Absegami High School quarterback Rashad Kinlaw tries to avoid Holy Spirit's Jeff Steeb during a Cape-Atlantic League game last season. Kinlaw, a junior, verbally committed Monday to attend the University of Notre Dame.

Ben Fogletto

If Rashad Kinlaw played high school football in the 1990s, he probably would have rushed for 1,000 yards as a running back.

Or he might have been a stellar wide receiver since he can run the 40-yard dash in 4.48 seconds.

Today, however, because of the prevalence of the spread offense in high school and college football, Kinlaw excels at quarterback for Absegami High School.

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The 16-year-old junior's ability to run and throw makes him one of the region's best. He's rushed 36 times for 249 yards and two touchdowns this season.

Colleges are already recruiting him. Rutgers University has offered him a scholarship and several other Bowl Championship Series schools, such South Carolina and Notre Dame, are pursuing him.

"I just go out and play," Kinlaw said. "I don't let the pressure get to me."

Kinlaw leads Absegami (1-1) against Atlantic City (2-0) in a key Cape-Atlantic League American Division game tonight. Kickoff is 7 p.m. at Absegami in Galloway Township.

"He makes the whole thing go over there," Atlantic City coach Thomas Kelly said. "He's the prototypical spread offense quarterback. He can keep the ball in his hands and command the whole offense."

The spread offense has been around since the 1950s, but it became especially popular on the high school level after coach Urban Meyer used it in college to spark Utah's undefeated season in 2004.

The quarterback is in the shotgun formation in the spread. The offense is designed to spread defenders over the field and give the offense vertical lanes to run and throw in.

Kinlaw lives with his mother in Galloway Township but spent time growing up in Atlantic City with his grandparents. He watched Sunday NFL games at his grandparents' house. His favorite team was the Indianapolis Colts and his favorite player quarterback Peyton Manning.

Kinlaw started playing for the Atlantic City Dolphins in the Atlantic County Junior Football League when he was 6-years-old.

The Dolphins switched Kinlaw from running back to quarterback when they went to the spread offense just before his eighth-grade year.

Abssegami coach Dennis Scuderi Jr. said he thinks Kinlaw could be a successful pocket quarterback but he switched the Braves from the pro-I to spread offense when Kinlaw arrived at the school.

Scuderi Jr. first spotted Kinlaw as he worked out on the Absegami track with the Galloway Township Middle School track and field team.

"We were doing some conditioning stuff," Scuderi Jr. said "We were getting off the track when they were coming on. I remember seeing him warming up, and I said that could be a great football player."

Kinlaw started as a sophomore last season, leading the Braves to a 4-6 record and a spot in the South Jersey Group IV playoffs.

Kinlaw is quiet off the field. Scuderi Jr. says Kinlaw is not a "rah-rah guy." Kinlaw has become a student of the quarterback position this season, watching videos of future opponents with the coaches.

"What's really starting to help him is his ability to understand the offense," Scuderi Jr. said. "He's sees is so much on film. He's a very cerebral kid. He's able to take it and use it."

Kinlaw showed just how effective he can be in the offense when he ran for more than 100 yards and a touchdown in the first half of last Friday's 42-14 loss to Holy Spirit. The Spartans, No. 1 in The Press Elite 11, were scrambling to stop Kinlaw in the first half.

Defense also can't focus solely on Kinlaw because Absegami features several talented running backs, including Tyler Bing and David Hood.

"We have a really good set of five or six running backs and slot receivers who fit our system," Scuderi said. "You can't put two (defenders) on Rashad because any one of other guys can hurt you."

Kinlaw is also a top defensive player. He made four interceptions at defensive back last season despite seeing limited time at the position. Some colleges want him to play defense.

"Right now, they're all recruiting him as an athlete," Scuderi said.

Atlantic City wants to keep Kinlaw in the pocket as much as possible tonight.

"We have to be disciplined," Kelly said, "and not let him get outside. Keep him the middle. He's that next-level athlete that we don't want to see on the outside."

Tonight will help define Absegami's season. The Braves also lost to Holy Spirit 42-7 in week two last year. Absegami never recovered and did not meet expectations in 2010, finishing with a losing record.

Absegami doesn't want to repeat that scenario. Tonight's winner will be at least tied for first in the CAL American Division. The winner will also get a boost toward the South Jersey Group IV playoffs.

Kinlaw said the Braves get along much better this season than last. Absegami hopes that unity helps tonight.

"This is a big game to show we can rebound after a loss and come together through hard times," Kinlaw said.

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