AVON — When a football program is as successful as Avon’s has been recently, future success can be taken for granted and it can go unappreciated.
Yes, Avon’s quarterbacks are always good, and coach Mike Elder credits that success to good coaches, a good scheme and a program that begins teaching that scheme — a watered-down version, of course — in seventh grade.
But the system isn’t a guarantee of success or a substitute for talent and hard work. While Ryan O’Rourke, Cody Schroeder, Justin O’Rourke, David Zeh and, this season, Tommy Glenn, have made it look easy, it’s anything but.
With the exception of Ryan O’Rourke, each member of that list has gotten one shot, as a senior, to be the full-time starter for a team now expected to compete for a state title every year. The Eagles’ 2013 playoff push begins against visiting No. 7 Toledo St. Francis de Sales on Friday at 7:30 p.m.
For Glenn, add another wrinkle: Elder said entering this past offseason, he wasn’t sure the senior would be the starter.
Sophomore Jake Sopko had emerged as a contender, and Zack Torbert was a candidate in Wildcat formations.
And then the offseason started.
“All Tommy did was go in the weight room, gain 20 pounds, grab a football, go to gyms, have kids meet him and throw on his own and make himself better,” Elder said. “It’s such a great story because he never wavered in his own confidence. His year has been phenomenal. He’s maximized his talent.”
The last laugh
You could have forgiven Glenn for wavering. He entered the regional final in Clyde last November when Zeh was knocked out with a concussion, and had a forgettable evening as the Eagles were beaten soundly by eventual state champ Toledo Central Catholic.
The Eagles coaching staff, in addition to the lopsided final score, has another lasting memory from that night — some rival West Shore Conference coaches in the stands chuckling at Avon’s expense, their optimism about 2013 growing if Glenn was going to be the quarterback.
Glenn quickly turned those rival coaches into believers. Acknowledging there were some jitters on opening night this year — with rival Avon Lake on the schedule for his first start — Glenn threw for 329 yards and four touchdowns against the Shoremen in a 41-10 blowout.
He threw a pair of touchdown passes in Avon’s road win over Twinsburg, and after WSC contender Midview took a third-quarter lead two weeks later, Glenn completed eight of 11 passes for two scores in the third quarter as the Eagles ran away from the Middies, 45-28.
In all, he’s completed 64 percent of his passes (148-for-231) for 2,259 yards and 25 touchdowns, with just four interceptions. And he’s done it after the Eagles replaced eight offensive starters, though having receivers Braeden Friss and Rhys Ratino — 22 touchdowns combined — back has helped.
“There’s some pressure, of course, but you have to deal with it and have fun,” Glenn said. “I’ve been playing in the same system for years with the same guys, and I know I have teammates next to me that have my back and are going to make plays.
“With the coaching we have and the game plans we have, it kind of takes the pressure off a little bit. You know these guys are going to put you in a position to succeed.”
Elder often talks about the vision he had for the program when he arrived, and the desire to get to Avon Lake’s level, where seniors replace seniors.
That’s happened for the most part at quarterback.
Schroeder, who went on to play at California University of Pennsylvania, split time as a junior with Justin O’Rourke, but as a senior took the bulk of the snaps. O’Rourke then became the full-time starter as a senior and had an incredible season — 40 touchdowns — as the Eagles played in the Division II state title game against Trotwood-Madison.
Zeh succeeded O’Rourke and helped the Eagles to the regional final, and Glenn is attempting to leave his mark in the postseason in his one chance.
Does that one year as the main guy present another layer of pressure?
“Any of these guys would have liked to be a starter more than one year,” Elder said. “But schematically, it takes time to grasp and perfect (what we do). They’ve waited their turn, so they have a lot invested. No doubt.”
Zeh, who now plays at West Virginia Wesleyan, said this week that while each quarterback’s time was limited, they were set up for success. The Eagles use the same terminology throughout the program, and include more details as players move from seventh grade to eighth to the high school level.
Practices, Zeh said, can be as intense, if not more, than games. And learning from the quarterbacks before him also helped, as did the Eagles’ now-annual trip to the playoffs. As a junior, Zeh got an extra five weeks of practice as the Eagles advanced to Week 15.
“The coaches do a great job preparing the quarterbacks, and everything helps,” Zeh said. “Getting experience as a junior in big wins, learning from the guys ahead of me. For Tommy, getting that experience last year, even in the Toledo Central Catholic game, everything helps.”
Contact Joel Hammond at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
WHAT: Division II, Region 4 quarterfinal
WHO: No. 2 Avon vs. No. 7 Toledo St. Francis de Sales
WHERE: Avon Middle School
WHEN: Friday, 7:30 p.m.