Hilliard Bradley: 'Agile' A.J. Mirgon efficiently running Jaguars' offense

Scott Hennen
ThisWeek group
Bradley quarterback A.J. Mirgon celebrates a 31-30 playoff upset of Reynoldsburg with teammate Trevor Schuler on Oct. 16. Mirgon, a senior, led the Jaguars in rushing and passing heading into a matchup at Pickerington Central on Oct. 23.

A.J. Mirgon is not an easy target for defenders.

The second-year Hilliard Bradley starting quarterback entered play Oct. 23 leading his team in rushing and passing, and specializing in frustrating opposing defensive coordinators and players alike.

While his size isn't overwhelming — Mirgon is 6-foot and 190 pounds — the senior possesses physical attributes and a skill set that make him tough to tackle.

“I think A.J. has great vision, but the big thing is you don’t see anyone get a good shot on him,” coach Mike LoParo said. “He has some of the best hips that I have seen running the football.

“He lowers himself, and he’s super-quick and agile. He can change directions so quickly people can’t get a hard hit on him. That skill set has kept him playing all season.”

Before the 13th-seeded Jaguars played at top-seeded Pickerington Central on Oct. 23 in a Division I, Region 3 semifinal, Mirgon had rushed for 980 yards and eight touchdowns on 166 carries. He surpassed 100 yards rushing in the previous four games and five of the past six.

Mirgon also had completed 89 of 174 passes for 1,035 yards with eight touchdowns and seven interceptions.

Some of his abilities on the football field are tied to the basketball court, where Mirgon has been a starter for the Jaguars since his sophomore season. He believes the sports complement one another, making him better in both.

“There are a lot of attributes with basketball like your footwork and being in shape,” Mirgon said. “Those really help you in football. My feet have gotten better from guarding guys in basketball. In football, you have to be tough to play it. That helps me a lot in basketball.”

While Mirgon started last season, the offense has changed this year. Former Mentor coach Steve Trivisonno was brought in as offensive coordinator, and initially things were more complicated.

“We started really simple in the summer learning everything,” said Mirgon, whose team was 3-5 before playing Central, the defending state champion. “We were learning a couple of plays every day and repeating those over the summer. Now it’s to the point where we can add things on the fly. Everyone has learned it pretty quickly.

“I think it’s similar to last year when I was learning the plays at quarterback. I knew the plays last year, but it has been easy this year because (assistant) coach (Mario) Jackson has helped me out and coach Triv has been patient with me. That has been helpful and me and the guys have caught up pretty quickly.”

The Jaguars were 1-5 in the regular season, including 1-4 in a tough OCC-Central Division. Two other OCC-Central teams were still alive entering play Oct. 23 — Dublin Coffman and Olentangy Liberty met in a Division I, Region 2 semifinal.

The Bradley-Central winner plays third-seeded Westerville Central or 10th-seeded New Albany on Friday, Oct. 30, in the Region 3 final.

After a one-win regular season, the Jaguars had won a program-best two postseason games before playing the Tigers. 

“That means a lot,” Mirgon said. “It’s the most (playoff games) we have won in school history, which is great, especially coming off a 1-5 (regular) season.

“Everybody seems to look at that and they might have overlooked us a bit. The two teams that we have beaten were good teams. It feels good that teams are starting to take notice of us.”

Bradley defeated fifth-seeded Reynoldsburg 31-30 on Oct. 16 and fourth-seeded Groveport 28-7 on Oct. 9, both on the road.

Mirgon would like to play in college, but isn’t sure which sport. If it's football, he may have to switch to running back, wide receiver or defensive back.

“A.J. loves to compete whether it’s football or basketball, and he loves his teammates,” LoParo said. “He loves the camaraderie of being with people.

“A.J. kept the ship steady all year. You can lose the ship sometimes when you are 1-2, 1-3 or 1-5. He’s so steady with everything he does and that helps you as coaches. We’re fortunate to have someone like that."

shennen@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekHennen