TRUMBULL — One little disappointing part remains to this transition, in which St. Joseph junior Jack Wallace has taken the reins of the offense from a Division I quarterback without missing any apparent beat.
“I miss the big hits and stuff, coming up,” Wallace, a junior quarterback and former underclassman safety, said before a practice this week as No. 2 St. Joseph prepared to visit No. 9 New Canaan on Friday night.
“I don’t know if Del misses me doing that as much anymore. That’s always fun, to just let out everything.”
He’s right: coach Joe Della Vecchia calls Wallace a “defensive kid playing quarterback,” guiding the Hogs to a 3-0 start. “We’re trying to get that out of him,” the coach said with a laugh.
Wallace had also been the backup quarterback the past couple of years to David Summers, sometimes getting in for a few plays late in games. Summers led the Cadets to back-to-back CIAC championships, first in Class S and then in Class M, then moved on to Syracuse.
All the while, Wallace was watching, talking with Summers, preparing for this year. This past spring, before baseball practice or after playing games on the middle infield, he’d come up the hill at St. Joseph to throw with the receivers.
They helped him get the playbook down. He conveyed what he wanted from them.
“It’s been a very fun process. We’ve been able to get timing down,” senior receiver Will Diamantis said. “We grinded all summer.”
Wallace said there was no doubt in his mind that he’d be the quarterback this fall. He believed it from early on, and he knew it when they ran through routes together in the summer.
“All the receivers have been running the offense a year or two more than me. They helped me step into the role, and coach helped me,” Wallace said.
“They knew all the plays before. I knew some of the plays last year, too, but they helped me with timing stuff, routes, situations, concepts, all that kind of stuff.”
Della Vecchia said they had an open competition in camp, but Wallace, more or less as expected, seized the job.
“(It has been a) very smooth transition. We all know David, what he did. Jack, he’s stepped in perfectly,” Diamantis said. “He throws the ball well. He’s mobile. He does everything great.”
Through three sizable wins, Wallace is 36-for-49 for 716 yards. He has thrown 12 touchdown passes, four each to Diamantis and Brady Hutchinson, and two each to Owen DaSilva and running back Jaden Shirden.
On the other side, anchored by a big and punishing defensive line, St. Joseph has allowed just 21 points.
The heart of the Cadets’ schedule may be its toughest part, beginning at New Canaan’s Dunning Stadium on Friday.
St. Joseph is off next week, then visits Fairfield Prep on Oct. 18 and hosts No. 8 Ridgefield eight days later.
But this week, it’s St. Joseph and Wallace, who replaced a Division I quarterback, meeting New Canaan and Drew Pyne, who’s committed to Notre Dame.
That’s not exactly how he’s thinking about it, though.
“It’s a normal game, I guess. It’s going to have more hype around it. I can’t be blind to that,” Wallace said. “It’ll be fun.”
Wallace has been a part of big games. He played a bit as a freshman in the secondary.
“That’s when I first knew him. In practice, when he was on the scout team, he was always going up against me,” Diamantis said. “It was always me and him battling.”
Last year, Wallace made 30 solo tackles and assisted on 17 more. He had two interceptions in the Class M final against Berlin.
Della Vecchia, actually, hasn’t shut the door entirely on Wallace’s defensive career. When they need him, the coach said, he’ll play.
“He was a tackler. He loves to mix it up,” Della Vecchia said. “We’re trying to reel that part in. We don’t want to take that aggressiveness away from him, but we also don’t want him to go flying around.”