This story was written prior to Friday's game. There's an update at the end of the story.James H. Blake High School football coach Tony Nazzaro shows senior quarterback Stefan Sigwalt, his student aide, the script of the team's first several offensive plays each week. Most players would nod and passively go along with the plan, but not Sigwalt.
“He's not afraid to tell me, 'I don't really like that play,' or 'That's not my favorite one,'” Nazzaro said. “His honesty and frankness is refreshing.”
In turn, Nazzaro is truthful about Sigwalt, who'd been groomed for years to start at quarterback this season.
“If I had to be completely honest, I'd say he's probably exceeded my expectations,” Nazzaro said.
Sigwalt started during the junior varsity team's undefeated season in 2010 and last year on varsity, he played the third series of each game. It was important to Nazzaro to get Sigwalt that experience while games still were contested, but it helped that while doing so, the other players never worried about a backup quarterback seeing the field.
“I don't know how much of it you can really measure, but the other kids just believe in him,” Nazzaro said.
Sigwalt has given his teammates even more reason to believe in him this year. He's completed 95 of 174 passes for 1,142 yards with seven touchdowns and seven interceptions in eight games for Blake (5-3), displaying a remarkable consistency in the process. He's thrown for between 117 yards and 177 yards in each contest and completed at least half his passes in seven of eight.
Perhaps, Sigwalt's ability to keep playing well through any inevitable bumps and bruises stems from the sport he's participated in since he was a 6 years old. He swims at Flying Gull Aquatic Club year-round, including a few times per week before school during football season.
“It makes me mentally tough because swimming is a pretty hard sport,” Sigwalt said. “It [teaches] me a lot of mental toughness, how to do things when you're really hurting.”
The 6-foot-3, 170-pound Sigwalt is exploring playing football in college — he has interest from Randolph-Macon College, Frostburg State University, Salisbury University and McDaniel College — but he's not quite ready to quit swimming. The sport, which he realizes not many football players participate in, gives him another key advantage.
“I'm always ahead of the game, being in shape,” Sigwalt said.
He's also ahead of the game with knowing Blake's early plays each week, though his review of Nazzaro's plan isn't as necessary as it once was.
“I've come to know some of the plays he likes and some of the ones he doesn't like, and the ones he doesn't like, I don't call very often,” Nazzaro said. “If it's there, I've still got to call it, though.”UPDATE: In Friday's game against Springbrook, Sigwalt completed 28 of 33 pass attempts for 265 yards and threw three touchdowns and no interceptions in the Bengals' 28-0 victory that clinched a 4A North Region playoff berth.