During their incredible run of region titles and playoff success in the last decade-plus, Calhoun has been known for their explosive offensive attack, especially the yards and points they put up in the passing game. But when the Jackets have reached their biggest heights as a team, either winning a state title or making it to the state championship game, their balance has been on the offensive side has been a huge determining factor.
Calhoun has continued their trend of big numbers in the passing game in 2017 as they head into the second round of the Class AAA State Playoffs this week against Monroe Area, but their running game has been just as important led by junior running back Zack Fuller.
Fuller has racked up yards, helped control the clock and worn down defenses this Fall behind a talented offensive line, and that was on full display last Friday in the team’s first-round win over Pace Academy. The Jackets kept pounding away in the running game and eventually it took its toll on the Knights, which turned into a huge night for Fuller, who finished with 170 yards on 23 carries and two touchdowns.
Calhoun coach Hal Lamb said Fuller may not look the part of workhorse running back to opposing teams, but once they have faced him, they certainly respect his ability and determination.
“Zack is not the biggest or the fastest kid on our team, but he’s probably the toughest,” said Lamb. “He’s one of the toughest kids I’ve ever coached. He does whatever we ask him to do, and he’s an incredible, high-character kid. He’s the type of kid that gives you everything he’s got, and one that you love to coach.”
Through 11 games, Fuller has racked up 1,004 yards on 155 carries with 16 touchdowns, which equals out to 6.4 yards per rush. He has the moves to go around defenders but also doesn’t mind dropping his pads and running over would-be tacklers. Fuller said he likes to think of himself as more of a power back, but he fills whatever role his team needs him to on any given night.
“I try to stay up the middle and be more of a power back, but I can do anything the team needs me to,” said Fuller. “I just try to help my team the best I can and worry about my own job. If I do what I need to do, and everyone else does their job, everything should fall into place. And for me, it all starts with those big boys up front on the offensive line. I know they are going to get the push up front and provide holes, and I just try to find them.”
In the Jackets’ 27-3 victory over Pace Academy last Friday, Fuller and the offensive line got small chunks in the first half, but by the time the third quarter rolled around, that’s when the big yards started to come as the Knights’ defense couldn’t hold up to the constant physical pounding. Fuller ran for 117 yards in the second half alone, including a touchdown run of 27 yards and a long run of 49. He said he was proud to come through with a performance like that with his team’s season on the line.
“It was I big game,” said Fuller. “I enjoyed running against them. They had a really good defense, but everything was going right on Friday. We knew we were wearing them down in the second half, and it was fun to see that pay off with some big yards to finish the game off.”
Fuller’s older brother, J.C., is one of those starting offensive linemen that are team leaders according to Zack. He said he does his best to keep them happy.
“They are the leaders on offense and for the team,” said Zack Fuller. “They make sure we’re doing the right things, and they get us all in line when we aren’t. They are a vital part of our success. I try to take them out to eat and help them with whatever I can because I know without them, I can’t have success running the ball.”
Now as the Jackets head deeper into the postseason, Fuller said the team is focused on big goals and the running game needs to continue to do its part.
“We’re taking one game at a time, but I think we can make it all the way to the Benz (Mercedes-Benz Stadium for the state championship game),” said Fuller. “If we play up to our potential, I think we can go all the way. “We’ve got the coaches and players to do it. As far as myself, I’ll just do whatever they need me to do. Whatever the gameplan is, I’ll listen and just be happy doing whatever they need of me as a running back.”