Fierce QB competition brewing at Southmoreland between Caden Matthews, Anthony Smith

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Thursday, June 27, 2024 | 7:44 PM


There is a good old-fashioned quarterback competition brewing in Alverton, and the top preseason storyline for Southmoreland football already has people chewing the fat at gas stations and mini-marts.

“It’s the talk of the town,” Scotties coach Tim Bukowski said. “People are asking me, ’Coach, who’s it going to be?’ I’ve never had to make a more intense decision.”

Training camp is 46 days away, yet Bukowski is having sleepless nights over a developing battle for the starting quarterback job between rising junior Caden Matthews and incoming freshman Anthony Smith.

Dependable starter Kadin Keefer graduated, leaving the position open for two hungry, strong-armed throwers.

One has varsity experience and shows aptitude in running the offense. The other displays a cannon arm, vast potential and already has college coaches intrigued.

Bukowski said he wants to play both QBs but refuses to rotate them.

“They’re both good,” Bukowski said. “The best part of this is that we’re in good shape with either one. They’re both very capable. They are 4.0 (GPA) kids — everything you want in a QB.

“You want to put your faith in one guy as your starter, but they can both help us.”

Matthews and Smith will share reps during 7-on-7 workouts as the Scotties build toward heat acclimation time and camp. Varsity reps in pads are what colleges are waiting to see, Bukowski said.

Both players receive personal training from former quarterbacks, Matthews with Chad Salisbury, Smith with Mike McMahon, an assistant coach at North Catholic. Salisbury is the offensive coordinator at Cal (Pa.). The Frazier graduate played for five teams in the Arena Football League.

McMahon, a North Allegheny alum, spent five seasons in the NFL, primarily as a backup quarterback.

“We’re competing every day in practice,” Matthews said. “It’s a healthy competition. We push each other, and the team is on it. We have the deepest group of receivers in the WPIAL. They’ve got great hands, and they’re playmakers.”

Matthews and Smith are active on the summer camp and 7-on-7 circuit.

Matthews (6-foot, 180 pounds) will attend a camp Friday at Penn and has been to a U.S. Army combine camp as well as workouts with West Virginia and Cal (Pa.). He also has Princeton on his schedule.

Matthews said he has college interest from Penn, Princeton, Seton Hill and Cal (Pa.).

Smith’s camp schedule shows Pitt, West Virginia, Rutgers, Syracuse and Maryland, among others.

QB Hit List has Smith (6-1, 190) ranked No. 1 in Pennsylvania and No. 14 nationally for the Class of 2028.

Bukowski thinks a Division I offer is just around the corner for Smith, who probably isn’t done growing — his late grandfather, Ron Trillow, was 6-foot-7.

“It’s about getting my body right,” Smith said. “I love the contact, and I know the big hits are coming. I know I have a good opportunity to play as a freshman. I am excited about the Friday nights and playing with the guys. The competition (with Matthews) lights something inside you. You come out and compete, and you go out and perform.”

Matthews was the backup to Keefer last season. He completed 10 of 21 passes for 238 yards and a touchdown.

He saw reps on a few trick plays last year.

“Caden is a natural leader,” Bukowski said. “He gets things in line. He has been in the system for two years.”

At the West Virginia 7-on-7 tournament, Smith threw 11 touchdowns in 12 possessions as the Scotties went 5-1.

As Matthews said, “He can throw the ball a mile.”

Smith can throw the ball nearly 70 yards through the air.

“I have been coaching over 30 years,” Bukowski said. “I haven’t seen another freshman throw the ball like him, with that velocity. You’ll have a 5-yard out pattern, and he’ll just fire it in there. He reads the field well. He’s the real deal.”

Bukowski said Matthews and Smith are pro-style QBs with pocket presence, but both want to run the ball.

Smith said former Scotties wrecking ball Anthony Govern was his favorite Southmoreland signal caller growing up.

Matthews ran track in the spring, competing in the 400-meter dash, triple jump and a couple of relays.

“My goal is to be the starting quarterback,” Matthews said. “I want to be a dual threat.”

That might be the best way to describe this QB competition, which is just beginning to simmer.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a TribLive reporter covering local sports in Westmoreland County. He can be reached at bbeckner@triblive.com.

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