West Xtra: Geneva QB thrives with new system

COLLEGE FOOTBALL


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There are times when two really isn't better than one.

For the past year and a half, the Geneva College football team ran a two-quarterback offense, shuffling in Zack Hayward and Rocco Colavecchia, two experienced quarterbacks who each brought their own bit of individualized flare to the Golden Tornadoes' attack.

The results were OK, but not all that impressive; Geneva finished 4-6 in 2011 and 3-7 last season, the worst record since coach Geno DeMarco took over the program in 1993.

"If you really look at last year, the bottom line wasn't the bottom line," DeMarco said. "We were in every game. I think we lost four games on the last play. The difference this year is our kids are making plays now that we didn't make last year. It's no coaching genius; it's all about the players delivering."

Since the end of last season, however, DeMarco has decided to scrap the two-quarterback system and focus on a more traditional one-quarterback setup. That quarterback, Hayward, has been delivering since the first snap of the season.

"Sometimes it got a little frustrating [sharing the quarterback duties], but that was just me being selfish," said Hayward, a 6-foot-4, 185-pound redshirt senior. "Coach DeMarco, he knows what he's doing. I just had to have confidence in coach to put us in the right situation. This year it's been working out."

Since going to a one-quarterback setup, the Golden Tornadoes have found immediate success on the field. They opened the season with an impressive 47-3 victory against Frostburg State and already have as many victories as they had all of last season at 3-1, 2-0 in the Presidents' Athletic Conference.

"We're running as many plays as we can, it's no secret, and the two-quarterback system slowed us down tremendously," DeMarco said. "What we did is plug in what each guy does best and it kind of fits. Our whole deal is we have to be able to run an enormous amount of plays to be successful on offense."

With Hayward, a Blackhawk High School graduate and Chippewa resident, taking almost all the snaps and Colavecchia turned loose in the wildcat formation and out of the backfield, the Golden Tornadoes already have scored 181 points this season, an average of 45.3 points per game.

"I think I've taken it more personal," Hayward said. "There are a lot of good quarterbacks in our conference. Now, finally, getting back and being able to throw a lot more, it's more of a competition for me to see where I compare to the rest of the quarterbacks in the conference."

Statistically, Hayward ranks among the conference's best.

He is first in total offense, averaging 388.5 yards per game. He is second in passing, having completed 130 of 193, a completion percentage of 67.4 percent, for 1,335 yards with only one interception and eight touchdowns, and is seventh in passing efficiency at 138.1.

He also is seventh in the PAC in rushing with 219 yards on 31 carries, an average of 7.1 yards per carry, and rushed for 100 yards on nine carries in a 49-28 win against Thiel this season.

"I don't know if you could actually put a characteristic to Zack," DeMarco said. "He doesn't really fit the demographics. The kid can throw the ball like a rocket but then when he takes off, he has an uncanny ability to find open grass and get gobs of yardage.

"For a kid who can throw the ball, I don't know the last time we had a quarterback rush for 100 yards. He ran for 100 yards not on his own reads, but they can only cover so many people and we're sending five guys out. It's kind of by design. I'd like him to get out of bounds a little quicker than he's doing. He tried to slide once on one but it was horrible. He looked like a rookie in the major leagues trying to slide into second after stretching a double and he got thrown out by 10 feet."

Since taking over as the No. 1 quarterback, however, Hayward hasn't come up short very often. In the first game of the season as the only quarterback against Frostburg State, he completed 24 of 29 passes for 266 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions.

"This year it seems like the game is coming a lot slower," Hayward said. "The reads are coming a lot more natural. We have a new quarterbacks coach in coach [David] Girardi, and he has really helped me out watching game film and preparing each week for each team."

Hayward and the rest of his Golden Tornadoes teammates will need plenty of game film for this week's opponent. Geneva, which lost last week for the first time, 41-34 in double overtime to Carnegie Mellon, will travel to Crestview Hills, Ky., to take on Thomas More (3-0, 2-0), which is ranked 25th in the AFCA Division III coaches' poll. Kickoff is 1:30 p.m.

sportscollegedistrict

Rick Davis: rdavis@post-gazette.com or 412-263-3789.


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