Ansbach quarterback Shawn Bachtel throws a screen pass during Ansbach's 24-6 victory over Baumholder in the Div. III championship game last November.

Ansbach quarterback Shawn Bachtel throws a screen pass during Ansbach's 24-6 victory over Baumholder in the Div. III championship game last November. (Ray Conway / S&S)

However direct the path has been, the journey from freshman hopeful to 2002 All-Europe selection and Ansbach team leader has been an unusual one for quarterback Shawn Bachtel.

Unlike the vast majority of the students who began ninth grade with him at Ansbach, Bachtel is still around.

“We’ve been fortunate to have him here for four years,” said Ansbach coach Marcus George of the player who quarterbacked Ansbach to the European Division III championship last fall.

“It sure makes a difference.”

The difference shows in Ansbach’s record.

When Bachtel was a freshman, the Cougars went 1-5. Since then, they’ve been European Division III semifinalists and European champions.

“He’s come a long way,” George said.

George was talking about his quarterback, but he might just as well have been talking about the whole team. The Cougars are riding an 11-game winning streak, longest in DODDS-Europe, and have defeated all three of this season’s opponents by mercy rule and by an average margin of 48-6.

All this in spite of every opponent wanting to knock off the defending champs.

“It’s been harder for us this season,” Bachtel said. “Everyone’s after us.”

Bachtel added that the pressure on him as an All-European returnee is less than last year.

“It’s easier for me,” he said. “I know what to expect.”

Not to mention what to do.

“Coach George has helped me a lot,” Bachtel said. “He even took me to the Auburn football camp last summer. He’s showed me how to be a leader.”

That last quality has been significant this season.

“He’s developed into more of a leader,” George said. “What most people don’t realize is that we lost our whole backfield. We’ve had to move people around, move some people who played defense last year.”

With Bachtel providing stability, the moves have worked nicely.

“Shawn’s greatest strength are his feet,” George said. “Most people don’t notice at first, but he’s the fastest quarterback in Europe. We’ve timed him in 4.6 for the 40.”

George has put Bachtel into an offensive scheme designed to take advantage of all that speed.

“We put him in a specific offense that capitalizes on speed,” George said. “[Fleet-footed sophomore] Jon Austin is our backup quarterback, so we designed a system to allow our quarterbacks to utilize their speed. We move the quarterback a lot, allow them to roll out. We don’t drop back in the pocket much.”

Not that Bachtel would mind.

“I like to throw the ball,” he said. “I have my brother [freshman Brandon] to throw to this year. Also, I have Russell Bailey. They both have great hands.”

George said Bachtel’s height has almost as much to do with Ansbach’s style as does his speed. Unfortunately, it’s his height — or lack thereof — that could impede his rise to the next level.

“He’s 5-9, 155,” he said. “That’s a shortcoming for moving on.”

Bachtel hopes to combat the problem in a couple of ways.

Velocity, for one.

“His speed has made a lot of difference,” George said.

Stateside experience, for another.

“I’m trying to look into junior colleges,” he said, “but it’s hard from over here.”

Even so, Bachtel said he has no regrets about playing in Europe.

“It would’ve been nice to play in the States,” Bachtel said, “but I like it over here. I like it that my parents have been able to keep me at Ansbach all four years.”

So does George.

“We’ve got used to having him at quarterback,” he said.

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