Olentangy Berlin: Bears rely on Jacob Moeller's savviness
When a play comes in from the Olentangy Berlin sideline, everything falls on the shoulders of 6-foot-4 senior quarterback Jacob Moeller. Coach Mark Nori wouldn't have it any other way.
A third-year starter, Moeller has been pushing the right buttons and making the correct audibles, leading to impressive numbers for the Bears offense.
Berlin has racked up 1,944 total yards (486 per game), including 1,486 through the air. All but 40 of the passing yards came from Moeller's right arm.
"Jacob has become a well-rounded quarterback," said Nori, whose team is 2-2 overall and 2-1 in the OCC-Cardinal Division and plays host to Marysville on Friday, Sept. 25, in league play. "He can use his arm strength when he needs to, he can use the touch when he needs to and (he can use those skills) in combination with his mental ability to grasp what we are doing.
"We give him a ton of autonomy, and he has made us right 1,000 times. We send a play out there and he can do things off of that play. He can also change the play. Sometimes that's built in and sometimes it comes from what he actively sees."
Moeller has completed 88 of 135 passes for 1,446 yards with 11 touchdowns and two interceptions. Rather than take the credit, he gives a nod to his teammates for making the plays happen.
"We have a lot of three-year starters back, our confidence has risen and our coaching is (tremendous)," Moeller said. "The guys up front (on the offensive line) are giving me a bunch of time, and our receivers have stepped up a lot."
Senior Justin Rader, who has 15 catches for 248 yards and three touchdowns, said the line gives Moeller all the time and room he needs to make a decision and then the connection.
Starting on the line are senior guards Antonio Alonso and Andrew Cline, senior tackle Cole Troyer, junior tackle Jon Harder and junior center Bryce Young. Junior fullback Ethan Lee is another key blocker.
"I feel like our offensive line gives us the time for 'J-Moe' to make amazing check downs or reads or whatever he needs to make," Rader said. "He puts the ball right where we need it to be to make the play."
Making the right decision is a key component to the offense's success. Nori said Moeller has been "around 90 percent" in his success rate when changing plays, and offensive coordinator Nick McVay backed up those figures.
It's part of the growth Moeller has shown as a starter in all three of Berlin's seasons.
"Jacob started out at around (a) 35 percent (success rate) when changing plays as a sophomore, and he's up to 94 percent this year," said McVay, who was an assistant for six seasons at Robert Morris University before coming to Berlin in its inaugural season. "Seeing him, Jacob's accuracy is 100 percent elite, and that comes from what I saw coaching at the college level.
"When he goes to college, he will have a chance to develop that arm strength and keep his accuracy with that. I think the sky's the limit in terms of his potential. He's very special in putting the ball where it needs to be as well as his savviness and his smartness on the field."
McVay graduated from Olentangy in 2008 before playing receiver at Ohio Wesleyan and Otterbein. He knows the importance of receivers to an offense, especially in terms of blocking.
Bennett Lawrence is a disciple of that philosophy. The junior said the Bears don't stop until the play ends.
"We're all playing for each other," said Lawrence, who has 30 catches for 705 yards and four touchdowns. "If you watch film of our big touchdowns, everyone is still blocking until the whistle blows."
Senior receivers Ryan Horstman and Aidan Loeffler also have contributed. Horst-man has 15 catches for 186 yards and one score. Loeffler has 13 receptions for 146 yards and two touchdowns, and he also completed his only pass attempt for 40 yards.
The Bears have 458 yards rushing, led by junior Nick Tiberio's 398 yards on 88 carries. He had 148 yards on 20 carries in a 38-27 win over Dublin Jerome on Sept. 18 in league play.
With the offense clicking, McVay offered a reason beyond the players' abilities: COVID-19 coronavirus protocols. He said working in pods helped give the Bears a head start to the season.
"We were able to put our installs in and get the offense going in the small groups," he said. "When we started doing more group stuff, we were able to hit the ground running. It was kind of a blessing in disguise. It was a tough situation, but we made the best of it."