Early in their high school football careers, Snider seniors Addison Dellinger and Josh Spitnale moved to tight end from other positions. That move could have set up a fierce competition for playing time. Instead, it has given the undefeated Panthers (3-0) a dual threat, one in which teams have to honor both talented pass catchers/blockers.
Our offensive game is built around us a lot, and they plan for us to be out there together, Spitnale said. It is hard for the defense with us, blocking and catching.
Dellinger was a center until his freshman year, while Spitnale was a wide receiver until he was a sophomore. Both players have their strengths – Dellinger is a better blocker , and Spitnale a better route runner.
It has a little bit of luck that we are both talented and on the same team, and we can both do so much, Dellinger said.
The pair will be key in Saturdays rematch against Penn. The No. 3 Kingsmen beat the No. 7 Panthers twice last year, including in the Class 5A semistate.
Dellinger, at 6-foot-2, 195 pounds and Spitnale at 6-3, 185, give Panthers quarterback Brandon Phelps two big, athletic targets in crucial situations.
We have two big guys out there who can go into the slot or wing or whatever, and that helps the receivers, Spitnale said. Most of the time linebackers have to guard us, and we are faster than most linebackers, so it is hard for defenses to handle us at the same time.
Dellinger leads the team with 10 catches for 142 yards and three touchdowns, while Spitnale has one catch for 19 yards. But Spitnale, a former soccer player, shows off his kicking ability with three punts for a 43.3 average. He is also 6 for 6 on PATs and 1 of 2 on field goals.
Both of us are very versatile, Dellinger said. We can spread out wide or be in the backfield as fullbacks, and we are also great blockers on the line because we are big and fairly strong.
You have to be in it the whole game because everybody wants the ball. Sometimes you are not getting the ball so the game is getting frustrating, but you have to stay in it and wait for your time to shine.
Most opposing teams seem to play in a 4-4 defensive formation in an effort to slow down the two, which is fine with them as the Panthers defense is also a 4-4, affording Dellinger and Spitnale a lot of chances to go against that alignment in practice.
The two-tight end offense is similar to what some NFL teams have, notably the New England Patriots with Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski.
Dellinger and Spitnale say they watch the Patriots prolific pair of pass catchers.
Its great to watch them do that and try to be like them, Spitnale said.
Dellinger watches especially with what New England does with Hernandez, moving him around from out wide to a slot to a tight formation.
There are definitely more athletic than they used to be, Dellinger said of tight ends these days.