With weapons galore, Gateway QB Carsen Engleka making strong return from broken arm

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Sunday, September 27, 2020 | 11:01 AM


Carsen Engleka was making his case for playing time last year at quarterback in the Gateway offense when a bad break ended his sophomore season.

The Gators’ 5-foot-11, 180-pound signal caller, a backup to starter Bryson Venanzio early in the 2019 season, was under center in the latter stages of a 49-0 victory over Ringgold at Gateway’s Antimarino Stadium. Looking to make a play on that night a little more than a year ago, Engleka was hit by a Rams defender, and as he was heading to the turf, he put a hand down to try and brace himself.

“You fall 1,000 times, and that one time, someone took out my legs, and I landed awkwardly,” he said. “I tried to brace my fall. (The arm) just gave way. It was one of those freak accidents.”

His nonthrowing left arm was broken. Surgery was ordered. Engleka faced nearly three months of recovery.

“At the end of the day, my teammates were behind me 100%, but it was tough,” said Engleka who completed 5 of 9 passes for 65 yards and a touchdown and added seven carries for 30 yards in four-plus games.

“I was young, and there was a lot I wanted to learn on the field. No one wants to be sidelined like that.”

But Engleka embraced the challenge of the recovery with a mission to return to the field a better player.

Now, as the starting quarterback for the Gators, he is taking advantage of his renewed opportunity to lead one of the WPIAL’s most potent offenses.

“This year is my redemption year, and I feel it’s off to a good start,” said Engleka, who threw for a combined 537 yards and nine touchdowns in wins over Franklin Regional (41-7) and Bethel Park (55-14) to start the season.

Gateway head coach Don Holl said he likes what he saw from Engleka in those games.

“There are a lot of good things from him on tape from the first two games, but he knows there are things he can work and will work on to be better. He is really focused and driven to have a great year,” Holl said. “Carsen is a great example of how hard all of the guys on this team work every day with a lot of energy and effort. It’s a big commitment and sacrifice, and with the quarterback position, it’s often taken to another level.”

That commitment and sacrifice for Engleka started with winter workouts, weight training and conditioning. He planned to play baseball in the spring, but the season was canceled in the early implementation of covid-19 safety measures.

When the Gators began summer workouts in July, Engleka was there as a candidate for the starting quarterback job. Senior Bonzi Parks, a starter at safety for the Gators defense, also was there in competition.

“Bonzi is a player who encourages everyone to work hard, be a leader in practice and lead by example,” Engleka said. “He helped me become an overall better player. We pushed each other to a far extent.”

Engleka said preseason practices, which began Aug. 24, were filled with excitement, anticipation and a sense of urgency in preparation for the team’s shortened seven-game slate.

“It was very exciting to get back on the field, get back with my boys and work together,” Engleka said. “There was just so much energy in summer workouts and preseason practices. I feel this is a great year for us, especially on the offensive side of the ball. I just think we are doing what we need to do. We’re just taking it week by week and working to meet each challenge.”

Following two season-opening wins, Gateway was set to face Pine-Richand (2-0) in a nonconference matchup of the top two teams in Triblive HSSN Class 5A rankings Sept. 25, but the game was canceled because of coronavirus concerns.

Engleka said he appreciates all of the guys in the trenches who give him time when he throws or opens holes when the offense turns to the running game. He also has an affinity for the offensive weapons that surround him, including Division I recruits in seniors Derrick Davis, Chamor Price and Patrick Body.

“I am very confident in every receiver we have and every player we have on that offense,” Engleka said. “With all that talent, we are really starting to click. We’re doing the right things, and I think it shows.”

Growing up in the Gateway football community, Engleka had the chance to watch Gators record-setting quarterback Rob Kalkstein and also marvel at the talents of Venanzio, Brady Walker and Brendan Majocha the past three seasons.

“The standard has been set really high,” he said. “I feel I put in a lot of hard work the past two years and continued that coming into this season. It was disappointing how last year ended for me, but I came back ready to help my team if I got the chance.”

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at mlove@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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