and polished operator of the Jaguars’ veer-option offense.
He has run for 551 yards and eight touchdowns on 62 carries (8.9 avg.) and completed 25 of 49 passes for 352 yards and seven more scores.
Better yet from Gallagher’s perspective, he’s been the catalyst for an offense that has featured spotlight-worthy work by running backs Greg Reynolds (601 yards, 11 touchdowns), Jake Morin (449 yards, eight touchdowns), Sam Morin (428 yards, six touchdowns), and Reece Malek (344 yards, three touchdowns).
“In our offense, it’s all about making right decisions, and he makes the right decision almost every time,” Garnet Valley coach Mike Ricci says of Gallagher. ”He knows the offense better than most of our assistant coaches.”
Garnet Valley football features more players than most teams in the state, with a roster of about 100 to 105 every season. So, it’s rare for sophomores to earn much playing time, especially slightly built, 10th-grade quarterbacks with little experience at the position.
But Gallagher, who began playing football in seventh grade and was a wide receiver on the freshman team before an injury to another quarterback shifted him to the position, helped Garnet Valley roll to three playoff victories and earn a berth in the District 1 Class 6A finals in 2017.
“He was a skinny kid back then,” Ricci said Monday.
Said Gallagher: “It was the seniors on that team that helped me so much.”
Last season, Gallagher was second on the depth chart behind senior Cole Palis, another standout quarterback. But injuries to Palis pushed Gallagher into the lineup, and he helped the Jaguars to an undefeated mark in the Central League and another playoff run.
“Cole Palis taught me everything,” Gallagher said.
This season, Gallagher has been the Jaguars’ quarterback from Day 1 and their unquestioned leader, too.
“He came in as a seasoned vet, and the other kids knew that,” Ricci said. “He’s always so humble, so team-oriented; it’s easy for the other kids to get right in step with him.
“Our words here are selflessness, hard work, and character. That’s what we build our program around. Ryan epitomizes all three of those qualities.”
Embracing the demands of being a veer-option quarterback, which calls for quick decisions and the ability to withstand a blocking back’s-worth of punishment, Gallagher has led an offense that has averaged 48.3 points in the eight-game winning streak.
“It’s fun — ground-and-pound football,” Gallagher said of the Jaguars’ offense.
Gallagher said he prefers running to passing. And despite his personal success, he most-of-all prefers getting the football to his teammates.