Tony Kocanjer Takes Over at Quarterback for Clippers

The Columbiana Clippers have had a long history of outstanding quarterbacks. Some were very athletic, beating teams with their running ability, and others were strong passing QB’s that we're able to sling the ball. This season the Clippers turn to junior Tony Kocanjer as the next in line to fill the position.

​“Columbiana has been blessed with a long, long line of really outstanding athletes, quarterbacks, and young men. Not just in my 26, to be 27 years here, but long before I came,” Clippers head coach Bob Spaite remarked. “I have been especially blessed. We have had several 1000 - 1000-yard guys and others that have either rushed or passed for over 1000 yards. Typically, our quarterbacks, since I have been here, are the focus of what we do. Tony will be expected to fill that role. Both as a leader and as the coach on the field.”

Kocanjer will take over the reins following the graduation of Jakob Cross, who was one of those 1,000-yard passers, totaling 1,679 yards with 11 touchdowns last year. Cross also rushed for an additional 637 yards and 8 TDs.

​With the success that the Clippers enjoyed last year, Kocanjer did get a lot of playing time in mop-up duty. He saw action in 8 of the Clippers 10 games, but only attempted 8 passes, completing 2 for 18 yards. However, he did run the ball 20 times for 165 yards and a lone touchdown in a 41-8 win over United.

“The really great QBs, either in the past, during my tenure, or for that matter at any level, can only become great if they have a supporting cast." Clippers head coach Bob Spaite

Coach Spaite realizes that Kocanjer will need to work on taking the next step in his development to be a successful varsity QB, “Tony's strengths are number one, he is what you want in a leader. A person of high moral character, intelligent, and an outstanding athlete. His major work will be in all the small areas that take a young QB from being good to great. His footwork, throwing mechanics, command of the offense, and reading defenses. He's already spent hours on the first two, and the others can only come with practice reps and game situations.”

​With so many of the Clippers starting players having graduated from last season, it is going to be vital that a whole cast of players around Kocanjer execute the offense for them to be successful. Kocanjer won’t be able to do it all by himself.

Photo courtesy of WKBN/WYTV

“The really great QBs, either in the past, during my tenure, or for that matter at any level, can only become great if they have a supporting cast. The more outstanding those players are, either at the skill positions or on the offensive line, the greater chance of headline-grabbing stats any QB can produce,” Spaite explained.

He would add, “We all see the great catches, we all understand how a great running back takes the pressure off the QB position. However, it is the offensive line that truly enables the QB or any other position to stand out. This group certainly has some of those pieces. We must find and develop the rest.”

It will also be very important for the Clippers offensive line to protect Kocanjer this season as his only backups are senior receiver Xathon Cross and freshman Rocco Crawford. Neither has varsity experience but has experience playing the quarterback position.

​The success of the Clippers in 2020 will ultimately come down to the development of the whole team, both at quarterback and the cast of players surrounding him. If everything comes together, Kocanjer has the opportunity to list his name with those former outstanding Clipper signal-callers of the past.