You couldn’t dream this stuff up. At least Matt Ferris couldn’t.
“If you had told me all this stuff would be happening at the beginning of the year, I’d have told you you were crazy,” said the Xavier senior quarterback.
A state-record-setting season was capped off today with the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association’s highest honor, as Ferris was named the WFCA’s Offensive Player of the Year.
“It’s really just a great honor for our team,” said Ferris. “I’m really proud.”
Ferris set single-season state records in passing yards (3,947) and touchdowns (50) and threw a record eight touchdowns in a game. He helped the Hawks to an 11-2 mark and a berth in the WIAA Division 2 state semifinals, where they lost to Greendale 44-20.
“Well, it’s been incredible what he did,” said Jim Zuleger, Xavier’s offensive coordinator. “It was just remarkable, with him breaking all the quarterback records that have ever been around in the state. It’s just phenomenal. And Matt will be the first to tell you it’s not his award, it’s a team award.
“But let’s be honest, at the end of the day, that’s one heck of a darn good quarterback.”
As good as the season was, it was a difficult conclusion as Ferris was unable to start the state semifinal because of a back injury he suffered the week before against Seymour.
“It was really tough,” said Ferris, “especially coming into the playoffs. I tried to keep an optimistic attitude through all the doctor and chiropractor appointments. I had confidence in the team even with me not out there. Zack (Simons) did a great job playing quarterback all week. I helped him however I could and I was really happy how he performed.”
Ferris said he took either a knee or helmet to the back against Seymour. He was experiencing some trouble the next day but the next three days could not get out of bed without assistance.
“I was not able to run or anything all week,” he said.
Despite lots of prodding last Friday, Zuleger said he told Ferris he wouldn’t put him into the game because he couldn’t defend himself. But Ferris finally convinced him to give him one series to prove himself, and he started the second half.
“At the end of the half, I started warming up,” he said. “It was causing me a little pain and discomfort but I realized this could very well be my last high school game and I didn’t want to go out with any regrets. I told coach I was ready to give it a shot. I couldn’t run well but I did what I could.”
One more record Ferris set was becoming the first player in Xavier history to receive the WCFA’s top honor.
“Well, I mean it’s pretty exciting,” he said. “It’s not an individual award. It goes to the offensive line that kept me upright and the receivers, who are the best in the state, and the defense who got the ball back. And all the coaches. Coach Zuleger taught me the offense inside and out and it was just everybody working together to get that goal.
“It was such an incredible experience playing with those guys, my best friends, out there. We had such a great time with the coaches in practice and the games and we just had fun together. It was an awesome time.”
Zuleger said the award was made all the sweeter because of the type of individual Ferris is.
“No question, Matt is one of the most humble, genuine young men I’ve ever been around,” said Zuleger. “To have a kid show this much respect for his coaches, his teammates, his teachers, it makes the award all the more special and I’m humbled to play a very small role in it.
“Matt works incredibly hard at everything he does. It’s been truly remarkable and it’s a credit to Matt.”