Paskevich met challenge, became Sabres’ leader on football field

Joe Paskevich knew he was going to be the center of attention this fall, as he took over as the star

Joe Paskevich knew he was going to be the center of attention this fall, as he took over as the starting quarterback on a team looking to better a 2009 season that ended in a loss in the state semifinals.

The senior also knew he was going to have a lot of help from his friends.

“Most of the seniors and some of the juniors are my best friends. Every night, we hang out at someone’s house. That makes a difference, we’re good friends,” said the Sabres’ two-sport standout.

“You know what everybody is going to do on the field. We know we can rely on each other.”

Last year, the Sabres relied on Vinnie Gallo for the overwhelming majority of their offense. Paskevich was a receiver.

The day after the season ended, coach Joe Whipple had decided on his quarterback for 2010. The 10-0 Sabres haven’t missed a beat, repeating as Class B champions.

“Joe plays every sport with kind of an edge, and that’s what you need to play quarterback,” said Whipple. “In our system, you have to be cerebral, but you also have to have the ability to make a big play with your legs or with your arm. He has the ability to do both.”

Paskevich welcomed the challenge.

“It meant a lot to me. I’ve always wanted to be a quarterback since I was in Pop Warner,” said the 5-foot-11, 175-pound Paskevich. “I played quarterback for the JV team, then I got called up so I was watching the older kids play the position. That helped.”

As for for the comparisons to Gallo …

“I think I can throw the ball a little bit better. But he did a little more with his legs than I’ve done,” Paskevich said, smiling.

Whipple was also impressed by Paskevich’s leadership quality and work ethic.

“There are kids who are leaders who don’t need to have that captain label. He really takes a lot of pride in being a captain. He leads by example, on the field and in practice,” said Whipple.

“He’s so coachable, and he’s worked hard to keep progressing.”

A catcher on the baseball team, Paskevich worked during the offseason to adjust his throwing motion.

“I started throwing the ball a lot. Throwing a baseball and throwing a football are different motions,” he said. “I can tell, because sometimes, when I throw the football, it comes out like a baseball throw. Baseball is more of a snap throw. Football, you turn your wrist more.”

He takes equal pleasure in completing a pass and throwing out baserunners.

“We run some quick-ins, where I have to get rid of the ball quickly, and it’s like throwing kids out on the bases,” Paskevich said. “For me, completing a pass is like throwing someone out on the bases.”

Having friends around him on the field allowed Paskevich to be a vocal leader.

“We all look at it as we’re all friends, and we’re going to yell at each other. But we’re all working toward the same goal,” he said. “After the game, it’s forgotten and we hang out. There are never any grudges. Apologies are said, but we know if one of us messes up, he’s letting the other 10 guys down. We’re not going to win football games like that.”

“They’re all close, and with Joe being quarterback, they don’t want to let him down, and he doesn’t want to let them down,” Whipple said. “He’s done a great job with it.”

Whipple moved Paskevich off the defensive unit, which the senior credited with helping him stay sharp, both physically and mentally.

“I think that’s why they just have me on offense, so I don’t get as beat up,” he said. “And I have a chance to talk with the coaches while the defense is on the field. Theycan tell me if I made a bad read, if my form was wrong, what we can run. It truly helps me a lot more.”

“I’m pretty critical when it comes to the offense, but Joe knows what we need to do to get where we want to go,” said Whipple. “It’s almost like he’s another coach on the field.”

“I like being a leader. I’m glad I got to be a captain on ths team, it means a lot,” said Paskevich. “Everyone looks to me, and I sort of like that. I feel confident that I won’t let my coaches and teammates down.”

“He’s not the fastest or strongest kid out there, but he’s one of the most intelligent players on the field or on the baseball diamond,” said Whipple.

Categories: High School Sports

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