Thanks to Moten, Northwood’s game plan is aerial

Mark Griffin

It takes more than just a few words to describe Northwood junior quarterback Jay Moten’s playing style.
One thing is for sure: Moten has unique talents at his disposal to frustrate opposing defenses.
“He’s a pretty good athlete,” said coach Ken James, who won his 200th career game (201-148) on Oct. 11. “It’s hard for teams to attack him and he’s really good in the pocket. He can turn a potential negative play into a big play. He has the ability to escape pressure, and he’s got a weird combination of being straight-line fast and he’s very shifty. He can start and stop on a dime.”
Northwood has always been known as a running team in James’ 34 years as head coach, but he and his staff were smart enough to see that they had in their young quarterback. The offense needed to be tailored to Moten’s ability.
“He’s a dual-threat quarterback,” James said. “We’ve been an option team for a long time and we threw a little bit to keep defenses honest. We’re still running the option, we’re just throwing it more. We’re putting more on him as far as pre-snap reads. He has run-pass options. He has the option to either run or throw it against every coverage, and he’s been phenomenal at protecting the ball.”
The 6-foot-1, 165-pound Moten found out about 25 minutes before the start of the Rangers’ seventh game of the 2017 season, against Danbury, that he would be starting in place of injured starter senior Tim Romstadt. By halftime, Moten had thrown for nearly 200 yards and four touchdowns and even added a 40-yard scamper en route to a 42-0 lead.
“He’s been the starter ever since,” James said.
Last season, as a full-time starter, Moten led Northwood to a 9-2 record and a berth in the state playoffs. He threw for 1,323 yards and 14 touchdowns and ran for a team-high 723 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Moten said he likes the variety of formations and run-pass options the Rangers can use during games.
“Last year in the playoff game, the team we lost to was able to read our (play) cards,” Moten said. “We only ran out of one formation. Since then, we switched up so that doesn’t happen. There could be three or four different formations for every play. We just put that in this season; I was good with it. I can take off if I don’t see anything open, and that brings more effectiveness to the team.”
The Rangers entered Friday’s game at Ottawa Hills with an 8-0 record (4-0 Toledo Area Athletic Conference). Northwood’s offense was averaging 52.4 points a game.
Moten, who is 21-2 as a starter, hasn’t played much of the second half in the last five games because the Rangers had such a big lead. He has completed 62-of-96 passes (65 percent) for 1,398 yards and 14 touchdowns, with only one interception. Moten has also rushed for 419 yards and seven touchdowns on 57 carries, for a 7.4 average.
“I’ve felt more comfortable since my freshman year,” Moten said. “My teammates started to understand me more. At the beginning I was more of a scout team player. They didn’t know where to put me. I’ve gotten way more comfortable since my freshman and sophomore year.
“This year I’m able to read defenses and I’m able to call other plays. (James) gives me an option to read teams. If they are in a certain defense, I can go to the other side with a play.”
James said Moten has handled the extra pressure the coaching staff put on him directing the offense. The coach said Moten’s demeanor serves him well for the quarterback position.
“He’s not a guy who gets excited real easily,” James said. “He’s very low-key, very calm. He’s a good teammate in the sense that he will get the ball to whoever is open, and he does a good job reading coverage. Generally, we’re just calling stuff and he’s figuring out who gets the ball, whether it’s handing the ball off or throwing a deep ball. When he throws a ball in the flat, he’s accurate and that helps us turn some of those little short passes into big plays.”
Moten has played some at cornerback, mostly against pass-happy teams, and he had an interception against Edon. On offense, one of his favorite targets is his half-brother, junior receiver Demond Marks. Last year, Marks averaged 28.8 yards on a team-high 19 catches.
“I see us as a dual threat — quarterback and wideout,” Moten said. “We grew up playing together when were very young and we have chemistry. It’s kind of hard to stop us.”
As for the rest of the season, Moten has set high goals for this team.
“It’s a brotherhood here,” he said. “You feel comfortable around everyone and the team is very close. It would mean a lot to make the playoffs. That would be two years in a row for the seniors, who didn’t go as freshmen or sophomores. It would be great to go deeper in the playoffs and get a state championship for them.”


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