Duchi, Frey make McGuffey heavy on talented backs
James Duchi, left, and Patrick Frey combined for 2,454 rushing yards and 23 touchdowns last season. Frey played at Trinity in 2012.
When Patrick Frey transferred from Trinity to McGuffey this past offseason, incumbent Highlanders running back James Duchi, a 1,500-yard back in 2012, didn’t panic.
Why would he?
When it comes to McGuffey’s offensive backfield, there’s no need for anything beyond simple math: Two, Duchi and Frey will tell you, is better than one.
“I thought it was going to be good because now we have two great running backs,” Duchi said. “If one of us goes down, we still have another one. It’s just better to have two running backs.”
Duchi and Frey were Observer-Reporter Elite 11 selections in 2012. Duchi ran 214 times for 1,514 yards and 13 touchdowns in Ed Dalton’s first season at McGuffey, jolting the Highlanders to respectability.
Frey had 172 carries for 940 yards and 10 touchdowns, eclipsing 100 yards five times. But he transferred to McGuffey to enroll in the school’s vocational agriculture program, a decision that made it through the WPIAL Board of Control.
Together, Duchi and Frey have Dalton operating at his offensive best, continually looking for ways to showcase their numerous talents.
“We worked a lot in the offseason,” Dalton said. “We were under center. We were in the shotgun. We were ready to run option, whether it be spread, zone read or pistol; we’re ready for them all.
“We want you to have to defend us in the spread option and have to defend us under center.”
Another wrinkle has made this unlikely marriage even more critical.
Early in McGuffey’s first scrimmage at Elizabeth Forward Aug. 17, junior quarterback Nate Whipkey suffered a stress fracture near his calf – coming within inches of a torn ACL.
Whipkey will miss at least four weeks, Dalton said, and it will force freshman Marcus Czulewicz into action. It also will call for more innovation when it comes to Duchi and Frey, who are already required to know up to three roles on any given play.
“We both have to learn slot and sidecar,” Frey said. “We both have to learn a little bit of quarterback, too.”
Duchi and Frey were at their untouchable best during Friday’s scrimmage against Uniontown. They combined for 251 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries, helping McGuffey to three touchdowns in 24 minutes of action.
Frey scored both touchdowns – 21 and 60 yards – while operating out of the Wildcat formation, something Dalton wants both to do routinely.
“(Friday) we ran Pat taking the snap,” Dalton said. “Next week, it might be Jimmy. We’re working on all the angles. We’re trying to figure out what works best.”
A what-will-happen-to-me type of fear ran through Frey’s mind as he met Duchi for the first time. Sure, Frey was Trinity’s workhorse last season, but Duchi had compelled his new coach to compare him to Brian Kimutis, a Trinity legend.
Yet that competition and fear of failure, though friendly, seems to be what has made this work, at least so far.
“They’re best friends, and they hang out,” Dalton explained. “We talk about competition, and it doesn’t matter if you’re a college athlete or a high school athlete, there’s always going to be competition.
“If the scenario was in college, they could recruit four freshmen. (Duchi) has handled it. He’s not selfish. He’s selfish enough to be a good back, but he’s not a selfish kid. All good backs are a little selfish.”