First, a few numbers for you. Here are Red Lion quarterback Tanner Klinefelter's statistics from his first two varsity seasons.
2009: 5 GS, 40-91 (.440), 583 yards, 7 TDs, 6 INTs
2010: 14 GS, 146-236 (.619), 1,983 yards, 22 TDs, 5 INTs
There are a few numbers that should jump out at you. The one we're going to focus on is completion percentage. As a sophomore in 2009, Klinefelter completed 44.0 percent of his passes. As a junior, that number spiked to 61.9. That's a 17.9 percent jump.
There are a lot of ways to explain this, the most obvious of which being experience. Klinefelter came into 2010 with a whole offseason to prepare, and half a season of varsity football to draw from.
But perhaps there is more to this.
It goes without saying that completion percentage is critical to a team's offensive success. This is true even at the high school level, where the game is typically more run-oriented. At the pro and college level, any completion rate above 60 percent is considered pretty good. In high school, anything approaching that number is excellent.
But just how critical is completion percentage at the scholastic level? I had an interesting conversation with new York Suburban coach Brian Freed about this at YAIAA Media Day. Prior to taking the Trojans gig, Freed spent last fall as the offensive coordinator at Red Lion.
When he took over as the Lions' coordinator, Freed went back and studied the offensive statistics of each YAIAA Division I team from that previous five seasons. He found that in each of those five years, the first- and second-place teams in the division shared one offensive trait in common: They were always the top two teams in the division in completion percentage. (Freed said the trend also held true for Division II teams.)
Which brings us back to Klinefelter. Freed said the Lions coaching staff placed an even greater emphasis last season on making its passing game more efficient.
"We just harped it, harped it," Freed said. "(Klinefelter) bought into it. He figured it out."
The results: Klinefelter's completion percentage was the best in the YAIAA last season by a wide margin, as was his touchdown-to-interception ratio. It helped, of course, that Klinefelter was an extremely accurate passer and generally thought of as a sound decision-maker.
For the sake of being thorough, I decided to go back and check out the statistics from Divisions I and II last season to see if Freed's data played out again. (I excluded Division III because of the sheer diversity and number of different offenses.) Here are the results (all stats according to Daily Record/Sunday News box scores):
YAIAA DIVISION I
Dallastown (11-1, 5-0) -- Luckenbaugh (80-156, .513)
Red Lion (10-4, 3-2) -- Klinefelter (146-236, .619)
Spring Grove (6-5, 3-2) -- Grudi (86-198, .434)
William Penn (5-6, 2-3) -- Parker/Davis (93-180, .517)
Central York (4-6, 1-4) -- Baker (75-170, .441)
South Western (4-6, 1-4) -- Good/Gross (64-144, .444)
YAIAA DIVISION II
West York (8-3, 5-0) -- Hepler (102-184, .554)
Kennard-Dale (5-6, 4-1) -- Myers (47-106, .443)
Dover(6-5, 3-2) -- Mikos/Snyder (41-112, .366)
New Oxford (3-7, 2-3) -- Starner (38-100, .380)
Northeastern (2-8, 1-4) -- Small (79-178, .444)
Susquehannock (1-9, 0-5) -- Olphin (72-195, .369)
So we see the date doesn't hold exactly to form. In both cases, a team lower in the standings ranks second in completion rate (by mere percentage points, it's worth noting). Still we do see a correlation. A good completion percentage tends to translate to wins.
Of course, we cannot look at this data in a vacuum. A good completion percentage is generally indicitive of several factors: A good quarterback to throw the ball, a good offensive line to protect the quarterback, good wide receivers to catch his throws. These are typically the components of a good football team. We should probably look at completion percentage more as a result of a good team, rather than the cause of one.
Still, it's food for thought, and something to monitor as we move further into the fall season.