Chavez QB Omar Salih puts up eye-boggling numbers

David Goricki
The Detroit News

Detroit — Omar Salih was slinging the ball all over the field, a deep ball, followed by a quick slant over the middle, then a short pass in the flat during Detroit Cesar Chavez’s practice Monday afternoon at Hedwig Park.

Salih is putting up big numbers during his senior year at Cesar Chavez after setting a single-game state record for passing yards (674, nine touchdowns) as a sophomore.

In a 50-19 win over Bay City All Saints last Thursday, Salih completed 30-of-43 passes for 543 yards and seven touchdowns, including eight to Margarito Aguilera for 163 yards and three touchdowns. The 543 yards is the fourth-highest in state history.

It would be easy to say Salih has grown up, even from his record-breaking day of a couple of years ago. He has grown in size — now 5-foot-11 and 170 pounds — and in football IQ, reading defenses better while throwing with better accuracy.

Salih has completed 57 percent of his passes for 1,325 yards and 12 touchdowns with just four interceptions — which all came in a 63-14 loss in Week No. 2 to Ida.

Salih is on pace for a 4,000-yard regular season, but he wants to play a 10th game to lead Cesar Chavez (2-1) to a state playoff appearance.

“He’s a lot bigger, stronger and more mature,” Cesar Chavez coach Tarif Kumasi said of Salih, who threw for 3,293 yards and 24 touchdowns with 30 interceptions his sophomore year before moving to Detroit Cody his junior year. “He said after last Thursday’s game that the game has slowed down for him. He’s in college-mode now in the way he reads defenses.”

Bay City All Saints first-year coach Jonn Mathews agrees.

“I’ve seen a lot of football at high and low levels and he has amazing accuracy and feet,” said Mathews, who was a part of two national championships (2005, ‘06) at Grand Valley State as a tight end and offensive coordinator of the Danish National team from 2012-14. “He has a Division II or III body with a Division 1 arm. I’ve never seen a quarterback’s feet like that at such a young age. He reads defenses well and throws the ball well. He usually has the ball right on the money.”

Salih certainly threw the ball right where it needed to be against Bay City All Saints, completing his first eight passes on the initial drive for a score in Kumasi’s 5-wide, no-back offense which frequently goes for it on fourth down.

“We lost our game the previous week (to Ida) and I got on my line and receivers, trying to get all of us ready for the Bay City All Saints’ game because it’s our rivalry game and we needed to be prepared,” Salih said. “First drive, I was 8-for-8, dinking and dunking, spreading the ball around to all my receivers.

“I love this system. All 25 of us work hard every day in practice. I love Coach K, the line, the receivers, we all have a great bond. It’s so fun when I get to the line. I just take a deep breath before every snap, scan the field and then take what the defense gives me.”

Salih is thrilled to be back at Cesar Chavez with his friends, his teammates.

“I wasn’t really comfortable at Cody and I’m glad I’m back here again,” Salih said. “I knew Coach K and I’m comfortable here. I feel I’m smarter, more of a leader now and I’m having my best year. I want us to make the playoffs for the first time in school history. It’s all about winning and I know I have to spread it around, make the reads, be accurate and make sure all of my receivers get fed (targeted) throughout the game.”

Sounds like a leader. And, while Cesar Chavez’s team practices at Hedwig Park and is without a home field, Salih has no complaints.

“Sure, we have to travel an hour or two to play some games, but I don’t care,” Salih said. “I just want to play football and my teammates all feel the same way. Let’s go play anyone, anywhere.”

Cesar Chavez will play at Marine City Cardinal Mooney at 7 p.m. Saturday at East China Stadium with an Oct. 1 matchup coming up at Detroit Country Day, ranked No. 4 in Division 4.