COLUMBIA – The nerves he thought would be there never came. For Logan Fitch, playing mistake-free football at quarterback for Hickman has been easier than he thought.
With eight touchdowns and just two interceptions in his first five games as the team’s starter, Fitch’s tremendous accuracy and calm, cerebral approach have been one of the biggest reasons the team stands at 4-1 headed into its showdown Friday at No. 1 Rockhurst.
Hickman (4-1) at No. 1 Rockhurst (5-0)
The Kewpies travel to Kansas City on Friday night to take on the No. 1 team in Class 6 in Rockhurst. The Kewpies are coming off close wins against Helias and Hannibal while the Hawklets visited Columbia last week and picked up a 40-21 over Rock Bridge. Rockhurst won last year's meeting between the teams 27-14.
Time: 7:30 p.m.
Location: Kansas City
Radio: KTGR 1580 AM
Helias (2-3) at No. 5 Rock Bridge (3-2)
The Bruins look to avenge last year's 35-14 defeat at the hands of the Crusaders, but it won't be easy. Helias pushed Hickman to the edge on the road last Friday, falling 20-17, and only recently fell out of the Top 10 in Class 4. Rock Bridge quarterback Mark Pickerel will have to bounce back from a five-interception game last week if the Bruins are to get back on track.
Time: 7 p.m.
Radio: KFRU 1400 AM
Hickman has seen its fair share of new quarterbacks struggle with turning over the ball early in their careers, but Fitch has managed, for the most part, to avoid costly picks, and the Kewpies have found themselves winning close games.
“Even in our state title year, 2004, our junior quarterback Andrew Perkins threw some picks early on,” Hickman coach Jason Wright said. “Logan’s worked hard at his art to establish his accuracy.”
Fitch, a junior, is well built physically to play the position. At 6 feet, 2 inches, he has no trouble seeing over the offensive line, which has been a problem for past Hickman quarterbacks. He is also blessed with a strong arm that lends a hand to the Kewpie play callers, who can open up every page of the playbook because of Fitch’s skills.
“He can throw any type of ball,” Wright said. “Whether it’s the bubble screen, intermediate or a deep ball, he gets it where it needs to go.”
The most important part of his accuracy has nothing do with his arm according to Fitch. The key is his footwork. He worked in the offseason with quarterback guru Skip Stitzell of Fayette and his Quarterback’s Edge program, which has produced another quarterback Columbia football fans are familiar with: Blaine Gabbert.
“You have to get your back foot planted and your other foot pointed at the target,” Fitch said, literally getting up and demonstrating by making a mock throw at the scoreboard at LeMone Field. “If you don’t do it, you end up having to throw across your body.”
Fitch has completed more than 64 percent of his passes in 2010, meeting the lofty 60 percent goal that Wright set for him before the season began. His most common target, senior Dylan Rodes, said he appreciates what Fitch has brought to the team.
“We are definitely running our routes with more confidence,” Rodes said. “We know that he can fit it in smaller windows so we don’t have to get wide open for him to get us the ball.”
The mental approach Fitch takes is another factor that he attributes to his success in 2010. Multiple times a week he stays late for post-practice film sessions with offensive coordinator Sam Bornhauser, often making Fitch the last player to leave practice.
“It’s about putting in that extra time to read the defenses,” Fitch said. “That’s how you find the holes.”
From the opener at the Providence Bowl, it was clear that Fitch had done his fair share of film study. Once he shook off his nerves at halftime, he put on an impressive air show, stepping up in the pocket and firing the ball into space with the confidence of a two-year starter rather than a junior seeing his first varsity action.
No one has stayed more grounded than Fitch, who takes a calm demeanor to the field.
“He stays very even keel,” Wright said. “To play that position you need a guy that won’t get rattled.”
Fitch uses a Bible passage that a certain quarterback he admires made popular in the past few years. That quarterback is also left-handed, and Fitch wears the number 15 to pay tribute to him.
“I took it from Tim Tebow,” he said. “Philippians 4:13.”
The passage reads “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”
Thus far, it’s been Fitch’s left arm that has given the Kewpie offense strength.