When Davien Kuinlan makes the split-second decision to keep the ball and run, you see it: the nifty footwork, the power in his stride, the impressive speed, especially given his stature.

But the most striking part of the Plainedge quarterback's skill set can be seen only when he's being pursued by swarms of defenders who, for some reason, just can't bring him down.

It was the riddle Kuinlan's opponents spent all of 2014 trying to solve, when he ran 273 times for 2,304 yards and 31 touchdowns. His elusiveness was on full display again in practice this summer when the 6-1, 215-pound senior would often go days without getting tackled.

"The first week we went live in practices, I didn't see him get tackled until Saturday," Plainedge coach Rob Shaver said. "So six days of full practice, we can't get the kid on the ground.

"Even when he's on the scout team and we don't have the first-stringers blocking for him, they still can't. It's just angles and vision and power. It's incredible."

Kuinlan averaged 8.4 yards per carry as a junior last season. He surpassed 300 rushing yards in a game twice. There were times when he would disappear into a sea of defenders, and emerge in a full sprint.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

"It's amazing because the play can start off as one thing, and then things fall apart, but he turns it into a huge gain," senior offensive tackle Tyler Wiegman said. "He's got great field awareness."

Kuinlan, never outspoken but a leader by example, wastes no time in crediting his teammates.

"I think it's because all week in practice the so-called second string, which could be a first string, they go hard all week," Kuinlan said. "So it makes everyone better on the field. Just kind of like an in-game situation all week long and then it just comes."

Once he gets in the open field, it takes more than just one defender to wrap him up.

"He's very elusive for his size," Shaver said. "Guys who are flat out faster than him can't touch him because of how elusive he is. And when you finally do have him bottled up, you say, 'Ah, we finally got him.' And then he runs you over."

But Kuinlan also completed 74 of 136 passes for 1,216 yards and 11 touchdowns last season. He expects those numbers to increase this season.

"Going into my second year as the starting quarterback," Kuinlan said, "there's definitely more comfort, more trust."

Added Shaver: "I've got to give him a lot of credit. He put a lot of time in the offseason working on his passing down the field. He's really improved a lot, and I mean a lot. He can make those throws now."

Kuinlan's arm has become more than just a simple complement to his legs and creates matchup nightmares for his opponents, who don't know what to expect. Shaver just wants to make sure the referees are ready for him.

"We tell the refs before the game, 'Make sure he's on the ground if you're going to blow the whistle.' Because he comes out of a lot of piles, you'd be amazed," Shaver said with a laugh. "You think he's down, and he just pops out. For whatever reason, guys can't square him up. He just has this unique ability to avoid tackles. Never seen anything like it."