The gauge for any prep football player's value is how he shows up in a showdown. Under that barometer, Aaron Swafford is priceless when it comes to Meigs County's state-championship hopes.
The senior quarterback proved his worth once again in a huge matchup last Friday against perennial power Greenback, accounting for all but 36 of his team's 461 total yards and having a hand in all 27 points in a seven-point win.
That performance — 32 carries for 271 yards and two touchdowns, plus 154 passing yards and two more scores as well as a 2-point conversion, an extra-point kick and defensively two interceptions and eight tackles — earned Swafford the honor of Times Free Press prep player of the week.
"He's our leader on both sides of the ball," Tigers coach Jason Fitzgerald said. "We've got good people around him, but it seems like in big games he really gets going and doesn't let off the gas. It's not like he's the only weapon, and what creates holes for him are the people around him, but we know we can call on him whenever we need a play to be made in a big situation.
"People rally around him because he's such a good teammate. Guys like Aaron don't come along every year, and I'm just glad he's on our team."
Besides his 425 total yards, the 6-foot, 210-pound Swafford, a Naval Academy commitment, accounted for scores in all four quarters, opening by throwing TD passes covering 45 and 43 yards in the first half to help Meigs build a 13-0 lead. After Greenback rallied, Swafford answered each time the Cherokees took the lead to put his team back in front.
It began with an 80-yard scoring run in the third quarter to put Meigs back ahead 19-14. That was followed — with his team trailing 20-19 — by a 45-yard TD sprint that put the Tigers ahead to stay.
Swafford also had a late 70-yard scoring run called back by a penalty and a potential third interception on defense disallowed when he came down out of the back of the end zone.
The dramatic win also helped Meigs County move up to No. 2 in Class 2A in the latest Association Press state rankings.
"I know the coaches have belief in me and it feels like they call plays differently when it's close, to do whatever I can to help give me a chance to help us win," said Swafford, who accounted for 375 yards and all four TDs in last year's state-semifinal loss at Trousdale County. "On the two long TD runs, I think I got touched once, so I have to give credit to my offensive line. They dominated up front.
"Even though it had nothing to do with the playoffs, winning that game should give us a lot of confidence and state recognition. We wanted to prove we're the same Meigs County that's been there contending the last few years and probably even better."
Contact Stephen Hargis at email@example.com or 423-757-6293. Follow him on Twitter @StephenHargis.