Justin Tibbels guides school to first-ever trip to playoffs


In football, individual statistics don’t always add up. Numbers can be very deceiving.
Meet Justin Tibbels. As the starting quarterback for Danbury High School in Lakeside, Ohio as a sophomore, he passed for almost 1,000 yards and 9 touchdowns.
As the starting QB for Danbury as a junior this season, Tibbels’ passing stats were way down, but not because he had an off year.
The Lakers headed into the season with only 18 players on the varsity roster, and six were freshman. They were vulnerable at wide receiver due to graduation losses.
Rather than run a spread offense that would have exploited Tibbels’ passing skills, Danbury switched to the Wing-T and primarily kept the ball on the ground.

Team player

“A spread offense is better for my stats, but I like winning football games, too,” Tibbels said. “The Wing-T helped us win all of our games this year. Some games, we passed the ball maybe one time. I was more handing it off and running the ball, but that’s what we needed to do to be successful.”
While rushing for 9 touchdowns and passing for 5 more, Tibbels guided the Lakers to a 7-4 record. If that wasn’t impressive enough, Danbury also advanced to the playoffs for the first time in school history.
“Before the season, the goal was to have a winning record and get to the playoffs and try to go as far as possible,” Tibbels said. “We just took it one game at a time, didn’t really try to do too much or look too far ahead. Just play one game at a time.”
After the Lakers bowed out in the first round of the playoffs, the stunning accomplishment of making it to the postseason really sunk in for Tibbels.
“It’s the best feeling I’ve ever had,” he said. “It made me feel very proud. The community came together and it was something like I’ve never experienced before.”
Danbury’s small roster forced Tibbels to stay on the field the entire game. He was the quarterback on offense, free safety on defense and long snapper on special teams. A knee injury forced Tibbels to miss parts of two games, but he enjoyed the heavy workload.
“I loved it,” Tibbels said. “There’s nothing better than being on the field for every single down.”
Tibbels also loves winning, and that’s why he adapted so well to the Wing-T this season. He also played wide receiver as a freshman at Danbury, but the 6-foot, 185-pounder has been a QB since he started playing the game in flag football.
“I like the pressure that comes with playing quarterback,” Tibbels said. “I like just being able to work out of the pressure and make things happen.”

Duel winner

Before the season, Tibbels made his first trip to the Duel and he finished first at NFA’s international quarterback competition among incoming juniors.
“I had no clue,” Tibbels said of the Duel. “I didn’t know what to expect. But I was really happy because I was not expecting to go in there and win it. I was expecting to have a good experience and learn some things. When I won the Duel I was really happy and it made me feel more confident. But I understand that I can’t be overconfident. I still needed to work hard and do other things to get better. You can always get better.”
Tibbels hooked up with NFA a year ago and he said the training has helped make him a better quarterback.
“I like the throwing techniques that they taught me at the camps,” he said. “I would do most of the NFA drills, throw between the goal posts, under, I did that in my pregame. And I used the R4. We didn’t pass that much but I’d still use it.”


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Scot Gregor is an award-winning sportswriter for the Chicago Daily Herald. In addition to writing about Big 10 and Notre Dame football, Gregor has also covered the White Sox, Bears, Blackhawks, Bulls and college basketball. He grew up in Pittsburgh and watched the Steelers rise to prominence in the 1970s. Gregor has a B.S. degree in Journalism from Ohio University