The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Sports

October 17, 2012

Air McAuley: Passing lanes open for Warrior offense

McAuley Catholic quarterback Mitch Wear describes his team as balanced. It’s just not the type of balance you would normally think.

“We liked to call it balance,” Wear said. “We like to throw about 30 deep balls and about 30 screens a game. That’s our balance.”

Call them the “Air” Warriors, because McAuley is going to pass every chance it gets.

The spread offense has Wear and Shaw Robertson, Greg Carney and Cole Lowry among the area’s leaders in passing and receiving. More important, the revamped attack has helped the Warriors to a 5-3 record.

“It’s a lot of fun,” McAuley coach Brenden Gubera said. “When you have kids like this who can catch the football and run the ball a little bit and jump a little bit, sometimes it makes your job too easy when all you got to put them in space and say, ‘go make a play.’ ”

Wear has completed 125 of 210 passes for 2,262 yards and 26 touchdowns with only eight interceptions. A three-year starter, Wear passed for 2,026 yards last season, but Gubera said he has really progressed as a quarterback.

“When I first got here, the first thing I had noticed was his technique and footwork weren’t very good,” said Gubera, who started his second stint as McAuley’s coach this year. “I’m not sure he had really ever been taught properly how to throw a football and read a defense. He spent a lot of time in the summer working on footwork and quarterback mechanics and working on trying to grasp and understand the offense. He’s been a pleasure to work with. He spins the ball real well, and he’s got a great head on his shoulders.”

Wear’s also blessed with several quality receivers.

Robertson, a 6-foot-4 target, leads the team with 53 catches for 707 yards and nine touchdowns. He plays on the outside and is especially useful on possession routes and on jump balls in the corner of the end zone.

Carney, who is the team’s deep threat, leads in receiving yards and touchdowns with 42 receptions for 794 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Lowry flourishes on routes like the bubble screen that allows him to get in open space. He has 29 catches for 755 yards and nine touchdowns. He also has 485 rushing yards and eight touchdowns on only 48 carries.

“Cole is the type of kid you want to get into space,” Gubera said. “You don’t want to compare him to Wes Welker, but he’s that Wes Welker type. He’s such an elusive runner, and he’s smooth when he gets the ball in his hands from whatever angle possible.”

Additionally, tight end Collin Hughes has 32 catches for 379 yards and a touchdown.

Having so many different receivers who bring different skills to the passing game helps make the offense go.

“It opens up the whole offense,” Wear said. “When you’ve got a deep threat on the edge and then a really big guy in Shaw Robertson who can catch the ball over the middle and do great things with it. And Cole, who we can hand the ball to or get him the ball in space and he’s going to do good things. Having those good athletes opens up so many possibilities than we’ve never had in the past.”

Playing in the pass-first scheme makes it fun for the quarterback and receivers.

“You get a lot of balls coming your way every game no matter what position you play,” Robertson said. “It gives you a lot of excitement out on the field knowing that you can always break out the big play or somebody else can.”

Carney said he is happy that he plays for a coach who trusts his players to run the wide-open offense.

“I’m really thankful for it,” he said. “Not a lot of teams around here run the offense we do. I’m thankful to have a quarterback like Mitch who can throw the ball accurate and where he wants to, and I’m thankful to have a coach who believes in us to let us pass almost every single play.”

Wear and the receivers are comfortable with each other as most of them have played together for three years.

“We’re all on the same page,” Lowry said. “Practice flows really well with Mitch at quarterback. We all communicate well.”

With the numbers being produced this season, it’s safe to assume that some school records have been surpassed or are at least in jeopardy. However, Gubera said he would rather not focus on individual records.

“I’m trying to get the kids to buy into the idea that the only records that matter right now are winning on Friday nights,” he said. “Especially with district time right now, if we keep playing the school records will fall. They will take care of themselves. We need to worry about getting better each week and winning each week.”

McAuley will travel to face Greenfield on Friday.

“It’s an interesting matchup,” Gubera said. “It’s a game that scares you as a coach. We still have a lot at stake. We want to win so we can secure the No. 2 seed in district. We definitely want to host any district game we get to play. More importantly, we just want to approach this week in terms of going and getting better and just using Friday night as another step on the ladder to completing our ultimate goal of competing for a state championship.”

 

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