Heimroth makes playing center look like a real snap

Bishop McGann-Mercy center Ryan Heimroth didn’t make a bad snap last season.

To those who think that getting a play started in a football game is a snap, think again.

Snapping surely didn’t come easily to the Bishop McGann-Mercy High School football team’s center, Ryan Heimroth, three years ago when he first tried it. But the Monarchs needed a center, and Coach Joe Read told Heimroth he was the player for the position. So, Heimroth went to work, snapping away to the point where his snaps have become virtually automatic.

In McGann-Mercy’s spread offense, with its shotgun formations in which the quarterback stands about five yards behind the center, an accurate snap is vital, and Heimroth has held up his side of the bargain. The senior didn’t have a single bad snap last season, his first at the varsity level.

“He’s never had a bad snap,” Read said. “He’s never snapped it over the quarterback’s head. He’s never rolled it back. We never lost yardage at all because of a bad snap.”

Heimroth said, “It’s a sense of accomplishment, but I still have to keep working on it because if you don’t keep practicing it, you’ll lose it.”

And Heimroth does keep at it. By his estimate, he makes a few hundred snaps during a practice. Some of his personal time is spent snapping as well.

It helps that Heimroth and quarterback Keith Schroeher are friends who live close to each other in Riverhead and practice on their own.

“We’re always together,” Schroeher said. “We go to his house, he comes to my house. We just snap all the time … We probably did a million snaps over the summer.”

Heimroth succeeded Pat Terry as McGann-Mercy’s center, and he hasn’t disappointed. Last season he played ironman football and did not leave the field for a single play. He played middle linebacker on defense and was a member of the special teams. His performance earned him recognition as a second team all-league player.

Heimroth can expect to be that busy again this coming season. What about breathers? “That’s what they have halftime for,” said Read.

Center has always been one of football’s most demanding positions, but even more is being asked of centers in the modern-day game with its various offensive sets. Read said center is one of the most overlooked, difficult positions on the field. In addition to making a deep snap, centers have to get off the ball quickly, be athletic and take on linebackers on the move.

“It’s a position where every play you take abuse,” said Heimroth.

Heimroth said his first job is to make sure the ball ends up in Schroeher’s hands. His ability to do that is no small comfort to the junior quarterback.

“He’s got a lot on his plate, and he’s doing good with it,” Schroeher said. “I have a lot of confidence in Ryan. I know the snap is going to be there. He does a good job protecting me, too.”

A straight-A student who is in the National Honor Society, Heimroth has been described as a good leader who the younger linemen can turn to for direction. “They got questions, they can go to him and get the right answer,” said Read.

Read said the offensive line will be a mixture of old and new. Anthony Heppner, a 6-foot-3, 250-pound junior who ripped an anterior cruciate ligament two years ago and reinjured it last year, will be given a look at guard. “He’s a phenomenal athlete,” Read said. “He’s as agile as a cat. If he can stay healthy, he can have a breakout year, for sure.”

Anthony Bartonik, a senior, and Robert Folkes, a sophomore, are the projected offensive tackles. Another sophomore, Ray Ellis, is trying out for the other guard spot.

Heimroth used to be a soccer player, but said he turned to football so he wouldn’t continually be compared as a soccer player to his brother, Jamie. He has found his own niche.

“He’s the whole package,” Read said. “He’s somebody that will not get any press, but without him, we don’t go anywhere.”

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