Jeannette freshman QB Brad Birch is ‘for real’

Tuesday, October 20, 2020 | 5:42 PM

When he talks in casual conversation or even in interviews, Brad Birch likes to finish a lot of sentences with the words, “for real.”

“I’m not that interesting of a kid, to be honest,” he said sheepishly. “I just want to play football and win games. For real.”

Birch, a freshman quarterback at Jeannette, also likes to finish scoring drives with touchdown passes.

The Jayhawks’ headliner, who has been slinging it all over the field and filling stat sheets like he’s been doing it for years, has earned considerable attention six games into his high school career.

One thing is abundantly clear: Birch is for real.

“He’s still learning, but he has all the tools,” Jeannette coach Roy Hall said. “He has a canon.”

Birch, the first freshman to start for storied Jeannette at quarterback, has completed 77 of 116 passes (66.4 %) for 1,198 yards with 22 touchdowns and four interceptions.

His QB rating? Try 208.8.

The 6-foot, 180-pound Birch, who turned 15 in July, is expected to grow. So are his numbers. And maybe his legend, too.

He threw seven touchdowns in the first half last week in a 49-0 victory over Bishop Canevin. Five came in the second quarter, which earned Birch some larger-scale recognition.

The feat tied him for the third-most TDs in a quarter in national high school football history, according to the National Federation of High School Association. Two other quarterbacks threw for six scores in a quarter.

The seven total TDs tied Birch for the fifth-most scoring throws in a half.

Birch, who went 11 of 14 for 294 yards in the first two quarters, threw three TDs to his brother, Brett, a talented junior receiver.

“Brad is the best player I have ever seen,” said Brett Birch, who has a scholarship offer from Central Michigan. “He has been doing this since he was 9. You can’t really compare him to anyone. He is his own player.”

Playoff-bound Jeannette (5-1) is ranked No. 3 in Class A and averaging 45.5 points. They will play Friday night at rival Greensburg Central Catholic (2-4, 2-4). A win and a Clairton loss could get the Jayhawks and Birch a share of the Eastern Conference title.

Hall, who has been at Jeannette for decades as an assistant and head coach, does not remember a pro-style, drop-back passer quite like Birch.

“I talk to (former Jeannette coach) Joe Mucci all the time,” Hall said. “Him, (other former coaches) Art Tragesser, Bob Murphy, none of them remember a kid being this good as a freshman. We’ve had some great quarterbacks, but I don’t know of any who could throw it like this.”

Dual-threat quarterbacks have starred for the Jayhawks, especially over the last 13 years, from Terrelle Pryor and Demetrious Cox, to Julian Batts, Robert Kennedy, and others.

But Birch, who said he liked Batts’ game most, is different.

“I don’t want to be known as a dual-threat,” he said. “I want to be a passer. I love to throw it deep.”

And with equal distribution. Three Jeannette receivers have 20 catches: Toby Cline, Brett Birch and James Sanders.

“I’ve grown up with Brad,” said Cline, a senior. “Nothing impresses me when it comes to Brad because he’s always been playing above his level, and it’s showing on the field. His ability to put the ball in the right position is outstanding. He trusts us receivers to get to where we need to be and we trust him to get it there.”

Cline has nine touchdown catches, and Sanders and Brett Birch have five each.

“I have so many wide receivers I can get the ball to, and they’re going to score almost every time,” Brad Birch said. “They have helped me a lot.”

Sanders, who moved to wide receiver from quarterback and has flourished, calls Birch “Young King.”

Birch, who said he can toss a football 55 yards, has had a number of people in his corner to help him grow as a player.

Former Jeannette quarterback Terry Gregory, his neighbor, has helped with mechanics since Brad was in elementary school.

“He saw I could be a quarterback,” Brad said. “He saw me throwing out in my yard. I was a center in (youth football). Then I started playing flag and moved to QB.”

Birch is a product of the 7-on-7 revolution, where quarterbacks, receivers and defensive backs hone their skills in the offseason.

He plays for Team 412 Elite.

Birch said the passing events have helped him prepare for varsity football. He was a star with the Jeannette Midgets youth team that made it to a national tournament in Canton, Ohio.

“It’s helped a lot with reading coverages,” he said of the 7’s circuit. “The game is so fast, and that helped me get ready for the speed.”

Confidence radiates from Birch like a space heater left on too long. He handles himself like a veteran player.

“I came in to win states,” Birch said, not batting an eye. “I don’t worry going into games. I don’t get nervous. I can’t wait to get in there and give my very best.”

Birch immediately took to the varsity game, sight unseen.

He threw for 269 yards and three touchdowns in his debut, a 34-29 loss to Clairton.

“His first game of the year was against the No. 1 team in the state,” Hall said. “Look at what he did. He was flawless.”

Clairton coach Wayne Wade said his Bears will have to deal with Birch for years to come.

“We knew he was coming up,” Wade said. “We knew how good he was in eighth grade.”

Birch was 9 of 17 for 236 yards and six touchdowns in a 60-14 win over Leechburg.

Hall knew Birch was going to be good because the ninth-grader has had instruction since he could pick up a football.

When Birch came to the varsity, Hall simply wound him up and let him go.

“He’s one of the best five or 10 quarterbacks we’ve had here,” the coach said. “The thing about him is he doesn’t want to punt. Ever. He wants to go.”

For real.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at or via Twitter .


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