Finding a steady and dependable quarterback has not been easy for Zion-Benton High School’s football team over the last few years.
The Zee-Bees thought they had their man in JaVairius Amos-Mays last season, but then the sophomore transferred after three games to North Chicago when his family moved.
Junior running back Alex Pasiewicz then took over as the signal caller, but an injury cut his season short.
With Mays gone, a healthy Pasiewicz better-suited to the running back position and last year’s starting sophomore quarterback leaving the school, there was a “help wanted” sign posted in Zion-Benton’s football program.
Little did anyone know that the answer to Zion’s quarterbacking problems was developing on the Zee-Bees’ freshman team in 2011.
To the rescue this season comes Dillon Appenzeller, a 6-foot-1, 175-pound sophomore.
“It wasn’t a good position for us with Mays leaving and our starting sophomore quarterback from last year moving away,” said Zion-Benton coach Robert Strickland.
“But once we saw the development of Dillon coming along in the spring, we made sure he was the main guy all summer — especially in our 7-on-7 passing-league games.”
Dillon displayed his promising future last Friday in a 14-12 loss to Deerfield in the Zee-Bees’ season opener.
Showing a variety of ways to get the ball to his receivers, Appenzeller completed 15-of-24 passes for 115 yards in his varsity debut.
“I was a little nervous at the beginning, but once the game got going, I was just trying to make some plays to help us win,” said Appenzeller.
Appenzeller almost made enough plays for Zion to win, but the Zee-Bees shot themselves in the foot numerous times with turnovers and penalties against the Warriors.
“We can’t make that many mistakes and win a football game,” said Strickland. “I thought Dillon played well, but as a team overall, we have to get better.
“We know how tough it’s going to be in our (Lake Division of the North Suburban) conference, so we have to do the little things right in order to be successful.”
Appenzeller showed off his strong arm on numerous occasions against Deerfield, making throws while on the run to receivers such as Eric Gilmore and Terrence Woods. He was also accurate most of the time on screen passes or on short throws over the middle to his tight ends, including Demetrius Knox.
“It hurts to lose this game because I thought we had our chances (offensively) and didn’t take advantage of all of them,” Appenzeller said.
Appenzeller and the Zee-Bees will get another shot at winning their first game of the season on Friday when they travel to Evanston for a non-conference contest.
Looming in two weeks is a NSC Lake opener at home against Warren — not exactly an easy task for a Zion team which has won only eight games in the last six seasons.
Zee-Bee fans hope there is light at the end of the tunnel with rising-star Appenzeller.
“(Appenzeller) has a bright future if he keeps working,” said Strickland. “He’s made big improvements already, but he’s still learning to be a varsity quarterback.”
Strickland also hopes that Zion’s quarterbacking questions for the next three seasons have been answered.
“It feels good to know that the (Zion) coaches have the confidence in me to start as a sophomore,” said Appenzeller. “I want to be their quarterback for a long time.”