Andrew Athens had a tough sales pitch to make to Northern's offense at the beginning of the summer: Trust me to lead you as the quarterback.

The Patriots weren't buying it. What did a guy who played running back last season know about leading an offense?

Sean Schaefer, Athens's All-Met predecessor who took Northern to the postseason last year for the first time since 1990, he was a leader.

Athens transferred to Northern from New York last fall and played admirably as a multi-purpose backfield threat. But that was just a complementary part of the offense. He would now have to be the focal point on every play.

So Athens started selling himself by talking about last season, when he stepped into the backfield after injuries felled starter Delante Scott. He mentioned rushing for 173 yards in a 34-7 victory over McDonough.

"I came in here last year playing running back, and people said I've got big shoes to fill," Athens said. "It was a lot on my shoulders. [But] when I was in the huddle, I didn't feel like I had to carry the team. It's like the same feeling now."

Athens watched Schaefer command attention from him and the nine other players in the huddle.

"He knew that he had the team behind him," Athens said. "He had faith is his arm. He had faith in the guys around him. I want to do the same thing. I'd love to be the one who's able to pull us out of stuff."

While few quarterbacks possess Schaefer's poise and smarts, Athens brings another variable to the game -- his ability to scramble.

Last season "people played the pass and just stayed back," Northern Coach A.J. Berberian said. "You can't do that anymore. If everything is shut down, Andrew can take off. If you don't respect his legs, he'll beat you."

And that sold the rest of the Patriots.

"At the beginning of the summer, I was just like the running back stepping in at quarterback," Athens said. "Now, at practice, [my teammates] see me as somebody who can lead them."

"I'd love to be the one who's able to pull us out of stuff," said Andrew Athens, who is playing quarterback this season after playing running back last year.