STATE COLLEGE, Pa. – In 2004, Adam DiMichele and Anthony Morelli were two Western Pennsylvania high school quarterbacks with the talent to back up the prestige. DiMichele, headed for Penn State as a defensive back, was a speedy three-sport star and the all-time leading passer in the Western Pennsylvania Athletic Conference at Sto-Rox High.
Morelli, regarded as one of the top pro-style quarterbacks in the country and known for his quick release, gave a committment to Pittsburgh, keeping him near his hometown and Penn Hills High.
Three years later, when the two faced off Saturday at Beaver Stadium, a lot had changed. It was late in the spring that year when DiMichele decided that baseball was a better fit and opted out of his scholarship to Penn State.
Shortly after, Morelli reneged on his commitment to Pitt and made another to Penn State. Now they’ve both emerged as the starting quarterbacks for their teams. “I know a lot about him and I’m sure he knows a lot about me as well,” DiMichele
said after the Owls lost, 47-0, to Morelli’s Nittany Lions at Beaver Stadium.
“I guess you could say we were [No.] 1 and [No.] 2 coming out our senior year, just with statistics and local papers.”
The wind and rain, combined with the pressure from the Lions’ defense made for a tough day of passing for the Owls. DiMichele, a redshirt sophomore, couldn’t lead the offense past midfield. He completed just seven passes for 52 yards on 17 attempts. Morelli fared a bit better, connecting on 12 of 22 passes for 159 yards and a touchdown.
“It was a great experience,” DiMichele
said of playing in Beaver Stadium. “I’m never going to forget it. Even though we lost, we’ll be back there in two years.”
Both first-year starters have dealt with heightened expectations that are partially out of their control. Morelli has struggled to replace all-American Michael Robinson, a two-way threat who led the Lions to a 10-1 record and an Orange Bowl win last season over Florida State.
DiMichele has been charged with carrying
the banner for the “Golden Era” of Temple football. Like any quarterback, his performance will be closely scrutinized over the next two years. On Saturday, an ineffective offensive line let the Lions’ front seven take up residence in the Owls’ backfield. DiMichele had limited time to find his receivers and the pressure often
forced him from the pocket. Regardless of the outcome, both quarterbacks had nothing but good things to say about each other.
“He’s a good player,” Morelli said of DiMichele. “I knew about him, with him going to Sto-Rox and all. Then he took the other route.
“Both Morelli and DiMichele were highly touted quarterbacks their senior year. DiMichele was named the Class A Player of the Year by the Associated Press, while Morelli received various honors possible for a high-profile quarterback and was ranked the No. 1 overall prospect in the state by scouting Web site Rivals.com.
Morelli was active for the last two years, but played behind Robinson and Zack Mills. DiMichele emerged at the top of the heap for Temple this season, but not after attempting to get back in the mix at Penn State.
Barring injury or replacement, Morelli and DiMichele should provide the excitement again next year when the teams meet at Lincoln Financial Field. So who was No. 1 in high school?
“If you want to talk about statistics, I was [No.] 1, but he’d say he was [No.] 1,” DiMichele said. “But it was great to play against guys you’ve been with in high school or seeing in high school. So that’s always a good experience.”
Chris Reber can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.