Mick McCabe: Saline QB Zach Swartzenberger is off the charts

Mick McCabe: Saline QB Zach Swartzenberger is off the charts

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Mick McCabe: Saline QB Zach Swartzenberger is off the charts

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Of the 18 passes Zach Schwartzenberger threw last week, one remains fresh in his memory.

“We tried to throw a hitch route,” he said. “Their defensive lineman just put his hand up and knocked it down.”

What was so special about that play? It was Schwartzenberger’s only incompletion.

The Saline senior was 17-for-18 for 191 yards and a touchdown in the Hornets’ 38-3 victory over previously unbeaten Birmingham Groves.

That was an amazing performance, but it was only one in a string of incredible games for the youngster, who last season backed up Josh Jackson, now a freshman at Virginia Tech.

Schwartzenberger has completed 102 of 125 passes for 1,422 yards and 13 touchdowns with only two interceptions in a 9-0 season.

The National Federation of High Schools uses the NCAA’s formula for quarterback ratings. The NCAA’s best QBR season ever belongs to Russell Wilson, who had a QBR of 191.8 for Wisconsin in 2011. Schwartzenberger’s QBR this season is 208.3!

Schwartzenberger, 6 feet and 185 pounds, has been the model of efficiency. This year is the first time he has started at quarterback since his freshman year, when he started for the junior varsity.

As a sophomore, he was Saline’s long-snapper and played on special teams.

Wait, he was the long-snapper?

“I was just messing around one day in practice, and I did it,” he said. “I guess the long-snappers we had at the time were struggling, and they asked if I could do it. I said sure, it was a way for me to get up to varsity, and I took it.”

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A year ago, Schwartzenberger was Jackson’s backup, but also was the long-snapper and played receiver and running back. He did anything he could to get on the field.

At his core, Schwartzenberger is a team guy. He was unaware of his statistics this season and said he hasn’t given much thought to his completion percentage of 81.6.

“I never really thought about it,” he said. “I just wanted to help us win. I figured if we’re winning and doing well, then I’m probably doing my job as playing well as well.”

When asked why he has been so good, he began pointing fingers.

He pointed to running back Connor Hibbard, who has gained 1,005 yards on 107 carries, a 9.4 average.

“I just know that Connor Hibbard is such a great running back, defenses have to key on him so much for the run,” Schwartzenberger said. “When we play-action, they think it’s a run play to Connor, and that gets our receivers open and helps me get out and make plays.”

He also pointed to tight end Bryce Wolma, who has caught 33 passes for 496 yards and has committed to Arizona.

“Bryce is definitely the best tight end in the state of Michigan, no doubt,” Schwartzenberger said. “He’s a complete player. He can block, he’s a great receiver, he can go with the ball. He’s a great playmaker.”

A year from now, Schwartzenberger will be a freshman at Toledo on a baseball scholarship. He hit .340 last season for Saline and is an excellent centerfielder.

The next time Saline loses, it will be Schwartzenberger’s final football game. And he isn’t prepared to have it end before the state finals Thanksgiving weekend.

“I’ve tried not to think about it, but it has kind of hit me when the playoffs hit,” he said. “Hopefully my last football game ever can be a win in Ford Field. It’s starting to kick in that it’s the final show.”

Contact Mick McCabe: 313-223-4744 or mmccabe@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @mickmccabe1.

Zach Schwartzenberger, Saline QB

Zach Schwartzenberger, Saline QB

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Mick McCabe: Saline QB Zach Swartzenberger is off the charts
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