Thankful for sports in Zachary

Instead of ranting about the insanity of the NFL serving the Detroit Lions up every year for their annual Thanksgiving loss, I would prefer to focus on the positive and multitude of reasons to be thankful for sports in Zachary.

One could argue that Zachary is just part of the Baton Rouge-St. George conurbation and not exactly unique. I would argue that Zachary is special with an excellent police force and fire department; the number one school district in the State of Louisiana for 14 years for which we should be thankful; and the sports — so thankful for the sports.

Zachary sports from the youth leagues to middle school to ZHS have produced athletes that have made a difference and served as a source of Zachary pride for which we can all be thankful. Looking back to the big LSU-Alabama game Zachary’s own Zack Von Rosenburg, after finishing his baseball dream, was on the field as a 28-year-old punter for the winning Tigers.

The night before the LSU-Alabama game, the Zachary Broncos football team played for its third straight district 4/5-A championship. A short diversion from the positive and thankful thoughts — the lack of local fan support (less than 1,500 home fans) for what was a terrific game being played for a championship was perplexing and an excellent example of some taking the teams recent success for granted. As a follower of Broncos football since the 1980s, I remember the decade or more of Zachary football where the thought of playoffs and district championships was a cruel joke.

I am thankful for a coaching staff that has been constant and the players and other support staff that have resulted in three 5A State Championships in the last four years.

Count Philadelphia Eagles running back Boston Scott (ZHS Class of 2013) in the number of those that is thankful. During the Eagles open date, Scott came home and was in Bronco stadium to see his alma mater win their fifth district championship in the last six years. In speaking to the team after the game Scott said, “We are so proud of y'all, and we see your successes as an extension of the things we were trying to do when I graduated.” On Nov. 17 we could all watch Boston Scott and his Eagles compete on national TV against the reigning Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots.

What about baseball? Coach Jacob Fisher and his Broncos have similarly set a standard for excellence winning the 4/5-A district championship in baseball for the last four years. Zachary alumni are playing in the minor leagues (Taylor Guilbeau and Jameson Fisher) and at several colleges, and recent graduates Alex Milazzo and Collier Cranford will suit up in the purple and gold for LSU in the spring.

I am thankful that it is hard to keep track of all the girls and boys indoor and outdoor state track and field championships coach Chris Carrier, his staff and athletes have won. The girls have three indoor state titles and four state titles. I’m thankful that I will have the opportunity to watch the girls and boys track teams compete and senior sprinter Sean Burrell run one more year. Burrell committed to run track for LSU on Nov. 13.

Other recent sports notables to be thankful for would include: the Zachary volleyball team (with only one senior) made the playoffs in Division I for the first time since 2015; senior baseball pitcher Tanner Hall signed with USM on Nov. 12; senior softball player Taylor Palmer signed with LSUE on Nov. 13; senior girls basketball player Osha Cummings signed with Northwestern State on Nov. 13; the ZHS boys cross-country team finished fourth in the Region 2-5A regional and the ZHS girls finished seventh; the ZHS swimming team qualified four boys (Aiden Peterkin, Eric King, Tristan Vessel and Logan Ladnier) and four girls (Karlie Porter, Abby Yoes, Ella Thompson and Sadie O’Keefe) for the LHSAA State Championships on Nov. 22 and 23.

I’m thankful for former ZHS athletes that play football on Saturdays (there are a bunch playing at local colleges and some far away) and are making a difference in the community. Case in point, junior TCU center Kellton Hollins who played on the 2014 ZHS 5A state championship team. Though Hollins has struggled with a leg injury on the field this year, he was named a semifinalist for the Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year Award on Nov. 13.

The award recognizes a player’s leadership on and off the field. Hollins is president of S.P.A.R.K., an organization started by TCU football players to provide motivation to local youth about the importance of education and serving the community. In addition, he has worked with Fort Worth youth through H.O.P.E. Farm, University Christian Church and TCU’s Starpoint School.

Hollins is TCU’s representative for the Big 12’s Champions for Life program which highlights student athlete’s life changing stories through the opportunities provided through scholarships. Hollins noted “Every day I strive to be more than an athlete. I am humbled to be in the position I am in today.”

The next time you think it might be a little too cold to watch a soccer, football, baseball or softball game just imagine how thankful the athletes competing will be that you were there. Tape the 30-minute sitcom you wanted to watch on TV and come pack the middle school or ZHS gym for basketball, volleyball, or wrestling. You will be thankful when you can say, “I saw/cheered/coached them before they became” the next Zach Von Rosenberg, Boston Scott, Kellton Hollins, Leonard Scott or Victor Jones.

Warren Brady covers sports for The Plainsman. He can be contacted at zachary@theadvocate.com.