WAXHAW — While the Cuthbertson Cavaliers have been up-and-down as a football program, finishing this regular season with a 4-6 record and posting an 11-17 mark over the past three seasons under head coach Trey Kavanaugh, what has remained consistently good over that stretch has been the play of senior A.J. Colombo.
Starting his high school career as an undersized quarterback on junior varsity in 2018, Colombo earned a spot on the varsity roster in 2019 and immediately made an impact. He led the team in catches (54) as a sophomore and receiving yards (600) as a sophomore while also running for 274 yards and accounting for seven total touchdowns.
“I just went wherever coach needed me or wherever the team needed me most,” Colombo said about his first varsity season. “Whatever coach needs me to do to win games is most important to me. I trust my coaches and I know wherever they put me is going to be the best place for me, and is going to help the team win games.”
At 5-foot-9 and 160 pounds, Colombo isn’t imposing or intimidating, but he makes up for it with his quick feet and elusiveness moves when he gets the ball in his hands.
In the second game of his junior season, Colombo scored on a 92-yard kick-return touchdown in a 31-10 win over Piedmont. He led the team in catches (49) and receiving yards (460) again as a junior during a COVID-shortened six-game season.
This year has been Colombo’s best yet. He started the year splitting reps with sophomore Parker Burke at quarterback, and while Burke has transitioned into the team’s full-time starter as the season has progressed, Colombo has completed at least one pass in eight of the team’s 10 games this season and hasn’t thrown an interception since a win over Jay. M. Robinson on Sept. 17.
Colombo has completed 60% of his passes and he averages 17.7 yards per completion. He has 583 passing yards, and he’s the only player in the County who has at least 500 yards as a passer, rusher and receiver.
On the ground, Colombo has carried the ball 72 times for 502 yards with a team-high seven rushing touchdowns. He’s also caught 41 passes for 554 yards and five scores, and he leads the County in kick return average (36.1 yards).
“He’s done some great things on the field, and this year has been particularly fun because we’ve played some good defenses and had to move him around to different positions so they had to prepare for that,” head coach Trey Kavanaugh said. “And if he’s not getting the ball on certain plays, we’re still trying to distract the defense with his presence. He’s a great asset for us.”
This Friday, Cuthbertson hits the road for the first round of the state playoffs against Watauga, which is allowing just 16.4 points per game to opponents this season.
For the Cavaliers to have a shot Friday night, they’ll have to lean on Colombo from both a production and leadership perspective.
“Normally (A.J.’s) the smallest player on the field, but he plays with the biggest heart,” Kavanaugh said. “And pound-for-pound, he might be the best kid on the field any given night. He’s a special kid. Hopefully we can get a win Friday and watch his career continue.”