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Fairview quarterback Mike McVenes throws a pass during practice Monday.
Fairview quarterback Mike McVenes throws a pass during practice Monday.

BOULDER — Playing for Fairview head football coach Tom McCartney, nothing is given. Each of the Knights has to earn his own spot every year.

No exception has been made for senior quarterback Michael McVenes the past two seasons.

Going into his junior year in 2010, the Knights’ dual-threat signal caller beat out another junior for the starting spot. As a senior, he had to beat out the same classmate and sophomore Anders Hill, who has drawn comparisons to great FHS quarterbacks of the past and likely will be the Knights’ quarterback of the future.

It wasn’t easy for McVenes. But he won, and re-won, his spot. And that annual challenge has made him a better quarterback, a better leader and a nightmare for opposing defenses as he helps guide the Knights into their second-round playoff game against No. 1 Columbine this week.

“It’s made me learn a lot about myself and what I can do and accomplish,” McVenes said Monday. “It brought abilities out that I had not had. It brought out things like leadership and all that stuff. It definitely helped.

“It took a toll on me for a while. I definitely had a lot of doubts and stuff. But I just kept battling, battling, battling, and eventually I was there.”

This season, McVenes has thrown for 1,291 yards and nine touchdowns and run for two more scores. And when the Knights needed him most, he was at his best.

In the first round of the Class 5A state playoffs last week, the Knights trailed Regis 24-21 with under two minutes left. With the season on the line, McVenes led the Knights on an 80-yard, game-winning drive.

McVenes took his team down the field with his arm and his feet, and eventually capped the drive by hurdling a linebacker into the end zone.

“That was an awesome drive,” senior two-way player Jack Madden said. “To do it that quick and on the line, that’s a lot of ability and poise. He kept his cool and just did what he had to do and led us to the win.”

In that situation, Madden said there wasn’t another pair of hands the Knights would rather have placed the ball in.

“He’s definitely proven that he’s the guy for us,” said Madden, the Knights’ receiving yards leader a year ago. “He’s done everything right.

“He’s got a lot of fire inside of him and he wouldn’t let anyone start in front of him. He just wanted it real bad and took it.”

With McVenes at the helm, Madden said the Knights have an experienced quarterback who won’t take no for an answer and will never give up. And on a team with an unprecedented 32 seniors on the roster, they also have an upperclassman leader to rally around.

But senior or not, each Knight has to earn his starting spot.

“I like to feel like you always do, at every spot, and that we’re not gonna give it to anybody,” McCartney said. “You’ve got to train in the offseason, you’ve got to earn it. And if you want to keep it, you’ve got to work, because we’ve got guys that aren’t satisfied with being backups. And they want that position.”

McVenes has the physical tools and knowledge to play quarterback. But he hasn’t kept his spot for two years on talent alone.

“Mike has experience, but Mike does so many little things,” McCartney said.

An example that stood out to the Knights’ coach came Friday night, when the Knights trailed Regis 10-7 early on. In the play they had drawn up, the only way the receiver would break open was if McVenes stepped up and stood strong in the pocket. He needed to wait, not tuck and run, knowing a direct hit was inevitable.

McVenes stood in there and took the hit. He also delivered the touchdown pass in a big playoff game.

McCartney said McVenes has always competed, to his credit, even when it doesn’t seem like things are fair. He just keeps competing and he embodies the life lessons of “great attitude and great effort” that the Knights coaches preach.

And with a huge test looming at home on Friday against Columbine, McCartney said McVenes, with his grit, is the only quarterback he’d want under center.

“He gives us a great chance to win,” McCartney said. “Against these guys, they’re a defense that forces you to grind it out, they don’t give up the big play. You have to earn it. You’ve got to churn out first downs. You’ve got to be willing to grind it, even in the passing game.”

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