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Salem QB Jahki Coates takes shape as he returns for his fourth year as a starter

Salem’s Jahki Coates is a fourth-year starter (Photo: Marc Narducci)

Salem senior Jahki Coates is a quarterback who has more of the look of a lineman. Make that used to look like a lineman.

During the offseason, Coates said he has shed 20 pounds and he looks not only lighter, but quicker and he wasn’t exactly slow to begin with.

Coates, who has been starting since his freshman year, was a highly productive quarterback for last year’s Salem team that went 11-2, won the Central Jersey Group 1 championship with a 13-12 win over Paulsboro. The Rams then captured the South/Central regional championship as well, beating South Jersey champ Woodbury, 34-6 in the regional championship game.

Coates has the strength to run over tacklers but surprisingly deceptive speed to run around them. And now minus the 20 pounds, the 6-foot, 228-pound Coates could even more dangerous on a Salem team that will remain a sectional title contender.

“I feel more explosive and fast, way faster than I was last year,” Coates said. “So we are looking to have a great season, trying to defend our championship.”

Last season Coates was a major dual threat. He threw for 1,389 yards and 15 touchdowns and also rushed for 729 yards (7.0 avg.) and 13 touchdowns.

It seemed like yesterday that Coates was guiding the team as a freshman.

“I am blessed to be in this position,” he said. “I went from being one of the guys learning, to teaching the younger guys.”

As a sectional champion, Coates knows that Salem won’t be able to sneak up on anybody this season.

“We got a big target on our backs so we have to go into every game with the right mindset and get ready to win another championship,” Coates said.

Veteran Salem coach Montrey Wright says that Coates’ combination of brain and brawn is what has made him an all-around quarterback.

“He’s ahead of  his time,” Wright said. “You don’t find that many that size and that cerebral that is such a great fit. We are blessed to have a kid like this in our program.”

Early in the summer, Coates said he had offers from Temple and Long Island University.

“A lot of schools in the Northeast Conference are looking at me,” he said about the FCS conference that includes schools such as Long Island U, Sacred Heart and Wagner, to name a few.

And Coates says he plans to be a quarterback at the next level.

That is one reason why he decided to shed some of the extra bulk. Now he remains as strong as ever, a bit more elusive and out to produce more while playing with a little less this season.

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