Canyon High senior wide receiver Drew Wolitarsky has some challenges now and ahead.
The greatest wide receiver in Canyon High history, and maybe the greatest wide receiver in Santa Clarita Valley history, could become statistically the greatest wide receiver in California prep football history.
That’s a challenge.
But there’s another more immediate challenge for the 6-foot-3-inch, 210-pound athlete.
For the first three seasons of Wolitarsky’s high school career, he’s been fortunate enough to have one of the great quarterbacks in program history, Jonathan Jerozal, feeding him the ball. Now Wolitarsky has the adjustment of being thrown to by first-year varsity quarterback Cade Apsay.
“I’ve known Cade for a couple of years because of his brother (former Canyon basketball/football player) Coley. I never thought about him being my quarterback. To be honest, I never really paid attention to (his teams), because when they were playing, we were getting ready to play,” says the 17-year-old receiver.
Because of that unfamiliarity, there is a learning curve. That curve was made greater because of the spring and early summer months.
Wolitarsky was a member of the co-Foothill League championship track and field team during the spring, so he missed out on a lot of football activities. In the early summer months, Wolitarsky was on recruiting visits, so he had to miss some activities, such as passing tournament games.
Yet no one at Canyon High was the least concerned about how well this three-time All-Foothill League receiver would eventually click with Apsay.
“Building chemistry with Cade, they’ve done well,” says Canyon second-year head coach Rich Gutierrez. “It’s definitely going to be an adjustment. Let’s be real. You have a quarterback like Jonathan passing the rock, they know each other so well – they know timing, know what route. He could trust Drew with everything. It will take time, but as we go together, they’ll get stronger.”
The Wolitarsky-Jerozal combination was lethal. In three seasons, Wolitarsky caught 192 passes for 3,869 yards with 39 receiving touchdowns – all Canyon High records. Before the start of the 2012 season, Wolitarsky was 80 receptions and 677 yards away from breaking Taft High graduate Steve Smith’s state records.
Wolitarsky has definitely targeted those marks, and understands that in order to get to those numbers, he must build a strong relationship with his new signal-caller.
“I’m patient,” Wolitarsky says on how he will work with Apsay. “Early in the summer during the break, we got together and practiced on our own. I’m planning on getting together more.”
Apsay has been the successor-in-waiting to Jerozal. He helped lead a 2011 Canyon junior varsity team to a 9-1 mark and a Foothill League title. He understands how he needs to get on the same page with Wolitarsky quickly – not just for personal numbers, but for numbers in the win column. But the junior quarterback also realizes that he can’t put a bunch of pressure on himself.
“At the beginning, I talked to the coaches about varsity and how I had to step up,” Apsay says. “My game’s not where Jonathan’s was. He had Jonathan and he’s probably the best quarterback I’ve seen. I’m not at that caliber yet. I have to get my game up to that.”
Yet there’s hope for Apsay, in that he has a major weapon in Wolitarsky – a player who has phenomenal pass-catching ability and breakaway speed that has made him a terror to defenses. So many of Wolitarsky’s big catches have started off with short-yardage catches on a slant, but ended up long touchdowns as the receiver maneuvered his way past defenses and stepped on the accelerator to break away.
“It’s kind of relaxing and comforting to have him there,” Apsay says. “I think he makes me a lot better. He’s one of those receivers who is consistent. No matter where you put it, he catches it.”
And because of those qualities, he is the top football player in the Santa Clarita Valley coming into the 2012 football season. They’re also qualities that college football coaches love. Through the early part of the summer, Wolitarsky’s scholarship offers numbered in the double digits.
Gutierrez says Wolitarsky is such a danger to other teams that he was told by an opposing coach that a complete portion of their practice is structured on stopping the Canyon senior.
“I think he’s got unlimited ability,” Gutierrez says. “Drew would make me look good at quarterback.”
Canyon is a playoff contender in 2012 and is expected to compete for a Foothill League title. Along the way, if Wolitarsky adjusts to challenges, he could be breaking some significant records.
“Ah man, I can’t wait. I think about it every day,” Wolitarsky says about breaking records. “What route I’m going to run when I break it. I’ve got to stay healthy, but I’m looking forward to it. I don’t know how I’ll feel, but there’s definitely a lot at stake. I want to get good with my quarterback so I can get the yards I need.”
And other things.