Gordon shines in senior season

Nov. 24—DANVILLE — Zach Gordon didn't want to cause any problems heading into the 2022 season.

The Danville senior missed most of his junior season with an injury and in his stead then-freshman Madden Patrick helped guide the Ironmen to the District 4 Class 3A title. Gordon returned for the semifinal win, but Patrick played most of the district final last year.

So when coach Mike Brennan said the competition between the two would roll into the preseason, and maybe even into the regular season, Gordon was prepared.

"I feel like I didn't try to do too much, and try to show off. I figured if he outplayed me or outshone me," Gordon said. "If (Madden) got the job, I wasn't going to be upset."

Gordon knew he and his senior classmates had been aiming for this season, and Danville felt it had real good chance to be where it's at right now — undefeated District 4 Class 3A champion and a state quarterfinal game on Friday with Wyomissing — so the soft-spoken two-way starter didn't want to cause any problems if he wasn't the quarterback.

"I didn't want to be the problem. When you have something good like this, you don't want anything bad to happen to it," Gordon said. "If I get angry about not being quarterback, then it's a distraction. Then the team doesn't play to the best of its ability, and I'm a problem."

That attitude isn't a surprise for Danville coach Mike Brennan. Gordon has faced more adversity than most players on the field. There was a fear an injury early in his freshman season caused him to miss the year, and put his career in jeopardy. Playing behind K.J. Riley as a sophomore, Gordon started at safety, and actually spent a lot of time at running back when Ty Brown-Stauffer missed most of the back half of the season.

"He is what he appears to be. He's humble, intelligent, and is confident, but he's a team player. People gravitate to him. He offers you a certain confidence. He's always steady," Brennan said. "He was a veteran. He battled through so much adversity in football and in life. You trust that he is grateful. He really respects the opportunity.

"He gives our huddle and our team a sense of confidence."

Brennan was also hopeful Gordon would win the job just because of his connection with the Danville senior class.

"He played with our core group of seniors all the way through. Carson (Persing), Zach, Mason (Raup) and Ty have played together all the way through since the beginning," Brennan said. "It just seemed like a little more of a natural fit for him to take over. We sort of thought that might happen."

The only thing that worried Brennan was Gordon's injury history. He's such an important part of the back end of the Danville defense and coming off last year's shoulder injury in his junior season.

"Even in the offseason, we weren't even sure if he was going to be healthy," Brennan said. "We needed him in the back end of the defense. Zach's the ultimate team player and such a great personality. It's just one of the things that fell into place perfectly for us this season."

Brennan isn't wrong. Gordon spent most of the season with more touchdown passes than incompletions. He enters the state quarterfinals tied for the school's single-season record for touchdown passes with 32, tying Riley's 2020 season and former Bucknell baseball standout Andrew Andreychik's junior year of 2010. The biggest difference for Gordon — Riley needed 241 attempts and Andreychik needed 160 — was he took 134 attempts to do it in. As it stands right now, Gordon has thrown 34 incompletions this year against his 32 touchdown passes.

He's thrown 2,103 yards this season and needs just 39 yards on Friday night to pass 3,000 yards for his career.

It's the completion percentage and the interception number that Gordon is most proud of this season. He's thrown three interceptions, two of which came in the last two games in the playoffs.

"I think it comes with experience. It comes with understanding the offense," Gordon said. "I understand that even if I go to my checkdown guy instead of trying to get it down the field, that's the smart play, too. It happened in the championship game against Loyalsock, Aaron (Johnson) was my checkdown, and he turned that pass into a 65-yard gain.

"The way my teammates can make things happen, it allows me to be much smarter with the ball."

Of course, his most important connection is with Persing, who holds all of Danville's receiving records. That duo had been looking forward to playing together for most of their junior season before Gordon got hurt.

And one can see the connection the classmates have on the field.

"I felt like that last year — Zach and I have always had a connection from growing up," Persing said before the season started. "We've played since we were 7 years old. We've been together so long, we both see things on the field at the same time, that we really don't even have to talk. So it's just a look or a look over to each other."

Gordon also knows that some of the weapons in the passing game haven't been exploited to their full potential like Johnson, Raup at tight end and even Patrick, who has moved to receiver in the latter part of the season because Persing (49 catches, 1,111 yards, 23 TDs) has been so good.

"So far, I feel like they are going to have to put more and more attention on Carson," Gordon said. "Once they double team that somebody else is going to get open. I don't have a problem with that. Whichever one of our guys is open, I'm not afraid to get them the ball."

And that can only make Danville more dangerous offensively in this state playoff run.