Maurice Harden attended a Xenia basketball game right after he was hired as the school’s head football coach. Someone pointed out an eighth grader and told Harden the youngster was his future quarterback.
Coaches hear that all the time, so Harden didn’t think much of it. Until Gavin McManus, the future quarterback, didn’t miss a weight-lifting session the rest of the school year. That work ethic impressed Harden.
In early June, Harden was impressed with McManus’ throwing ability during 7-on-7 days. Harden put McManus with varsity players to see how the soon-to-be freshman would respond.
“The moment wasn’t too big,” Harden said. “He was able to execute and put the ball on time and where it needed to be. So that started the conversation of maybe he might be able to do this.”
Fast-forward to August and a quad scrimmage with Clinton-Massie, Dunbar and Chaminade-Julienne, the team Harden had spent the five previous seasons with as offensive coordinator. McManus played well, and by the next morning’s staff meeting Harden knew.
“Gavin McManus is going to be our guy,” Harden told his staff. “And he’s done nothing but step up to the challenge and meet it every time.”
McManus’ biggest challenge came this past Friday when he started his first high school game and led Xenia to a 34-14 victory over Beavercreek. McManus, who is 5-foot-10 and 170 pounds, completed 10 of 20 passes for 202 yards and three touchdowns.
“He’s got a rocket for an arm and his ability to be accurate is what makes him a little different from most,” Harden said. “The parts that make him special right now is his ability to understand and read the defense and he has good arm talent for sure.”
Harden’s arrival was good timing for McManus. Previous coach Trace Smitherman, who resigned in December after four years and leading Xenia to its first playoff victory, ran a triple-option offense with little passing. Junior Tremell Wright has moved from quarterback to wide receiver in Harden’s power spread offense. Wright, who is 5-11, caught three passes for 71 yards, including a 51-yard touchdown, in the opener.
“He’s definitely helped him with leadership and how to handle everything,” Harden said. “Tremell’s done a great job of being supportive of Gavin and being the rock for our team.”
Wright’s running mate on the outside is 6-3 senior Runako Tucker, who caught three passes for 87 yards and a touchdown.
“It helps Gavin when you see guys on the perimeter that can stretch defenses and make plays for you out in space,” Harden said. “When you have that, it makes things a lot easier for you.”
Several area quarterbacks made impressive starting debuts this past Friday. Here are the ones who passed for over 100 yards:
Donavin Johnson, Sidney: In a 20-14 loss to Bellefontaine, Johnson completed 13-of-24 passes for 156 yards and one touchdown. He threw three interceptions.
Liam Poronsky, Tippecanoe: In a 24-14 loss to Bellbrook, Poronsky completed 10-of-25 passes for 104 yards. He threw two interceptions.
Logan Cloyd, West Carrollton: In a 31-7 loss to Miamisburg, Cloyd completed 18-of-30 passes for 228 yards and a touchdown. He threw one interception.
Luke Seibert, Vandalia Butler: In a 28-13 loss to Northmont, Seibert completed 23-of-33 passes for 283 yards and two touchdowns. He threw one interception.
Caden Henson, Valley View: In a 25-7 victory over Springfield Shawnee, Henson completed 8-of-14 passes for 202 yards and three touchdowns.
Cahke’ Cortner, Northmont: In a 28-13 win over Butler, Cortner completed 14-of-20 passes for 180 yards and two touchdowns.
Tyrell Lewis, Wayne: In a 41-7 win over Dunbar, Lewis completed 9-of-15 passes for 139 yards and two touchdowns. He threw one interception.
Gavin McManus, Xenia: In a 34-14 win over Beavercreek, McManus completed 10 of 20 passes for 202 yards and three touchdowns.
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