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Cardiero ready to lead Girard

August 28, 2013
By JOE SIMON - Tribune Chronicle ( , Underthelights

GIRARD - The time was right for Nick Cardiero to be the next quarterback at Girard, his coach just didn't know it yet.

The Indians were enduring a rough stretch to start the season, and coach Nick Cochran was contemplating whether to bring in Cardiero, a junior at the time.

"Last year, early on, he was a little immature and things were moving pretty fast for him," Cochran said. "We were really uncertain how we were going to be (offensively). He was more of a passer, and I thought we needed to be a little bit more of a ball-control team, and I didn't think he was ready for that. He proved me wrong, I know that."

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Nick Cardiero

In Cardiero's first start - Week 5 against Lakeivew - he completed 20 of 26 passes for 238 yards and one touchdown. Girard nearly upset the Bulldogs, but a last-minute touchdown pass was mishandled in the end zone, and the Indians lost, 17-12. It was that kind of season for Girard, which finished 1-9.

Cardiero is ready to change the Indians' fortunes. He said he's improved in nearly every phase of the game - speed, size, arm strength, mental focus and maturity. He admitted he was upset at the beginning of 2012 because he wasn't the starter, but he was prepared when the time came, and the results helped him grow as a quarterback.

"Once you go in there and pass for all those yards and do well like that, then you know what you're capable of, and you just have to go back out there and keep doing it every week," he said. "I'm a lot smarter with the game, and I know the plays a lot better. I'm just more comfortable in there and more experienced."

Cochran has noticed. The fourth-year coach, who was the quarterback at Youngstown State University when the Penguins were national runners-up in 1992, worked with Cardiero throughout the summer. They worked on fundamentals, footwork and understanding opposing teams' defenses. While Cochran has been impressed with the results, that's not what has caught his eye as the season approaches.

"He dedicated himself to make sure he studied teams and studied what we want to do to try and put us in good situations," Cochran said. "The biggest thing is he's become a great leader for us.

"He leads by example. He's not a rah-rah guy, but he can put people in their place when they need to be put in their place."

Cardiero is more excited to put other teams in their place. The 6-foot, 180-pound senior put on 20 pounds of muscle from last year, when he completed 103 of 182 passes for 1,366 yards, nine touchdowns and eight interceptions. He also poses a dual threat as he possesses good quickness and overall athleticism (he's a two-time district qualifier in wrestling). With players like running back James Cupan (777 yards rushing, 11 touchdowns) and wide receiver Jordan Graziano (566 rushing yards, 590 receiving, 13 total TDs) surrounding him, the Indians could be on pace for a bounce-back season.

"We have a lot of potential," Cardiero said. "We can be really good if we keep our heads in it. We have some top athletes on the team, and if everyone stays together and cuts out the little mistakes, we should be really good."