District notebook: Local QB thriving in key role at Geneva


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In principle, Geno DeMarco's offensive philosophy seems pretty straightforward -- develop your offense around the skills and attributes of your quarterback.

That, however, requires a level of trust between coach and quarterback. And when the time came for the Geneva coach to name Zack Hayward his starter, he was more than comfortable doing so.

"When he came, I said 'Here are the keys to the car,' " DeMarco said. "And now he's the guy that's driving it."

For the former Blackhawk standout, who played high school football 5 miles from the Geneva campus, great success has followed.

This season has been the best of the senior's career as he has completed 63.4 percent of his passes for 1,770 yards and 10 touchdowns. He only has thrown three interceptions. He also has been a force on the ground, rushing for 259 yards and two touchdowns.

Overall, Hayward has accounted for 72.3 percent of the Golden Tornadoes' yards this season.

He holds many of the school's top single-game passing totals, including his 402-yard, two-touchdown performance Saturday in a 40-30 victory against Saint Vincent, a game in which he also rushed for 35 yards and a touchdown.

"I've had a lot of time to grasp the system," Hayward said. "I've spent more time in the film room and more time with coach DeMarco. The game seems like it's been slowing down each year I've started and this year, it's just clicking."

As Hayward has thrived, so has his team.

The Golden Tornadoes are 4-2 after finishing 3-7 last year and have twice as many wins as they did at this point in 2012.

With Hayward leading the way, Geneva has scored nearly as many points in six games (221) as it did all last season (259), running what DeMarco said has been an average of about 85 plays per game.

A whirlwind journey

Like any teacher seeing a former student move on, time has moved slowly for Slippery Rock baseball coach Jeff Messer. Not even four years ago, Matt Adams was Messer's first baseman/catcher and was finishing a distinguished career in which he set the school record for batting average ( .473).

Now Adams, 25, is in the World Series playing against the Boston Red Sox as the starting first baseman for the St. Louis Cardinals.

For Messer, it's nearly a surreal moment to see a former player reach the game's biggest stage this early in his career.

"You have to pinch yourself sometimes to make sure it's not a dream," Messer said.

From the time he recruited him out of high school to the time he coached him in college, Messer knew Adams was a special player.

He recalled one instance in a Division II regional playoff game against West Chester in 2007 when Adams hit about a 400-foot home run that never seemed like it was higher than 8 feet off the ground.

Messer was able to see Adams play against the Pirates in the National League Division Series earlier this month and arrived Wednesday night in Boston for the World Series. But as much as he wants to see Adams succeed, there is a bit of a caveat -- a western Massachusetts native, Messer grew up a Red Sox fan.

"I'm sort of stuck in the middle," he said with a laugh.

Craig Meyer: cmeyer@post-gazette.com and Twitter @CraigMeyerPG.

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