St. Aloysius QB taking flight

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 6, 2003

St. Aloysius quarterback Drew Mazzanti yells to a teammate for a block as he tries to outrun West Lincoln defenders during the Flashes’ 42-14 victory on Friday night. (Jenny SevcikThe Vicksburg Post)

[11/6/03]When Drew Mazzanti stepped up from backup quarterback to first-string for St. Aloysius this summer, he was told the Flashes would try to pass the ball more.

He never realized it would be this much more.

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Heading into Friday night’s season finale against Natchez Cathedral, Mazzanti has more passing yards and touchdowns than St. Al has had in the last three years combined.

He has come a long way from the backup who had seen little time under center until this season, and is a big reason the Flashes have won four of their last five games and have a chance to finish over .500 after an 1-4 start.

“Drew always had the potential to be a good passing quarterback. I’m not a real gung-ho passing coach, but I don’t guess you can say enough about the job he’s done,” St. Al coach Jim Taylor said. “As far as his ability to throw the football, he’s probably the purest passer we’ve had come through here since I’ve been here.”

Between 2000 and 2002, St. Al quarterbacks combined to complete 74 of 196 passes for 800 yards, with seven touchdowns and 13 interceptions despite Taylor’s attempts to install a spread offense last season.

This year alone, Mazzanti has surpassed or come close to matching those numbers. He is 51-for-114 for 840 yards, with nine touchdowns and only five interceptions. Not bad for a player who had barely had any reps at quarterback until spring practice last season.

“If he had started last year or gotten a little more practice throwing the ball, there’s no telling what he would have done this year,” said St. Al wide receiver Anthony Rector, who has caught nine passes for 179 yards this season. “The question mark was how well he would get accustomed to the flow of the game, and he’s gotten used to it pretty quick.”

Part of the reason for the increased emphasis on the passing game is the Flashes’ early struggles. They started the season 0-5 and were often forced to throw after falling behind.

During an early loss to St. Andrew’s, Mazzanti threw nearly 20 times and tossed three interceptions. Out of the ashes of that game, however, came a new awareness that has helped him in the long run.

“It was surprising at first, the number of times we threw,” Mazzanti said. “At St. Andrew’s, when I threw 24 times or something like that, it opened my eyes and let me see what he wanted.”

As the season has worn on, Mazzanti’s attempts per game have dropped but he has become more accurate and efficient.

Over the last three games, Mazzanti is 10-for-17 for 193 yards, with two touchdowns and one interception. He was a perfect 5-for-5 in last week’s rout of West Lincoln.

“The last three games I haven’t had to pass, and when I have it’s wide open,” said Mazzanti, who has also rushed for 318 yards and five TDs this season. “I credit that to the line. They came in and established the run in all of those games.”

His arm isn’t the only weapon Mazzanti is using to help St. Al’s late-season drive. The 6-foot, 180-pounder also plays defensive back and punter for the Flashes, and only comes off the field on kick returns.

He leads the team with four interceptions, and is third with 56 tackles. He worked with Delta State punter and former Warren Central star John Weaver over the summer to improve his punting, and it has paid off with an average of nearly 40 yards per kick.

“He’s an all-around player, like many of our kids, and being a quarterback makes it extra good and extra tough for him, not being able to come to the sideline except maybe for a drink of water and then he’s right back out there,” Taylor said. “I just give him a high grade on everything he does.”