WHEELING - Two high-profile and highly prolific Ohio Valley quarterbacks have decided where they'll continue their careers at the next level.
Madonna's Ross Comis, who guided the Blue Dons to the Class A state championship, finished second in voting for the Kennedy Award (given to the state's top prep football player), and was captain of the all-state team, is signing with the University of Massachusetts.
Wheeling Park's Zach Phillips, a first-team Class AAA all-state quarterback for the Patriots, who helped Park reach the big schools' state semifinals, will sign with Division II Gannon.
Comis, who also had walk-on offers at Pittsburgh and West Virginia, said he picked the Minutemen in part because the Division I school is coached by former NFL assistant coach Mark Whipple (including a stint with the Pittsburgh Steelers).
"Coach Whipple has worked with some of the top quarterbacks (in the NFL), (Ben) Roethlisberger, (Peyton) Manning and Tom Brady," Comis said. "It's exciting to know I will be coached during my college career by a guy who has worked with the best quarterbacks in the game. My quarterbacks coach (Liam Coen) holds most of the quarterback records in UMass history. It's a great school, a great staff. I'm excited about the opportunity."
The Minutemen play in the Mid-American Conference.
Comis, who enjoyed a record-setting career at Madonna, finished his senior season by rushing for 2,037 yards and 35 touchdowns and passing for more than 1,700 yards with 22 touchdowns.
In the Blue Dons' 24-14 victory against Greenbrier West in the state championship game in December, Comis ran for 123 yards and a touchdown and completed 5 of 7 passes for 129 yards and two scores.
Comis said he is hoping to compete for the starting job in his first season.
"One of the quarterbacks who played last year has transferred and another guy in my class is gray shirting so he can't enroll until the (spring) semester," Comis said. "There is another quarterback returning who played some last year. With the new staff coming in, all the positions are open. If I do what I think I can do, I think I can play next fall."
Whipple runs a pro-style offense, but Comis said he is comfortable in any offense, whether it uses his ability to run or pass the football.
"I feel like I can adjust to any style and fit into any offense," Comis said.
Comis set his goals high and said he will bring all of his intangibles to the table.
"I am a winner and I can be a leader on the team and I feel like guys will follow me," Comis said. "I don't like to lose and I think I can be the guy who helps us win conference championships and go to bowl games. It's exciting to move on to the next level, which should be everybody's ultimate goal. I love the campus and I really liked all of the recruits and players I met."
Phillips finished the season completing 117 of 190 passes for 1,971 yards with 22 touchdowns and five interceptions. He added 199 yards rushing and two touchdowns and lost just two fumbles on the season.
"I can't wait to get started," Phillips said. "Gannon has a new staff; they've been there just a couple years and they have completely turned the program around. They are building a new $7 million indoor facility which is going to be great. They play in the SAC (Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference) which is an outstanding conference and it's not too far from home so my mom and dad can come to the games."
Phillips was aided in the recruiting by his father, Keith, Park's defensive coordinator and a former college defensive coordinator at Bethany and West Liberty.
The duo spent a lot of hours pouring over game tape throughout Phillips' career at Park.
It was a built-in advantage for Phillips
"He's been telling me how much of an adjustment it is going to be, going from high school to college," Zac said.
Accuracy was a big key in Gannon eyeing Phillips. His high school coach, Chris Daugherty, called him "the most accurate passer" he has coached, adding that he "gets the ball from Point A to Point B quicker than anyone I have seen and that is a huge disadvantage to teams that don't see that every week."
"That is a big advantage in the college game from what I have been told," Zach said. "If you are one second late on a pass at that level it is going to be picked off."
The 6-foot-1 Phillips said he is also comfortable in a multitude of offenses, including zone-read offenses to the more traditional dropback style offenses.
Phillips had walk-on offers from WVU and Youngstown State and scholarship offers from several Mountain East schools, including West Liberty, Shepherd, Concord, Glenville, Fairmont and Notre Dame College.