2023 Trib HSSN Preseason Football All-Star Team: Gateway’s Brad Birch

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Saturday, July 15, 2023 | 6:01 AM


The Gateway football team’s 2022 season ended sooner than expected with a close WPIAL Class 5A first-round home loss to Upper St. Clair at Antimarino Stadium.

While the returning Gators players, including senior quarterback Brad Birch, said they learned a lot from that game and from the season overall, they are not dwelling on any missed opportunities. The focus, Birch said, is squarely on being the best team for 2023.

“It was tough to not win that game, but we’re not looking back on that,” said Birch, who enters his third season as the Gateway starting quarterback after a breakout season as a freshman at Jeannette. “None of us really talk about last year because there is nothing we can do about it.

“We’re just ready for this year because we’ve got a lot of top seniors, some really good sophomore and juniors and some freshmen who are ready to come in and compete. We have a versatile team that can do whatever we want and match up against any team.”

Birch said he has used offseason work on the field to sharpen his ability to read defenses. He also has made it a point to get in the weight room and put on some additional bulk and muscle.

“Some people do say I am a little bit smaller than I could be, and since my freshman year, people thought they could just bang me around,” Birch said. “But I feel that I am not easy to take down in the pocket or when I run the ball. I make it a point to make sure that not just one person will take me down. It’s going to take multiple people. That’s the confidence I have.”

Birch enjoyed a strong junior season for the Gators, including Big East Conference first-team recognition. He completed 134 of 223 passes for 1,786 yards and 14 touchdowns against seven interceptions.

Birch complemented his passing game with 42 rushes for 153 yards and two scores.

In two seasons with the Gators, he has compiled 4,409 passing yards and 44 touchdowns. After his sophomore season in 2021 when he tossed 30 TDs and threw for 2,623 yards in leading Gateway to the WPIAL Class 5A quarterfinals, Birch was tabbed a finalist for the annual Willie Thrower Award, which goes to the top overall quarterback in the WPIAL.

After leading Jeannette to a WPIAL Class A title as a freshman, Birch made headlines in February 2021 when he received a scholarship offer from Oregon and then-Ducks offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach and Penn Hills native Joe Moorhead.

Birch stayed in contact with Moorhead when the latter became the head coach at Akron for the 2022 season. Birch received an offer from Akron later in 2021.

Birch said he is looking forward to opening some eyes this fall with his play on the field. In three varsity seasons, Birch owns 6,085 passing yards and 74 touchdowns.

“I just want to go out there and play with my team and win games and, at the same time, show my potential,” said Birch, who is looking forward to joining his Gateway teammates at upcoming 7-on-7 events in Erie, Upper St. Clair and New Castle. “I know there will be people watching, and I hope to do things that will impress them.”

Gateway coach Don Holl said Birch has benefitted from an offseason of dedicated work and is ready to lead the Gators in his senior season.

“As he goes through his preparation for the season, he’s got a renewed focus on the ‘we’ part of it, meaning the team success,” Holl said. “He understands that if we are successful as a group and do all the things we are capable of doing, the individual accolades should come with that.

“Brad has been — but more so even now — a real active leader. He’s trying to be more of a lead-by-example guy and show the way for the young quarterbacks and some of the other young players on both sides of the ball. I’ve been pleased with his ability, which has never been an issue, and also his attitude and commitment to the success of the program.”

Brad Birch

Gateway

Senior

6-2/190

QB

Offers: Akron

2022 statistics: Went 134 of 223 passing for 1,786 yards, 14 touchdowns and seven interceptions

Michael Love is a TribLive reporter covering sports in the Alle-Kiski Valley and the eastern suburbs of Pittsburgh. A Clearfield native and a graduate of Westminster (Pa.), he joined the Trib in 2002 after spending five years at the Clearfield Progress. He can be reached at mlove@triblive.com.

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