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Megaffin gets the nod for TMP vs. Ellinwood

By AUSTIN COLBERT

acolbert@dailynews.net

As of Wednesday afternoon the butterflies had yet to hit Max Megaffin, but he knows it's only a matter of time before they do.

"I'm positive there will be some creeping up (today) and Friday," the Thomas More Prep-Marian junior quarterback said. "I'm sure I'll have my veteran teammates there to support me and help me through that."

The nerves stem from Friday's 7 p.m. season opener at Ellinwood, which will be Megaffin's first career start at the varsity level. Megaffin was named the starting quarterback this week, narrowly beating out sophomore Jared Vitztum for the job.

"He is still learning and developing as a quarterback, but we felt that he gives us the best opportunity to be successful at this time," TMP coach John Montgomery said. "He's done everything we've asked. I think he'll do a good job on Friday night."

Megaffin was the team's backup quarterback last year, behind former wide receiver Shane Zimmerman. Megaffin's season ended short, however, when he broke his collarbone in the week leading up to the La Crosse game.

He was cleared for football in the spring, and showed how serious he was about winning the starting quarterback job during the summer when he led player-only 7-on-7 drills and started to take command of the team.

"I've been waiting a long time for this opportunity," Megaffin said. "I didn't know exactly what was going to happen. I just had to go out and perform in the scrimmages and the practices we had this week and let the coach take care of the rest."

The decision wasn't an easy one for the coaches, who see tremendous potential in Vitztum.

"Where he sits as a sophomore, he sits in a great position," Montgomery said. "If he continues to work and busts his tail off, he's got some great opportunities ahead of him."

The rest of the team wasn't concerned about who would get the job, but still feel better knowing exactly who it's going to be.

Megaffin and Vitztum are similar in the way they play, both big-bodied pocket passers with strong arms.

But being individuals, each has his own quirks and leadership style that can impact the players around them.

"It gives us some confidence," junior running back Nick Schmidt said. "They are both great quarterbacks, but the little details, not one being worse than the other ... can really throw off the running back. It's good to know beforehand."

The pressure will be on Megaffin and the Monarchs to get an early win, which were at a premium in TMP's 2-7 season a year ago. The good news is that TMP has won four straight season openers, the last three coming against Mid Central Activities Association rival Ellinwood.

The Eagles were 0-9 last season, including a 36-20 loss to TMP. But Ellinwood didn't lose a whole lot off that team, and the Monarchs' understand there isn't much difference between zero wins and two wins.

"We preach that we don't overlook anybody," Montgomery said. "When you look at Ellinwood, they graduated four seniors last year. They got seven returning seniors. They certainly are in a situation where they've got some experience coming back. It's not a lot different than where we are."

Montgomery has also stressed how the winner of the first game isn't always the best team. The winner will be the team that minimizes the mental mistakes and takes care of the football, meaning there will be a lot of pressure on Megaffin in his debut.

"He knows his plays and everybody trusts what he says. He very seldom makes mistakes," Schmidt said. "It's their first home game and they want to win. And beating us could be a good season for them. (Montgomery) said don't take anything for granted. We weren't much better, and it's their home game. So just be ready."