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October 19, 2012

Australian rules football at Cooperstown

BY GREG KLEIN
The Daily Star

---- — No one expected foreign exchange student Noah Sims to be playing quarterback for Cooperstown this season.

Not even Sims.

"I just wanted to jump in and play as much as possible, wherever the coach told me to play," said Sims, an Australian who went from practice back-up QB to opening-day starter under first-year Cooperstown coach Mark Segina.

"After our scrimmage, (Segina) said I would start at quarterback," Sims continued. "To be honest, I was surprised."

Segina said he couldn't really believe it, either.

"I didn’t really think that it would be possible to teach someone with NO football experience all the ins and outs of the QB position," Segina said. "How to read coverages, look off safeties, run the progression, find and know the seams and holes in various coverage shells and how to recognize them, etc. That’s just the mental pre-snap read stuff, not the timing aspects that our offense is based on.

"What Noah is willing to do is devote all the time and effort after practice, on his own time, to learn all this information," Segina continued. "I sometimes wonder just how good he would be if he had the typical senior’s progression of Pee Wee, modified and then two years of varsity experience prior to this year."

Although Sims, 17, is listed as a senior, he'll actually have two more years of school when he returns to his hometown of Tatura — about two hours from Melbourne, Australia. Thanks to football, his homecoming in January should be a warm one, too.

"He said I wasn't allowed to come home if I didn't play football,"

Sims said of his 15-year-old brother, Bellamey. "But I always wanted to play it if I

had the chance. I love to watch it whenever I can. At home, we are lucky

to get two games a week on television, and then I have to tape them

because I am usually in school."

Sims doesn't have too much time to watch games on TV here, either.

"School, football, the play, practice, eat and sleep — that's pretty much all I do," said Sims, an avid drummer who is in the chorus for the upcoming school play, "Footloose."

Sims said he misses his family, but he's not really longing to return home just yet.

"I really like it here," said Sims, who has stayed with three host families since last winter. "I'd like to come back for college in a couple of years."

Sims helped Cooperstown to its first football victory in nearly two years Sept. 1, when he threw for two touchdowns and ran for another in a 43-20 defeat of host New York Mills to open the season.

"Really it's my teammates who made me look good that game," said Sims, who also plays linebacker and handles kicking duties.

"The boys at receiver and on the offensive line, all the credit goes to

them."

Sims takes the blame, though, when the Redskins struggle. Take their 49-2 loss to Dolgeville on Sept. 15, when Sims hurt his right ankle and was forced to leave the game.

"I thought I heard a crack, to be honest," Sims said of the injury, from which he has recovered. "I was just very angry at myself. My boys were getting beat and I couldn't do anything to help them."

Segina said that's the right attitude for a quarterback.

"Noah is a great kid," Segina said. "He's kind, considerate, smart as a whip,

confident, a natural leader and a very gifted athlete. He is a dream to

coach. He wants to learn everything and understand why, which enables me

to build on his knowledge base very quickly.

"Having athletic ability certainly helps, but the QB position is mostly mental," Segina continued. "You have to be calm under extreme pressure and be able to remember your progression as a 300-pound defensive tackle is trying to crush you. He has that calm poise under fire, and couple that with his natural athleticism and leadership ability, he makes a perfect QB."

He's a pretty good kicker, too.

"We saw it during the summer," Segina said of Sims, who has two field goals and five extra points this season. "He was just booting field goals from 30 to 40 yards out for fun, to see if he could do it. He could."

Sims also starts on defense, at outside linebacker.

"He is just gifted naturally, fast, agile and what I love to see is just how much fun he is having," Segina said. "He will blow up a play, make a big hit, and I can see his grin from ear-to-ear from the sideline. He is having a blast out there and it shows and is contagious."

Sims will be around for basketball season, but he won't be here long enough to see it end.

"Basketball, that's my No. 1 sport," said Sims, who is 6-foot-1. "I wished I had gotten to play with them (last season), but I got here in time to watch them go all the way to the state tournament.

"I'm looking forward to winter," he continued. "I had never seen snow until I got here. It wasn't much of a winter; I am hoping for more before I leave."