Zach Simons ready to take over powerhouse program
Zach Simons has some huge shoes to fill this season, but the junior quarterback from Xavier High School in Appleton, Wis., is confident he’ll be a great fit – for two reasons.
First, Simons had quite a learning experience last season. He backed up senior Matt Ferris, who set single-season records in passing yards (3,949) and touchdowns (50) while leading the Hawks deep into the playoffs.
In Xavier’s Wisconsin State Division 3 state semifinal appearance, Ferris was held out for most of the game with a back injury, and Simons got the start. In a pressure-packed loss to Greendale, he completed 9 of 14 passes for 31 yards and he rushed for 31 more yards.
“It definitely helps me a lot,” Simons said of the playoff experience as a sophomore. “Being in that game, I had confidence but not as much as I do now. Going out there in a game like that, it gave me a lot more confidence and showed me I can play with anyone.”
The second reason Simons is feeling so good heading into the upcoming season? In his first NFA Duel appearance in Massillon, Ohio, last month, he finished first in the Class of 2016 competition.
“Going in, I was definitely sure I could win,” Simons said. “Just by sheer will and with my competitive drive, I went there and tried to stay relaxed. Finishing first, it definitely boosts my confidence level because it just helps me know I can make the reads on the defense and still fit the football in a tight window if I need to.”
With Ferris graduated and joining the University of Wisconsin’s powerhouse men’s basketball team as a preferred walk-on, Simons is Xavier’s new starting QB. Let’s just say he has set some lofty goals as he preps for his first full season under center.
“My goals are to lead the conference in passing and rushing yards and also in efficieny percentage,” Simons said.
As for team goals, they are equally high. “I’m very happy with how things are going, and I think we can make a deep run into the playoffs and possibly win state,” he said.
There is one concern – four of the Hawks’ five starting offensive linemen are already down with injuries. Two have concussions, one has a dislocated elbow and one has a torn shoulder labrum.
While Simons is a bit concerned, he is putting even more pressure on himself to perform.
“The first part of the season is going to tough with the four starting offensive linemen that are injured right now, but we’ve been working some guys in there and they’ve been getting the job done so it’s working out and it’s been encouraging,” Simons said. “I’m definitely putting more on my shoulders. And the wide receivers are going to have to take more on their shoulders and play a big part in our offense.”
Nod to NFA
With Simons running the offense, you get the feeling Xavier is going to overcome any and all obstacles this season. And the 6-foot-1, 200-pounder gives NFA plenty of credit for getting him ready for the starting varsity job.
“They definitely helped me out,” Simons said. “My mechanics weren’t great going into NFA but now with the help of JC (Boice), Will (Hewlett), if I mess something up I know how to fix it and make the right adjustments.”
He still has two more years of high school football, but Simons is already drawing college interest.
“So far, a couple of teams are looking at me,” said Simons, who was also an all-conference linebacker last year. “I’ve been looking to the next level for quite a while, ever since I was really young. I definitely think I can play college football.”