Manchester senior Nick Peyakov can laugh now when he thinks back to his first pass as a varsity quarterback.
Peyakov dropped back to pass during Week 1 of the 2010 football season at Girard and looked over the field. He threw the ball with the intent of connecting with a Panthers receiver, but an opponent got in the way and snagged an interception.
Moments later, Peyakov threw another interception.
Not the start he wanted to his sophomore season.
“That was one of the few times I have not been happy with Nick,” Manchester coach Jim France said Tuesday with a smile. “There have been so many other moments where I have been happy with him.”
Peyakov chimed in: “I threw two interceptions in like my first three passes. It was a rough start and Coach let me know about it.”
Since those early miscues, Peyakov has transformed into a standout in the Panthers’ spread offense as a 6-foot-3, 215-pound quarterback.
Peyakov has started 30 games in a row and helped Manchester reach the Division IV state football playoffs in 2010 and 2011. He hopes to make it three in a row in 2012.
“No. 1, Nick is a hardworking kid,” France said. “He has worked very hard since his sophomore year in the offseason and during the summer. He has really matured a lot in the classroom too. He has improved his grades to where he is just short of a 3.0 overall grade-point average [at 2.91]. He is a good citizen in our school, and a captain and leader on our team.”
Manchester (4-2, 3-0) enters a PAC matchup Friday night at Tuslaw (3-3, 1-2) with a 23-7 overall record and a 16-1 league mark during the past 2½ seasons with Peyakov at quarterback.
“Nick is a tough kid that has taken big hits,” France said. “He plays with bumps and bruises. He is a just a great kid who is respected around the school by the teachers and students. He has developed an excellent relationship with my son Jason, who is the offensive coordinator. They have spent a lot of hours during the offseason and after school working on things.”
Peyakov and Jason France interact daily about life and football.
“I never even talked with Jason until freshman year,” Peyakov said. “We just meshed well together because we think the same way. He will tell me a play, and I will tell him that sounds really good, and actually I was thinking about that play, too. He feels the same. I will recommend a play, and he will agree because he was thinking of it, too.
“Jason is my quarterback coach, and we are always together. We throw together in the gym, and we lift together. He has really helped me with everything. He keeps me grounded and focused.”
Jim France said Peyakov holds Manchester’s career passing records for completions (389), attempts (691), yards (5,995) and touchdowns (60). He has thrown 14 career interceptions.
Peyakov completed 154-of-281 passes last year for 2,464 yards, 28 touchdowns and two interceptions.
“I first saw Nick play when he was a freshman,” France said. “As soon as we saw him and realized the potential he had we moved him up to the JV team. He played for my son on the JV team, and that is where they developed their relationship. They went 10-0 and then he moved up to the varsity team as a sophomore and we went 12-1.”
Peyakov has rushed 159 times during the past year-and-a-half for 410 yards and nine touchdowns. He had two rushing scores as a sophomore.
“In eighth grade I didn’t really think I was going to do that much with football,” Peyakov said. “I figured basketball would be my sport. Football was fun and I just played with my friends. Then freshman year I felt I was ahead of most of the kids. I went up the to the JV team and the competition was faster and tougher.
“Sophomore year I moved up to the varsity level, and it was a total different pace of game. It got way faster, especially when the playoffs hit. I had a little experience after going though 10 games in the regular season. It was tough, but I knew that football was my sport after sophomore year.”
Peyakov also contributes on special teams as the Panthers’ punter and kicker. He has been punting for three seasons and has 37.5-yard average in 83 punts. He is 16-for-20 in his first year on extra points.
“He has a really strong leg,” France said. “He has been real accurate in the kicking game. About the only thing he does not do is play defense. He could probably do that, but we don’t want him to go out there and possibly get hurt.”
Peyakov played football, basketball and baseball growing up. He played varsity basketball as a freshman and sophomore, but he did not play last year to focus on weightlifting and to work on his speed. He is considering playing basketball this year.
“I was 6-2, 160 after basketball my sophomore year,” Peyakov said. “I played forward and guard in basketball, but I wanted to work on my strength and speed for football.”
Peyakov’s talent has garnered him interest from several colleges, including Division I schools Toledo, Kent State, Illinois, Akron and Duke, along with Division II Ashland and Division III Mount Union.
“I would love to play Division I,” Peyakov said. “Anything that helps get college paid for would be great. I will hopefully get a scholarship offer sometime soon.”
Jim France is confident Peyakov can play Division I college football if given the chance.
“Nick’s arm strength is impressive,” France said. “He is pretty pin-point accurate at getting the ball to the receivers. His decision-making and overall attitude are great. He is just a very positive type of kid.”
Michael Beaven can be reached at 330-996-3829 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the high school blog at http://www.ohio.com/preps. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/MBeavenABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.