Shuler makes passing game count as Furness prevails

Posted: October 11, 2012

BECAUSE the school he attends, Academy at Palumbo, requires solid academics, and since his GPA is a gaudy 3.9, we'll assume Khaaliq Shuler is thorough when doing his homework.

When it comes to researching the offensive approach of Horace Furness High's football team, which partners with Palumbo and Franklin Learning Center . . . uh, not so much.

Shuler last year tried out for Furness with the hope of becoming a standout receiver.

A receiver? For Furness? Where the rules seem to limit passing attempts to one per quarter, if that?

"Yeah, we really don't pass too much here," Shuler said, smiling. "But if I see something I think will work, I can bring it up to my coach [Anthony Pastore], and he'll say, 'OK, let's go with it.' He'll put it in my hands . . . sometimes.

"Not really the chance to call my own plays. But to revise his plays, I guess you'd say."

Shuler, a 5-10, 150-pound junior, worded his comment that way because he now plays quarterback. And Thursday, in Game No. 7, he notched only his second touchdown pass of the season (and first since the opener) as the Falcons topped one of their South Philly rivals, Southern, 22-12, in a Public AAAA Silver contest at 11th and Bigler.

The TD came on his lone completion. The receiver was Daiquan Means, the distance covered was 18 yards, the time remaining on the third-quarter clock was 2:38, and the connection, with help from Kharee Ruley's conversion run, gave Furness breathing room at 16-6.

Oh, don't think that Shuler was shaky all afternoon, and that the TD resulted from luck. He threw only two other passes. And the score to Means - perfectly lobbed, by the way - was the result of a well-faked dive to Ruley, then a bootleg.

"I thought that had a good chance to work," Shuler said. "They were biting on the run, and the fake got them. That [left] side was wide open, and Daiquan was behind the defenders. Just had to get it over their heads. To him."

By that point, the Falcons long had been receiving steady encouragement from a guy perched at the front of the stands, yelling and yelling some more.

Later, the guy and two female students, friends of Khaaliq's, turned into a comedy act.

He'd shout, say, "TD time, baby!" And the two girls, standing right next to him, would shriek the same comment.

Next he'd come out with, "Way to go, O!" And there'd come the high-pitched echo.

"Yeah, I heard them," Shuler said, laughing. "That was my dad [Mark]. Up, downs. Wins, losses. He's always there for me. They had some funny chants."

The he-yelled, they-yelled scenario picked up steam early in the fourth quarter as Furness drove for the clinching TD. That possession included 10 plays - no passes, folks - and was capped by Shuler on a 1-yard sneak.

He got it started with a 15-yard run, right after Southern's Wayne Brunson (20 carries, 154 yards) dashed 8 yards for his second TD. The other big plays of the drive were 9-yard runs by Ruley (22-164, one TD).

It's only a rumor that the Falcons have team meals featuring baby formula. However, of the 25-odd players in uniform, only seven were seniors, and that group included no grunts.

Those guys were center Jeromy Reichner, guards Vincent Caramanna and Thomas Drummond, and tackles Abraham Toussaint and Rasheed Felder. The guys who rotate at tight end are Means, Tyriek Gilliard and Larry White; two seniors and a soph.

Youthful teams can be up and down, and that description fits the Falcons.

They did very little in the first half of this one, though Shuler was able to post an eye-popping interception 1:28 before intermission. He was jostled while making a soaring snag and landed almost completely parallel to the turf.

"I hit my head a little," he said. "I just needed to be calm for a minute. So much adrenaline was flowing."

Of his team's drab first-half performance, he noted: "I guess we had some pregame nerves. We had to gel and execute our plays. Do what we do."

For the season, Khaaliq (kah-leek) has passed 6-for-18 for 65 yards. Overall, the squad is 7-for-22 for 118 (16.9 per game).

"I played quarterback in [youth ball]," said Shuler, who won't turn 17 until May and considers 16th and Tasker in South Philly to be his home base, though he's now living with his dad on the 400 block of East Penn Street in Germantown, close to La Salle University. "I went to some camps over the summer to try to get better, and I'll hit the weights for next year, so I can throw the deep ball."

Meanwhile, only last week, Brunson ran for a school-record 207 yards in Southern's 32-8 triumph over Olney Charter, which was cut short by a brawl with 7:50 remaining. He would have eclipsed that mark vs. Furness, but a spectacular 87-yard TD was erased by holding.

Shady McCoy would have been proud to call this one his own. On a sweep right, Brunson saw major obstacles and pretty much came to a dead stop. He glanced around, seemed to say to himself, "OK, I think I'll opt for maybe a 45-degree angle to the left," somehow maneuvered through that first group, faked out a few more guys while zipping past them and wound up scoring in the left corner.

For now, Khaaliq Shuler can only dream of, say, a pass play covering 87 yards. Come to think of it . . . of 87 total passing yards for himself.

There's always the rest of October. Then, maybe November.

Contact Ted Silary at silaryt@phillynews.com. High school coverage online at www.philly.com/rally.

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