September 1, 2014

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High school football: Columbia QB Jay Banyasz turns talent and serious preparation into a season to remember

Columbia quarterback Jay Banyasz -- flanked by receivers Austin Walaszewski, left, and Tyler Edmisten -- has thrown 28 touchdown passes and zero interceptions to lead the 10-0 Raiders. STEVE MANHEIM/CHRONICLE

Columbia quarterback Jay Banyasz — flanked by receivers Austin Walaszewski, left, and Tyler Edmisten — has thrown 28 touchdown passes and zero interceptions to lead the 10-0 Raiders. STEVE MANHEIM/CHRONICLE

Few quarterbacks will ever have a season like the one Columbia’s Jay Banyasz is having. The senior has completed 69 percent of his passes for 2,029 yards, while also rushing for 10 touchdowns while averaging 6 yards a carry.

But his most impressive numbers this year have been 28 and 0 — as in 28 touchdown passes and zero interceptions.

With numbers like that, it’s easy to see why Banyasz and the Raiders are heading into Saturday’s Division V regional quarterfinal game against Chippewa as the top seed in Region 16 and the No. 3 team in the final AP poll.

What enables a quarterback to play an entire regular season of nearly mistake-free football? According to Columbia coach Jason Ward, it all comes down to hard work and preparation.

“Jay watches a ton of film on his own,” Ward said. “All of our players have a hudl.com account (a web service that allows players and coaches to break down game film) and he logs in an amazing amount of hours watching film. I believe come Friday night, Jay is honestly the most prepared player on the football field.”

Banyasz also brings a wealth of experience to the field. He is a two-year starter at quarterback and a three-year starter at free safety, where he earned first-team, Division V All-Ohio honors last season.

His combination of work ethic and experience has been deadly for Columbia’s opponents the past two seasons as the Raiders have compiled a 20-2 record.

“Watching film gives you a sense that everything is familiar when you walk on the field,” Banyasz said. “Even on the first play I feel like, ‘OK, I’ve seen this look before,’ I have a good idea what the other team is going to do on certain plays and what receivers might be open.”

Ward joked that often times it looks as if Banyasz figures out the defensive formation before the defense can figure it out themselves.

But more than just the ability to read defenses, it’s what Banyasz does with the information that makes him an elite passer. He’s thrown touchdown passes to seven receivers, four of which are averaging more than two catches a game.

His favorite target this season has been senior wide receiver Tyler Edmisten, who has 37 receptions, nine for TDs.

“There are so many seniors on this team and we’ve played together so long that Jay has great chemistry with all of us,” Edmisten said. “We all worked hard in the offseason and it’s paid off because we’re better on the offensive side of the ball this year.”

As a junior, Banyasz put up good, but not great numbers, throwing 14 touchdowns and five interceptions in 12 games, while averaging 129 yards passing per game.

Ward said that as the season got under way, the Raiders began using the phrase, “sharpen the blade,” to describe how they needed to fine-tune their game and pay attention to detail. In recent weeks, Banyasz has had the offense sharp enough to cut diamonds.

In Week 9, Banyasz went 24-for-36 for 391 yards and a Lorain County record seven touchdown passes in a 54-13 win over Brooklyn. Last week he closed out the regular season with a 10-for-14, 207-yard, two-touchdown performance in a 49-22 win against Clearview.

“Everybody on the team has done the little things that have allowed us to put up the number we have,” Banyasz said. “The receivers do a good job of run blocking, (running back) Jacob Kleinhenz does a great job when he is called on to block, and without my offensive line I would not be able to do anything.”

Banyasz is always the first one to deflect the credit for the team’s success onto his teammates. However, senior wide receiver Austin Walaszewski said Banyasz has played a critical role in the Raiders making the playoffs for the second consecutive season.

“Jay is such a great leader,” Walaszewski said. “The way he handles himself and the way he carries himself on the field helps all of us to be more comfortable and to play to our potential.”

Contact Todd Shapiro at 329-7135 or ctsports@chroniclet.com.

NEXT UP

WHAT: Division V, Region 16 quarterfinal
WHO: No. 1 Columbia vs. No. 8 Chippewa
WHEN: Saturday, 7 p.m.
WHERE: Columbia High School
RADIO: WOBL 1320-AM, WEOL.com