The Springfield High School football program hasn’t given its fans a great deal to cheer about in recent times.
The Devils have been a candidate to finish at the bottom of the Northern Lakes League standings when the last week of October rolls around during the last few years.
But rising junior option-quarterback Eric Page just might be the team’s savior from further misery.
“I like proving people wrong,” Page said, “and a lot of people say they wouldn’t try out for our football team because we’re so bad. So I like going out and showing those kids that they might want to try out for the team and get more numbers into our program.”
Page is rolling up touchdowns and yardage at a furious and nearly unstoppable pace for the Blue Devils this season, his first full year as starting QB. His eye-popping individual performances are increasing in frequency, and at times are almost single-handedly leading his team to wins along the way.
“It’s been a process. He’s got great football sense; it’s just been about teaching him the knowledge of the game,” said second-year head coach Dave Connelly.
With 13 career starts on his resume dating back to his sophomore season, Page seems to be harnessing that knowledge quickly, with opponents starting to suffer the consequences.
“He’s really picked up the pace of the game and the fundamental things with practice,” Connelly said.
A potential win over Perrysburg to close out the season would mean the Devils finish 4-6 overall in 2007. They had six wins total over the three previous seasons.
“… We want to get some momentum for next season,” said senior offensive guard and defensive tackle Ismail Zafer.
Lately, Springfield, averaging more than 30 points a game, beat Maumee, 58-42, on the road and Anthony Wayne, 56-34, at home, before succumbing to 42-28 loss to Rossford.
In the Maumee and Anthony Wayne contests combined, Page accounted for exactly 1,000 all-purpose yards, including 570 yards on the ground and 15 touchdowns.
Page scampered for five touchdowns and threw for three against the Panthers. Against the Generals, he ran for four TDs and passed for three.
He kicked 11 extra-points and added a two-point conversion on a QB keeper along the way, making him responsible for 85 of the team’s 114 points over the span of seven days.
“I’ve been listening to my quarterback coach (Robert Materni),” Page said, “and I’ve just really stepped it up over the last couple of weeks.”
While the two-week span against the Panthers and Generals put Page’s emerging capabilities on full display, his season-long performance has been a sight to behold.
Through nine games, Page had 1,906 yards rushing and 1,006 more through the air. Add in his kick and punt return totals, and he currently has 3,570 yards of total advancement for the Devils.
“As coaches, and with Eric as a player, we’ve been able to fine-tune the spread offense and the framework of what we expected,” Connelly said.
Many of the yards gained by Page have transformed into 40 touchdowns, with 21 of them rushing. Passing or running, he has the knack for making big plays.
The Springfield offensive line has been a big help for Page, but his front men give him the credit right back.
“If I push a guy one way, Page is going to cut it the other way,” Zafer said. “He has really good vision and good anticipation for where the blocks are coming.”
Page may be an overtly dominant part of the Devils’ success this season, but the hungry program has no problem with that.
“I think we’re so starving to win around here, that everybody just wants to win no matter how we get it done,” Connelly said.
The hope is that Page can take the Devils back to the winning side of the scales, something the team hasn’t done since going 6-4 in 2003. It went 2-8 in each of its previous three seasons. The Devils’ haven’t won the NLL since 1994.
His presence at Springfield is a blessing that almost wasn’t, but Page holds distinct loyalty to his home village of Holland, where his family has resided since he was a second-grader.
After playing football through junior high and with the Springfield Cowboys youth program, Page, like a number of other talented Devil athletes before him, made the move to play high school sports at St. John’s Jesuit.
But he only served as a Titan for a semester before deciding his future would be more comfortable as a Blue Devil.
“I didn’t really know anybody [at St. John’s] and I was a little homesick,” Page said. “I missed my old friends and came back to Springfield because of that reason.”
Taking the casual approach to playing has turned Page into a surprise arrival as one of the top up-and-coming area stars.
“Eric just has some God-given ability that not a lot of us have,” Connelly said.