GLENS FALLS — With less than a minute left before halftime a couple of Saturdays ago, Joseph Girard III had a decision to make as he scrambled with the football on a broken play.
He could either head for the sideline or pick up a few extra yards and possibly take a pretty good shot from a Schalmont defender. Risk versus reward.
“I sort of did both,” Glens Falls’ junior said. “I saw there was an extra yard I could get. I still had to get out of bounds to stop the clock, but I also had to take a hit.”
So Girard did that, lunging out of bounds and absorbing the impact. A couple of plays later, he was lofting a touchdown pass for a 24-0 halftime lead.
When to preserve himself on certain plays is one of those on-the-fly decisions Girard has been working on since last season, weighing the risk against the reward.
“That’s definitely one of the things coach (Pat) Lilac has been trying to get me to do: take what I can get and run out of bounds,” Girard said. “Obviously on the goal line or fourth down when you’re right there, you want to get the extra yard. But there’s no reason to take unnecessary hits. I definitely had to learn that.”
“I think he’s done a good job with that, and it’s tough because everything he wants to do, he wants to hit it big,” Lilac said. “And being able to be patient and those things have been more evident this year, and he’s not trying to force things so much.”
There are probably a great many Division I college basketball coaches who will breathe a sigh of relief seeing Girard head out of bounds more often and, as Lilac puts it, “live to fight another day.”
But for Girard, weighing the risk against the reward in the grand scheme — playing football and risking a potential big-time Division I basketball scholarship — was really the easiest decision of all.
“(Football) is something I love, and I’ve said it before, if I didn’t love it, I wouldn’t play it,” he said. “It’s a love for the game that makes me want to keep going. I have a love for it, just like I do for basketball.”
At 16 years old, Girard already has 15 offers from Division I schools for basketball, but he has also stirred interest in football. UAlbany, Monmouth, Boston College and Wake Forest — Girard said he has received handwritten letters from Wake — are among the schools giving him a look for football.
“I think it’s well deserved,” Lilac said. “I can’t remember a kid quite like him since I’ve been coaching, throwing the ball as well as he does and can run like that.”
Despite his basketball prowess — he’s closing in on the all-time Section II scoring record as a junior — Girard has not closed the door on football. That includes playing his senior year at Glens Falls.
“Right now my mind says I’m going to play — until someone tells me I can’t do it, then I won’t do it,” Girard said of his senior year.
As for the possibility of college football, he said, “I’m going to keep my options open right now and listen to everybody, what they have to say, and if I have a better option there (in football), why not take it?”
One thing Girard said he has learned is that many college coaches have a positive view of multiple-sport athletes. Girard himself was a three-sport athlete from childhood through eighth grade, before he dropped baseball in favor of AAU basketball.
“What the football and basketball coaches have said is they do like recruiting two-sport athletes because it shows that you can do a wide range of things,” Girard said. “You have muscles in basketball that you wouldn’t have to use for football, so if you just did that all year round, you’re going to wear those muscles out eventually, or you’ll get hurt, or you just won’t love it as much.”
Football provides a three-month break from basketball for Girard.
“I don’t really touch a basketball during football season,” he said. “It’s all football because that’s the task at hand that I’m focused on.”
“I think him being so driven helps him to juggle a lot of different things and to be focused on what he’s doing at the time,” Lilac said. “He’s a smart kid, and I think that helps him, too. He picks up on concepts and he has that ‘it’ factor of having spatial awareness and body control and all those things that you can’t teach. That combined with his competitiveness is a good mix.”
Listed at 6-foot-2 and 185 pounds, Girard is bigger and faster than when he led Glens Falls to the state Class B football championship last fall. And like last year, he rarely leaves the field. He is not only a superb dual-threat quarterback, he’s also an outstanding free safety on defense, he handles the punting and, remarkably, the punt return chores. Last week at Johnstown, he scored on a 62-yard run and a 62-yard punt return.
“People don’t talk about his leadership ability,” Lilac said. “When we need to be snapped in and focused, he’s not afraid to tell kids, ‘Come on, let’s go, we have to do this.’ He’s not here to mess around, he’s about winning.”
Lilac just wants to make sure he picks the right times to get out of bounds.