Josh Pennington and Kyle Row aren’t joined at the hip. It just seems that way.
The Clay senior quarterback and senior wide receiver, respectively, are best friends and it shows on the football field. Pennington said the two spent “a ton” of time together in the offseason, preparing for their senior season and for first-year coach Mike Lee’s new spread offense.
“We started as soon as the season ended last year,” Pennington said. “The first week of November we started coming in in the morning before school, doing workouts. We started doing passing routes the rest of the year. We already had great chemistry, but it improved our understanding of each other, him running his routes and thinking what I’m thinking. It’s definitely made us better players.
|Top: Josh Pennington (center) flanked by father
Scott Pennington and mother Brenda Pennington
during Senior Parent’s Night activities. (Press
|Bottom: Kyle Row (center) flanked by father Mike
Row, who played at Eastern Michigan, and mother
Kristi Row during Senior Parent’s Night activities.
(Press photo by
“We’re best friends and we do everything together. I know when I’m throwing the ball to Kyle in a certain area, he’s going to go catch it. Defenses double-cover him, but he adjusts and gets through it.”
Lee said the chemistry between Pennington and Row shows every week.
“They’ve definitely got that,” Lee said. “They’ve been together for three years now, for two full years with football. They do have great chemistry and they’re both leaders of our team. These two guys have put a lot of time and effort into it, and they are students of the game.”
Heading into Friday night’s Three Rivers Athletic Conference game against St. Francis de Sales at the University of Toledo, the 6-foot-3, 190-pound Pennington had completed 86 of 176 passes (49 percent) for 1,550 yards and 16 touchdowns, with 13 interceptions. His interception total is skewed, however, given that he threw six picks in a 50-13 loss to Perrysburg in the second game of the season.
“I was coming into a brand new system I wasn’t used to,” said Pennington, who transferred from Lake after his freshman year. “I had the summer (to prepare), but it takes time. It was just a matter of getting the hang of the system. It was difficult, but I was not doubting the system at all. We just had to get back to the drawing board.”
Lee implemented an offensive system whereby the quarterback’s job is to make pre-snap reads that tell him where he will throw the football. In essence, Lee said, the defense pretty much determines where the quarterback will have a window to throw the ball.
“I believe in my system, and this is Josh’s first year running it,” Lee said. “In the past they (Clay coaches) told him who to throw to. It’s difficult making that transition. When you’re taught to read (defenses), it’s a whole different ballgame.”
Last week, in a 55-28 loss to Lima Senior, Pennington threw for 257 yards and two touchdowns, both to Row, covering 70 and 39 yards. Those were Row’s ninth and 10th touchdown catches this season.
“In the offseason we worked together a lot before school and ran routes a lot and threw a lot of balls,” Row said. “Josh trusts me, throwing balls up for me. All of our receivers can catch the ball, and he trusts all of them. Maybe sometimes he thinks I can get up and catch some stuff. We have four standout receivers, in my opinion. I was thinking Josh would spread it around a little more.”
Row (6-1, 175), who also starts at cornerback, had 41 catches for 957 yards through eight games. He also has three interceptions and ran one back 82 yards in a 47-21 win over Waite. Senior Anthony Ramirez is the Eagles’ next leading receiver, with 21 catches for 354 yards and four touchdowns.
“Kyle brings everything,” Lee said. “He knows what everybody’s supposed to do on every play. If Josh wasn’t here, he’d probably be the quarterback.”
Row got to play quarterback, kind of, in a week six loss to St. John’s Jesuit. He threw a touchdown to — who else? — Pennington on a double pass play.
“He threw it a little short and I thought, ‘Gosh, I’m going to have to dive for this,’” Pennington said. “Somehow I caught it at my shoestrings and broke a tackle for a touchdown. It was incredible. He came up to me after that and said, ‘I threw a touchdown pass!’”
Row, who played quarterback as a freshman, gave his buddy a little ribbing about their TD connection, saying, “If he wasn’t so slow, he wouldn’t have had to worry about it.”
“It wasn’t a good pass, but it was there,” Row said. “I’m kind of lucky he caught it, because I would have gotten chewed out. I threw it and I saw him break that tackle. I screamed the whole way down the field.”
Highlights have been few and far between for the Eagles (2-6, 0-5 TRAC), who have watched early and late leads turn into losses against Findlay, Whitmer, St. John’s, Fremont Ross and Lima Senior.
“I can’t even describe how frustrating it is,” Row said. “Almost every game we’ve been right there. Finishing is our biggest issue right now. It’s different every week.”
Josh Pennington (center) flanked by father Scott Pennington and mother Brenda Pennington during Senior Parent’s Night activities. (Press photo by Jeff Smith/www.smith6312.smugmug.com)
Kyle Row (center) flanked by father Mike Row, who played at Eastern Michigan, and mother Kristi Row during Senior Parent’s Night activities. (Press photo by Jeff Smith/www.smith6312.smugmug.com)