Through the air: Chambersburg Trojan quarterback Ryan Martin leads the area in passing yards and also has the highest completion percentage. Martin has
Through the air: Chambersburg Trojan quarterback Ryan Martin leads the area in passing yards and also has the highest completion percentage. Martin has found great chemistry with leading receiver Kellen Williams. (Public Opinion file photo/Noel Kline)
What may have looked like a controversy at the beginning of the year has turned out to be quite the success story.

The 6-4 Chambersburg Trojans started the season with a two-quarterback system, utilizing the strengths of both Ryan Martin and J.T. Hopple.

About Week 4, Martin emerged as the starter after having one of his best games of the season against Central Dauphin East. In that game, he threw for 199 yards - by far his most up to that point - and two TDs. He also completed 5 of 6 passes. Although Chambersburg lost that game, it became apparent that Martin should be the man under center.

"When Martin came in, especially against Central Dauphin, we got down early, and we had to throw the ball," Chambersburg coach Mark Saunders said. "Martin came in, and he did real well. At that point, as a staff, we kind of decided that we thought our team was more of a versatile, high-powered type team, and he just fit that bill."

While Hopple's biggest strength was his ability to move his feet, Martin is "more of a pure passer," according to Saunders.

Not only is Martin the area's leading passer with 1,377 yards, he also has the highest completion percentage. He has completed 76 of 133 passes (.571). Martin has the most touchdown passes in the area with 16 and is tied for the least interceptions with just five.

"Just my accuracy is my biggest strength," Martin said. "I can see the field pretty well. That's where I see myself doing well."

Martin has found the greatest chemistry with leading receiver Kellen Williams, who has 643 receiving yards and 10 TDs.

"During practice, we just find ways to find each other," Martin said. "I can see receivers wide open, so I can hit them, and we just continually practice that."

Chambersburg has become known as a big-play team - at any time, the Trojan offense can break for huge yardage, and Martin is no exception.

"He can make passes for 40 or 50 yards, and that's unusual," Saunders said.

Ryan Martin
Ryan Martin
"But he's that type of quarterback. He probably throws the long ball better than he does the short ball. That's kind of rare, but we've just transformed that way as a team."

Martin said his best memory of the year so far was one of the biggest plays the Trojans had all season. In the final minute of the game against State College, Martin hit a screen pass to Jamal Pickett, who was in perfect position to take it 97 yards to the end zone.

But the story of the two quarterbacks goes even further than just how successful Martin has been this season.

Hopple, who has emerged as one of the Trojans' top defensive backs, is having a great season as well. He's leading the team in breaking up passes with four, and he has brought down three interceptions.

"With J.T., we were probably hurting ourselves with him just playing quarterback because he's one of our best DBs too," Saunders said. "While we had him on one side of the football, we were kind of suffering on the other side."

Hopple is the type of athlete who has the ability to be plugged into multiple positions, which makes him a threat on a myriad of levels. And he's happy to be just that.

"It was fun competing against (Martin) for the spot," Hopple said. "In the first couple games of the season, I didn't play my best. (Martin) went in, and he carried the team for the rest of the season. He's doing a great job in there, and I'm just glad I can help out in any other positions that the coaches want me in.

J.T. Hopple
J.T. Hopple
"

The greatest part of the Martin-Hopple saga is their working relationship.

"I'm totally there for him," Hopple said. "If he throws a nice pass, I'm always there saying, 'Hey, nice pass.'"

The two have never had any resentment toward one another, according to Saunders.

"They get along well, and they cheer one another on," Saunders said. "I really feel fortunate to have both of them, so I think it's worked out well for us. They're great teammates, in spite of what people may think. In terms of the infrastructure of our team, we know they pull for one another, and they are both an integral part of our team. That's what's important."

Heading into the opening round of the District 3 playoffs vs. Central York on Friday night, Martin is sitting at one of the best quarterbacks in recent Trojan memory. Chambersburg has not had a 1,300-plus yard passer since 1996, and Martin still has at least one more game to play.

As a junior, Martin said he wants to keep playing quarterback in his senior season, but he knows nothing is a guarantee.

"I just want to play," Martin said. "(Next year) is a whole new year and a new season, and things can change. I'm just going to do my best, work hard in the offseason and keep doing what I do."

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Lizi Arbogast can be reached at 262-4788 or larbogast@publicopinionnews.com.