He’s completed 73 percent of his passes and owns a remarkable 21-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Still, Courtney Avery sees room for improvement. “There are always things you can do better,” Lexington’s junior quarterback said. “You can’t ever afford to be satisfied.”
Lexington and its star QB aren’t as the playoffs begin.
LEXINGTON – He’s completed 73 percent of his passes and owns a remarkable 21-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio.
Still, Courtney Avery sees room for improvement.
“There are always things you can do better,” Lexington’s junior quarterback said. “You can’t ever afford to be satisfied.”
A starter since his freshman year, Avery led Lex to the first unbeaten regular season in school history and first ever Ohio Cardinal Conference championship. The Minutemen qualified for the Division II playoffs for the second year in a row and will host Cloverleaf (8-2) in a Region 6 quarterfinal Friday.
As Avery has evolved, so have the Minutemen. Lexington was 2-8 during his freshman year and did not win an OCC game.
“As a freshman, I was nervous when I stepped into the huddle to call the play,” Avery said. “I don’t feel those nerves any more. I’m definitely a lot more confident now.”
The once wide-eyed freshman has developed into the undisputed leader of north central Ohio’s most productive offense. Lexington led the OCC in scoring offense and total offense, averaging 41.2 points and 438.8 yards a game.
“Courtney was a very mature freshman. That’s why we felt we would be able to put him in the position he was in,” Lex coach B.J. Payne said. “Since then, he has growns both physically and mentally. His arm strength has improved and, from a mental standpoint, he goes through his first, second and third reads now.
“He is a tremendous athlete, but he doesn’t just want to tuck the ball and run. He wants to throw it.”
That wasn’t always the case.
“Courtney understands defenses a lot better now than when he was a freshman,” said senior running back Antonio Pickens, who rushed for 1,111 yards and 17 TDs during the regular season. “He’s gotten smarter with his reads.”
Avery completed 52 of 125 passes for 585 yards as a freshman and was picked off seven times. As a sophomore, he completed 54 of 115 passes for 750 yards, nine TDs and three interceptions.
This year, Avery has completed 122 of 166 passes for 2,095 yards, 21 TDs and just one interception.
“The game has really slowed down for me this year,” Avery said. “I’m reading defenses better and trying to put us in the best position possible.”
Avery has an arsenal of talent at his disposal and has spread the wealth this fall. Five receivers have 13 or more receptions.
“Do I have a favorite target? Whoever is open,” he said. “I have a lot of faith in all those guys.”
Senior Tyler Dickson broke Lexington’s single-season receiving record with 42 catches for 878 yards and 10 TDs. Michael Gallik has 34 catches for 527 yards and six scores, while Cody Hamilton has 19 receptions for 357 yards and two TDs. Kevin Smith and Zack Verspoor each have 13 catches.
“His accuracy has really improved,” said Dickson, who parlayed his record-setting senior season into a scholarship offer from Army. “He struggled at times his freshman year, but this year he goes through all his reads and we execute plays a lot better.”
Avery’s continued development and a wealth of talented returning skill position players allowed Payne to open up the offense this fall.
“Last year, we had a veteran line, a bruising fullback and a great tailback. We would run and run to set up the play-action pass,” Payne said. “This year, we knew we had a young line, but a lot of experience at the skill positions.
“We’re a lot more balanced this year. We have a 1,000-yard running back and our young line takes a lot of pride in that.”
In addition to his increased workload on offense, Avery is playing defense for the first time since junior high. The cornerback has drawn interest from several Division I schools and has been a guest at two Ohio State games this fall.
“It’s scary how good of an athlete he is,” Payne said. “I think his vertical (jump) is 35 inches and his slowest 40 time this summer was 4.53. It says a lot about his athleticism that schools are willing to offer him a scholarship at a position he hasn’t played regularly in four years.
“He’s such a hard worker and he’s a coachable kid. He had a 3.9 (grade point average) during the first grading period.”
Avery, who also is an outstanding point guard on the basketball team, hasn’t made any decisions on college yet.
“I don’t know if I’m going to play basketball or football and if I play football, I don’t know if I will play offense or defense,” he said. “I’ve got a decision within a decision.”
“It’s a good problem to have,” Payne said.
For now, Avery and the Minutemen are focused on Friday’s showdown with Cloverleaf.
“From what we have seen, they are big and physical,” Avery said. “We’re going to have to play our best game of the season.”
Last year’s trip to the postseason was an eye-opening experience for the Minutemen. Lexington fell to Sylvania Southview in the first round last fall.
“We know what to expect now,” Avery said. “Playoff football is definitely more intense. Everybody is good and everybody is well coached. You can’t afford to have any mental breakdowns.”
Lexington junior quarterback Courtney Avery is enjoying the best season of his three-year varsity career.
Year: C-A, Yds, TD, INT
2006: 52-125; 585; 2; 7
2007: 54-115; 750; 9; 3
2008: 122-166; 2,095; 21; 1
Total: 228-406; 3,430; 32; 11