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Bernard Lay - Adding many dimensions
By Paul Peterra

One thing is certain about Aliquippa High School football; it gets pretty exciting when quarterback Bernard Lay has his hands on the ball.

Case in point is last Friday's 14-7 win over Beaver. The game was tied at 7-7, as precious few seconds remained on the clock.

No problem. Lay lofted a 22-yard touchdown pass to Michael Lowe, with just six ticks left to give the Quips the victory.

"I try to be a big-time player," Lay said. "I try to make a play anytime I touch the ball."

He did that earlier in the game against Beaver as well. Lay tied the contest early in the fourth quarter when he ran 71 yards for a touchdown.

"He's as good an athlete as you're ever going to see," said Aliquippa football coach Mike Zmijanac.

Zmijanac would be most qualified to make that statement. He also is the boys' basketball coach at Aliquippa, and thus gets to see the excitement produced when Lay has his hands on the "rock". Lay averaged 18 points a game last season as the shooting guard for the Quips basketball team.

Lay's athletic talents lent Zmijanac to shifting his junior to the quarterback position. Lay was a wingback as a sophomore.

"He was our backup quarterback last year," Zmijanac said. "He took plenty of snaps in practice. So he worked there. He started as a receiver so he understands the pass routes. Being an athlete and an intelligent kid, it only took him a couple of weeks to get comfortable."

Lay does seem to be pretty comfortable at quarterback. He has completed 34 of 71 passes this season, for 590 yards and nine touchdowns. He's also rushed for some 200 additional yards and three more touchdowns.

"It was a hard position at first, because you have to know all they keys and learn all the plays," Lay explained. "I've been doing it for while now. I think I've adjusted well. I like playing quarterback a lot. I like having the leadership role. You touch the ball every play."

Lay adds many other dimensions to the Quips' football program. Lay has intercepted two passes from his cornerback position and averages 15 yards a punt return.

As evidenced by his heroics last week and throughout his career, Lay also brings the intangible that separates some of the great athletes from the rest of the pack. Lay wants the ball with the game on the line.

It's no surprise that his favorite athlete is former Chicago Bulls' star Michael Jordan. "He was a big-time player. I just loved to watch him play," Lay said. "He wanted the ball, just like me. At crunchtime, I want the ball."

Lay also brings a good work ethic to his abundance of talent. That work ethic has gone a long way toward his developing his passing arm, one that has already launched a football 65 yards in the air in a game this season.

"I convinced him last year that the weight room would make him a million some day," Zmijanac explained. "He got in the weight room and added about 15 pounds."

Zmijanac really doesn't know how fast Lay is. He doesn't time his players. He does know one thing; Lay is plenty fast. "Nobody catches him," Zmijanac said. "We really don't do that timing stuff. He's not the sprinter type, but when he gets out in the open it's hard to catch him."

Neither Zmijanac nor Lay knows now where the future lies. Will Lay be a basketball player or football player in college?

"It depends on his development in those two sports," Zmijanac explained. "Right now, I would say as for the future, he's a little bit ahead in football, because basketball requires so many more things."

"I don't know what sport I would want to play," Lay said. "I haven't made any decision yet."

Zmijanac did say that many Division I schools already have contacted him about Lay in both sports.

No matter what sport he plays and where Lay goes, it's bound to be exciting.