Posted Online: Oct. 07, 2012, 7:47 pm

'Football savvy' carries RI's Chapman

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By Daniel Makarewicz,

More photos from this shoot
Photo: Gary Krambeck
Rock Island quarterback Zach Chapman fires a pass against United Township earlier this season. Chapman has thrown for 707 yards and 11 touchdowns in seven games for the Rocks this fall.
-This is the first in a series previewing Friday's "Showdown in Motown" Western Big 6 Conference football game between Alleman and Rock Island. Coming Tuesday: Alleman's secret weapon

Upon meeting Zach Chapman for the first time last winter, first-year Rock Island football coach Bryan Stortz saw in his future quarterback a natural leader who left a quick impression.

Over time, Chapman displayed more intangibles.

One in particular stuck with Stortz.

"Football savvy," Storz said.

Need an answer as to how Chapman can master a more up-tempo offense without any hiccups, that would be it. A year after leading a run-first attack, Chapman leans on his understanding of the game to orchestrate a Rocky offense that is both explosive and talented.

"When you talk about a concept to him, he kind of gets it," Stortz said. "If he doesn't and you explain it to him, he understands. I've been impressed with that."

Moving forward in the offense without a hitch, Chapman has helped the Rocks build a six-game winning streak as they meet Alleman in the de facto Western Big 6 Conference championship game on Friday at Moline's Browning Field. Blessed with weapons in the backfield and at receiver, the second-year starter spreads the ball all over the field with ease.

Part of what makes Chapman so successful is a grasp of the offense, but another factor is further development and maturity as a quarterback

To him, that may be the secret to his success.

"I've improved a lot," Chapman said. "Coach Stortz has taught me a lot of things I need to know about being a quarterback, whether it's handing off the ball or throwing the ball."

Most of all, he improved in his decision making.

"Reading the coverages was a big thing," Chapman said. "I had some sort of an idea last year, but my knowledge for it this year has improved."

Given Chapman's ability to lead a run-oriented offense, adding the element of dissecting defenses through the air is a plus. Stortz's offense in the past ran this exact system, but the quarterback was more of a runner. Chapman, though, provides a new wrinkle as his arm and decision-making ability makes it easier to pass.

So far this year, Chapman has completed 49 of his 80 pass attempts for 707 yards, 11 touchdowns and one interception. Chapman has not thrown an interception in five games.

Can anyone remember when a Rocky quarterback put those numbers up in an entire season?

For most of you, the answer probably is no.

"He knows what he needs to do," Rocky senior receiver Derrick Willies said. "He makes the right reads."

In a season filled with good reads and smart decisions, one play sticks out in Stortz's mind.

Leading Moline 14-9 in the third quarter two weeks ago, the Rocks faced a third-and-long as they called a pass play. The call was designed to hit Willies with a pass on the perimeter, but a built-in route was there as a second option.

Willies had three defenders on him, so Chapman made the right read and threw a pass to Quinton Holmes over the middle for an 18-yard gain and a first down. Rocky then scored the next 20 points to get the win.

"We've only had a couple quarterbacks who've really been able to do that," Stortz said. "Watching him do that, I was like, 'Wow, he's really understanding the system now.'"

The system and new roles are something Chapman embraces.

"I'm having a lot more fun," Chapman said. "But I'd be willing to do whatever it is for the the team. As long as we're out there having success, I'm happy. I'd be willing to take whatever role possible."

Spoken like a true leader, something Stortz noticed the first time he met his future quarterback.

Add in the football savvy, Chapman may be the total package.

"He understands what we're trying to do. He gets himself in a good position," Stortz said. " ... He does what we ask of him."