West Xtra: Blackhawk's Hayward plays key role for Geneva
Share with others:
Geneva College football coach Geno DeMarco found himself using a dual-quarterback system for the first time in his 20-year career during the 2011 season.
"The two best kids on the football team happen to be at the same position," DeMarco said. "This situation came about out of necessity. We had one kid get banged up and had to insert someone else."
DeMarco is referring to Blackhawk High School graduate Zack Hayward and Shenango grad Rocco Colavecchia.
Hayward began the 2011 season as the Golden Tornadoes starting quarterback, but was injured in the team's fourth game against Bethany.
Colavecchia stepped in and gave Geneva a different look. Hayward returned the following week and the two-quarterback system was born.
"Our goal is to have both of them on the field every snap," DeMarco said. "It's not because it's some sort of novelty. Both of them have skill sets that are outstanding. Both deserve to be on the field as much as possible."
Hayward completed 138 of 245 passes for 1,468 yards and 12 touchdowns, while throwing only six interceptions. Colavecchia completed 39 of 80 passes for 653 yards and five touchdowns, but also contributed 730 yards and six touchdowns on 132 rushing attempts.
"It's no secret that one can run and the other can throw," DeMarco said. "The truth of the matter is that they both can throw, they both can run and they both can catch the ball. Both are outstanding players, and more importantly both have bought into our unique arrangement at quarterback."
Hayward, who resides in Chippewa, began his college career at Division III powerhouse Mount Union College in Ohio, but his stay there didn't last long.
"I went to Mount Union for training camp and quickly found I was one of 15 quarterbacks," Hayward said. "I was designated as first quarterback on the JV team.
"They also had a transfer from Florida coming in as a redshirt freshman, who eventually became the varsity starter. I knew I would be sitting for more than a year, so I decided to come back home."
When Hayward returned to Beaver County, he ran into a pair of former Blackhawk teammates.
"Kevin Miranda and Jake Delmonico had just transferred to Geneva," Hayward said. "They knew I was looking for a place to play. I visited Geneva and fell in love with the school."
DeMarco was very familiar with Hayward.
"When Zach called about transferring, we welcomed him with open arms," DeMarco said. "He grew up in our backyard, so we were very familiar with him. Zach is a natural-born leader."
Hayward had no trouble fitting in at Geneva.
"It wasn't difficult at all," Hayard said. "I knew coach DeMarco, I knew most of the coaching staff, and I knew some of the players, so the transition was very easy. I'm very competitive on and off the field and in the classroom. Coach DeMarco feels the same way. I knew it was a great fit for me."
Hayward didn't lose any eligibility because he didn't take any classes at Mount Union, but his first year at Geneva did not go as planned.
"Two weeks after arriving at Geneva, I broke my collarbone in our first game. I had to sit out that whole year. It was tough watching everybody else and knowing that I couldn't play. That was the first time in my career that I missed a lot of time with a major injury."
Hayward returned last year and was designated as the No. 1 quarterback, but Colavecchia, who had transferred from Slippery Rock, stepped into the picture.
"As soon as he came in, I could see that Rocco was a great player," Hayward said. "When I saw him throw the ball for the first time, I knew that he had to throw it sometime because he's got a cannon for an arm. I don't mind moving positions, as long as I can help the team."
With Hayward and Colavecchia in the picture, DeMarco switched to different formations to take advantage of both. Colavecchio became the Golden Tornadoes' top rusher. He also ranked third on the team with 27 catches for 202 yards. Hayward actually caught two passes himself for 61 yards, including a 53-yard touchdown pass.
"It brings a more versatile offense to the table," Hayward said. "Rocco is a great quarterback. He brings a lot to the table. We both are willing to play wide receiver, if needed. We both know that we want to win a PAC championship. We're both very competitive, so we're on the same page. No matter what position we're playing, we both want to win."
Hayward and Colavecchia will find themselves in the same backfield at times this season.
"Last year, we switched off and on a lot and were not on the field together as much. We talked a lot during the offseason and both of us want to be on the field as much as possible, and coach DeMarco agrees.
"We've put in some formations where we are side by side in the backfield. The snap can go to either one of us. One can be running around and the other can be throwing."
Hayward works just as hard in the classroom.
"I have two majors: business administration and sports management, with a minor in coaching," Hayward said. "Hopefully, I can become an athletic director and coach."
First Published August 9, 2012 7:21 am