Standout Cardinal Stritch Catholic football player Chris Blazevich has never really been one to take the easy way out.
The 16-year-old Northwood native opts to balance his PlayStation sessions — his favorite games are "Call of Duty" and "Assassin's Creed" — by plying the often-rough waters of Lake Erie and Maumee Bay in his family’s 1984 25-foot Catalina sailboat.
When he graduates from Stritch in 2015, the hard-working junior Blazevich is kicking around a major in engineering, dreams of going to the University of Michigan, and would like to become a pilot or work on airplanes, all of which his sky-high 4.2 GPA and his iron will to succeed would deem possible.
|At quarterback, Chris Blazevich hands
off. (Press photo by Doug Karns)
At a recent Friday night showdown with longtime Toledo Area Athletic Conference rival Ottawa Hills at Clay Memorial Stadium in early October, Blazevich could've unbuckled his chinstrap and called it a night after he suffered a nasty hyper-extended left arm on the Cardinals' first offensive possession of the evening.
Instead, the Stritch back iced it for the rest of the first half, got it wrapped at halftime, and proceeded to come back in the second half to lead his Cards with four receptions for 104 yards and a touchdown in a nail biter of a losing effort, 21-14 on Senior Night.
"I was happy with what I did on the field that night, but it wasn't enough, because we couldn't get a win," reasons 6 foot tall, 160 pound Blazevich. "My only goals on the football field are to help this team win, earn some respect for the program, and to build some momentum going into next year. I'll do whatever I need to do for this team to win," states Blazevich.
First-year Stritch coach Brian Wical said, "Chris is a great leader for us because he has a tremendous football IQ. He is probably the smartest football mind we've had on the team this year, and he uses that mind to put both himself, and his teammates in good positions on the football field."
"Chris has started all season at cornerback for us, and I think he's a first-team all-league type of player," continues Coach. "But, Chris has also always done just what the coaching staff has asked of him. He handles transition well, and played at wide receiver for the first week for us, and then was moved to quarterback for the next four weeks due to an injury to week one starter Joe Sinay, and then was moved back to wide receiver. Chris has now committed himself to becoming a better wide receiver for our football team, and as a coaching staff that's all we can ever ask."
"Chris played great for us that night against Ottawa Hills, especially considering the injury in the first half," continues Wical. "He made some big-time plays for us, and had his best offensive game of the season. That's a testament of what kind of kid Chris is. He's truly a team-first player."
Blazevich also serves as the Cardinals' top shut-down cornerback and has even stood in at quarterback.
"I've learned that it doesn't matter where I'm at on the football field," Blazevich continues, "as long as I'm in the best possible position to help this team win, which is why I've stepped up at quarterback at times this year, when (starting quarterback) Joe (Sinay, a 6-2, 210 pound junior) couldn't go because of an injured finger. I also started at quarterback two games last year, when Joe went down with an injury.
"I don't have one favorite position," he adds, "because each position has different aspects about it that I like. Like when I'm at QB, I get to control the offense. But then again, I also like playing receiver, because I get the opportunity to get the football in open spaces, and make plays for us. At corner, I love the one-on-one competition between the receiver and me. I love trying to shut him down every Friday night. I love challenges.
"I don't mind facing adversity like this, as long as whatever's happening to me is what's best for my team," says Blazevich. "Personally, I think adversity can help build a person, make that person stronger, and make them realize that life isn't always easy. Nothing comes for free in life, and everything you do, you have to earn. My personal goal for football the rest of the way out is just to finish strong, with no letdowns for myself or my team."
Despite what their 0-9, 0-6 (TAAC) record says, with only perennial TAAC powerhouse and 2013 champions the Northwood Rangers waiting for them last Friday night at 7-2 and 6-0, Blazevich hasn't let these Cardinals down. This looks to be a key building block on a team that could very well be on the rise throughout his swan-song senior season in '14, under new coach Brian Wical, who has been in the coaching profession for a long time, including a celebrated five-year run at Lima Central Catholic, where he spent four seasons as the Thunderbirds' offensive coordinator, helping to lead his team to a 42-6 record, including a trip to the Division V state semifinals in '10.
Not convinced? Consider the foundation the wide receiver/cornerback/quarterback has already started to lay for the future via his '13 stat line, which reads 13 receptions, for 230 yards, and two TDs, plus too many tackles, and passes broken up from his left corner position to tally.
Highlight reel moments? No. 2 has had a few of those, too, for a Cards' team that is young, suffering growing pains, and let's face it, not always first-and-foremost on sportswriters' minds.
Those moments included a close to 100-yard rushing night against a resurgent Woodmore team in week two; passing for two touchdowns in a comeback against Lakota that fell just short, 21-16, in week three; and of course, the week seven explosion against Ottawa Hills, when he ignited his team by snaring a slant pass from QB Brooks Gasser and then proceeded to outrace the entire Green Bear defense 70 yards to the house.
The only TAAC leader board that has Blazevich listed in the local sports pages is that of quarterback, where he checks in at No. 9 with 22 completions, on 62 attempts, for 321 yards, and three touchdown tosses. That puts him at one more TD pass than current Cards' starting signal-caller Gasser, a senior, who has thrown for 58 more yards than Blazevich, on 38 completions on 86 attempts.
One would think with Blazevich’s 4.8 speed, he'd also solidly be among the TAAC's elite leaders at receiver, but he falls 65 yards shy of Gibsonburg's Adam Copley and Hilltop's Chad Champion, the TAAC's tenth and ninth leading receivers,
Blazevich would rather boast on how proud he is to be a part of it all.
"I really feel our record has no implications on what kind of team we are,” Blazevich said. “This football program has faced a lot of adversity, but I think it's made us stronger as a team. I think the bright side of this year is that our defense has improved tremendously! We've really made every opponent work hard for every yard they've gained. We're starting to build an indentity on defense now, and I think we're just a much better team than last year, even though our record doesn't show it.
Sinay (linebacker/running back), Ricky Pratt (linebacker/fullback), Seth Kebker (linebacker/wide receiver), and Austin Wlodarz (linebacker/running back), these are all players who always work hard, do what it takes to try to help this team win, and consistently make great plays for us on the football field. Our team has great potential, and our players know it. I feel we are very close to breaking out, and becoming something special. I wouldn't trade our team for anything.
"Coach Wical is a great coach, and I think he is really making our players understand we can be great if we give it our all every day. Stritch has always had talent, but I think the program has struggled in the past because of kids' lack of commitment, and being okay with losing. Coach Wical has changed our program's attitude by getting the players to stay committed in off-season workouts and by making us realize we can be good if we work hard at it. I feel the attitude inside the program has changed to an "always compete" mindset. Now, we always compete until the very end, no matter what the circumstances. I respect this commitment, mindset, and spark that Coach Wical has brought to our team."