First-year Elyria coach Kevin Fell says the key to his new squad's Week 1 game against Amherst is limiting the Comets quarterback. He should know: He had a front-row seat in Brennan Hosier's first year as a starter, when all Hosier did was lead the Comets to an 8-0 start and, in Fell's words, need just two more plays to go undefeated.
Last year didn't end how either wanted, but this year starts only fittingly: The Pioneers at the Comets, spread-offense pupil vs. teacher.
"It's going to be exciting," Hosier said. "There's been some trash talking between me and Coach Fell, but he was great to me. He was really hands-on with the offense, too, and helped me learn."
Hosier stormed the Southwestern Conference last year, throwing for 2,851 yards and 20 touchdowns, while completing 60 percent of his passes. He had four games of three touchdowns or more as the Comets averaged 32.9 points per game.
Hosier said even he was surprised by his performance. While watching Alex Basinski run Fell's offense on Friday nights, Hosier struggled with it as the junior varsity starter.
But he found few of those struggles as a junior, starting with a 376-yard performance in a Week 1 win over the Pioneers.
"He surprised me," said new Amherst coach Chad DiFranco, the team's defensive coordinator the past six seasons. "(Fell) might say he didn't surprise him. Now he has to lead."
And that will be the key for the Comets: Now it's time for Hosier to adjust.
Not only did five wide receivers graduate, but Hosier won't be sneaking up on anyone. Plus, as a senior quarterback with success under his belt, he'll be asked to be more vocal and guide the troops to an SWC title that has eluded Amherst since 2000.
"I'm ready to step up as a leader," he said. "We were 8-0 and on track for an SWC title. We didn't win, and we talk about it as a team: 'Finish strong.'
"We use last year as fuel for this year."
If he follows the blueprint he crafted last year, chances are he'll be fine. SWC coaches, while conceding Hosier isn't a prototypical quarterback - he's a shade under 6 feet and awfully skinny - said Hosier simply limited his mistakes and made the right decisions.
That included getting the ball in the hands of Tyler Parrish, Brad Block and Jason Stump, among other weapons on the edge.
"He puts the ball in the right place at the right time, which is important for the quarterback," said Olmsted Falls coach Jim Ryan, whose squad beat Amherst in Week 9 when the Comets missed a field goal that would have forced overtime. "They can't hurt themselves. He's a good quarterback. He knows where to throw the football."
Avon Lake coach Dave Dlugosz also praised Hosier, but said in Amherst's offense the supporting cast is key, a sentiment echoed by others.
But Fell said Hosier had more to do with the success of Amherst's receiving corps than some credit him. Parrish, for instance, burst onto the scene as a senior, something in which Hosier played a key role, Fell said.
"Going into last year, all those receivers (except Block) had played JV," Fell said. "They all came into their own, and Brennan put them in good position by knowing where to put the ball.
"I don't see why they can't have the same thing happen this year, with Brennan helping other guys step up. I just hope they don't do it against us."
Jordan Irvin can attest. The junior running back, who will carry the load for the Comets after Stump's departure, said he watched Hosier struggle on the JV team two years ago, and the difference is night and day.
"That (JV) year was rough," Irvin said. "Last year, he and the rest of the group were in sync, and with that experience from last year, I think he's going to play even better this season."
That will be key if the Comets are to achieve their goals; they broke huddles in camp by chanting "SWC championship."
If they're to accomplish that goal, they'll have to solve the Avon Lake puzzle, along with avenging last year's Olmsted Falls loss and contending with upstart Brecksville.
"We're ready," Hosier said. "(An SWC championship) is goal No. 1."
Contact Joel Hammond at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
"I'm ready to step up as a leader. We were 8-0 and on track for an SWC title. We didn't win, and we talk about it as a team: 'Finish strong.' We use last year as fuel for this year."
- Amherst quarterback Brennan Hosier
BRENNAN HOSIER: BY THE NUMBERS
Passing yards last year in his first season as a starter
Games with three or more touchdown passes
Passing yards against Elyria last year in Week 1