BASKING RIDGE, NJ — The Ridge football team has had four different starting quarterbacks over the last four seasons.
This year, junior Michael Olivo became the second Red Devils' QB in as many years to make the switch successfully from another offensive position and guide the program to a winning season in his first year calling signals.
Class of 2020 two-sport athlete Brandon Bell switched from receiver to QB and led Ridge to an 8-2 season in 2019. Olivo was a halfback on the Ridge JV last year. He also is an outfielder and a pitcher in the Ridge baseball program, so when new head football coach Andy West--an assistant baseball coach, as well--took over last summer, he knew Olivo's skill set might be suited to playing quarterback.
"When I was hired as the new head coach, one of my first individual meetings with the players was with Michael, and we discussed the possibility of him competing for the QB position," West said. "We knew that he was a very good athlete, could run very well, and seemed to pick things up pretty quickly. I also knew, from coaching him in baseball, that he could throw. By the time we were able to get together in July to start practicing, it was clear that he had been working on the craft very hard in the time in between. As the summer progressed, he was able to win the position, and then it was a matter of making sure we utilized his skill set appropriately within our offense."
Olivo gives Ridge a different dimension because he throws left-handed, and he retained the speed and elusiveness that had served him well when he played halfback.
"During my time as the defensive coordinator, I had always felt that when a team had a QB that was a dual-threat, it made things much more difficult to stop," West said. "So we wanted to put pressure on our opposition by using his ability to do both things very well, and it seemed to work out pretty well."
Olivo led Ridge to a 6-2 record, leading the team in rushing yards as well as being a big-time playmaker with his arm. Olivo rushed for 783 yards (6.3 per carry) and eight TDs, and passed for 982 yards and 15 TDs while throwing just four interceptions in 112 attempts. His combined running and passing accounted for over 220 yards per game.
"Since last year I have seen my game change and grow from the JV level to the varsity level," Olivo said. "When I got moved to quarterback, I had to learn all the footwork and work on throwing to my receivers. That required my game to change a lot more because I was playing halfback last season. I also thought I was much quicker on the defensive side of the ball and improved in coverage. This is my first season playing quarterback since I was in fourth grade."
In the final game of the season, Olivo completed five of nine passes for 188 yards and two TDs, and gained 145 yards on seven carries--including a 63-yard TD run--in Ridge's 44-21 victory over Livingston on Thanksgiving Eve.
Olivo is the Valairco Heating & Cooling TAPinto Basking Ridge Athlete of the Week. He answered several questions from TAPinto Basking Ridge this week.
Q: What were some of your team's goals and personal goals coming into this season?
A: Although our team didn’t have goals written down, playing football at Ridge comes with a high standard. The expectation is to be successful every year. Coach West used the slogan Win The Moment this year to try and win each moment along the way during our season. Personally my goal coming into the season was to try to do everything I could to make our team win. We had a very successful season, winning our conference.
Q: Have you seen your game change since playing JV last year?
A: Since last year I have seen my game change and grow from the JV level to the varsity level. When I got moved to quarterback I had to learn all the footwork and work on throwing to my receivers. That required my game to change a lot more because I was playing halfback last season. I also thought I was much quicker on the defensive side of the ball and improved in coverage.
Q: What's your best sport, baseball or football?
A: Personally I think football is my best sport but some people might think I’m better at baseball.
Q: What has been the best advice you have received from a coach?
A: The best advice I have received from a coach is to play in the moment and forget about anything that happened in the past.
Q: What has been your most memorable game to date?
A: My most memorable game to date would be my first varsity game against Bridgewater. It wasn’t my best game, but we won and I threw a touchdown on my first pass.
Q: What do you like most about Ridge High School?
A: The thing I like most about Ridge High School is the friendships and relationships I have made there.
Q: Do you have a favorite subject?
A: My favorite subject in school would be math
Q: Who is your favorite athlete?
A: My favorite athlete is Saquon Barkley
Q: Do you have a role model?
A: My role models in my life are my parents. They do everything for me and support me with everything I do.
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