With a first-quarter pass to his longtime trusty receiver Collin Mailman, York Suburban quarterback Thomas Merkle set himself apart from any Trojan signal-caller before him. The pass pushed Merkle ahead of Mike Beckley, who was in attendance, for the most career passing yards in program history. There could be another record within Merkle's grasp. Spring Grove's Matt Marshall, who now volunteers as a coach with Merkle's Trojans, holds the county passing record with 4,894 yards. Merkle is 686 yards shy of that mark with four regular season games remaining. The senior recently spoke with sports reporter Brandon Stoneburg to reflect on his accomplishment.
Q So how did the record-breaking play happen?
A The play that broke the record was actually a simple slant route to Collin (Mailman). It was one we've hit a million times. He just did what he always does and picked up 25 extra yards by making a move past his defender.
Q You were pretty close to breaking the record coming in to the Susky game, were you any more nervous on those first few offensive drives?
A I usually don't get too nervous for games other than the common pregame butterflies, but I was pretty nervous for this one, only because of some family that was in the stands doesn't get a chance to see me play often. And a college was there that night, so I wanted to play my best for them. But right when the game started it didn't even cross my mind.
Q What was going through your head on the play that broke the record?
A Honestly I wasn't even aware that I had broken the record on that play. I think it was on the second series and I knew we had thrown a lot on the first two drives. But they announced it on the loud speaker after the drive so that's actually when I first heard.
Q Have you had a chance to meet Mike Beckley who held the previous record?
A I actually did meet Mr. Beckley before the game and got to take a picture with him which was a really cool experience. It's always cool to meet former players especially such a good player like Mr. Beckley.
Q You've thrown for thousands of yards, but is there one throw or one game that stands out as your favorite?
A One throw that stands out was a slant-and-go that I threw to Collin last year at Dover on our way to a big upset. It was a big time in the game and he beat his defender to make an unbelievable catch in the middle of the end zone. It was like a 50-yard play and it really kept our momentum moving in the second half of that game.
Q You're not too far off the county record. Do you think you can reach that this season?
A I do think I can break the county record, but my focus is entirely on this week's game against West York and trying to make a push for the playoffs. That would be another great achievement but competing for a division title and a playoff spot would mean so much to myself and the team.
Q What has it been like working with Matt Marshall and his dad on the staff? Any friendly trash talk about the record?
A Working with the Marshalls is awesome. Over the years, they have helped me become such a better quarterback and I credit any successes I have to the coaching they've provided me with. My teammates and I went to Marshall's youth camp from kindergarten all the way until eighth grade. It's perfect how it worked out that they run our offense for us this year. Coach Marshall is great to work with and he built this offensive scheme around the athletes we have which everybody picked up on really quickly this offseason. And there's no trash talk about the record. I have so much respect for coach Matt and what he did in his career, and he taught me so much throughout my career that it just makes it cool that we're even in this situation.
Q Favorite stadium to play in other than your own?
A My favorite stadium to play in is Ephrata. We only got a chance to play there once but it was a really cool environment and they had just put new turf in the week before we played them so that made it nice to play on. Dover is probably a close second.
Q Favorite route to throw?
A I'm sure every quarterback would answer the same, but I like to throw the fly route to air it out and let my receivers make a play on the ball. But this year we have so many routes that we complete effectively every game, I could name any route in our playbook because they all work at different times.
Q Toughest defense to throw against?
A The toughest defense to throw against was probably Northeastern, believe it or not. I think I threw the ball like 45 times that game and had a career high in yards, so it might sound weird, but they contained us well in the second half. Even though we completed a ton of passes, they minimized our big plays.
Q Any plans for college?
A I am still in the middle of my college search now, and I will have the opportunity to play either Division II or III football, but obviously nothing is final yet. I am also looking at other schools just to be a student with no sports, but I want to keep all my options open at this point.