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Schebell has made the most of it

POSTED November 24, 2010
BY Rick Wilson
Twitter: @scribewilson


            There is wistfuless in Zack Schebell’s voice, a measured mixture of what could have been and what has been.

 In many ways his 2010 football season hasn’t been the dream he knew it could be. But, the rugged competitor who wears No. 47 also knows that when he walks off the field for the last time in a Torrington High uniform Thanksgiving Day somewhere between 12:30 and 1 p.m. that the bumpy ride has been worth the price of the ticket.

            This was going to Schebell’s season, the kind of campaign you look back at 20, 30, 40 years later and slowly run your fingers over the yearbook and newspaper photos drawing proud memories with the touch.

            He had worked himself up the football food chain as each season went by. As a sophomore he played fullback and blocked to get himself on the field. As a junior he pounded his way to 600 yards while playing alongside with multi-talented quarterback Chris DeBerry. 

            Now it was his turn.

            “I knew this was going to be a big year,” said Schebell. “We had a good offensive line coming back with an All-State left tackle (Dean Tsopanides). I figured I’d probably get 1,000 yards, maybe 1,500.”

            Then the big year turned into the big hurt. During a preseason practice, he tackled, and there is more than a bit of irony here, teammate Brenden Lytton. When bringing him down somebody fell on his helmet.

            “The helmet kind of just squashed down and he head got caught between the two sides,” said Schebell.

            Schebell felt pain but didn’t realize how serious it was. He joked to his trainer about being glad that he had already had his senior picture taken, all the time thinking his jaw was dislocated.

            His season was about to change dramatically. He was diagnosed with a broken jaw and told he would miss most of the season. Those close to the Red Raider football program already knew about their pounding 5-foot-8, 185 pound (170 now) fullback on the field, now they were going to get a bigger dose of a big heart off the field.

            “I knew I‘d be back, I tried to stay optimistic,“ said Schebell. “I called coach (Dan Dunaj) and I told him, `we’ll find a way around it.’ “

            The big dream and the senior expectations had clearly been altered, however. There would be no big yardage totals and the fingers massaging the old photos down the road were going to tell a different story.

            Schebell was cleared after two weeks to go back in the weight room. In all he missed the preseason and four games, eight weeks in all. Not to mention the toll that was taken on being game-ready, both physically and mentally.

            The low point came against Naugatuck. The Schebell family is from the Rubber City. Mom and dad are Greyhounds and bleed some maroon and gray. Much of the family still lives in Naugatuck and revel in Craig Peters, Art Nunes, Ray Lagenza and the thought of beating the evil empire – Ansonia..

 Schebell’s cousin Mike Schebell starts for coach Rob Plasky’s club. Zack wanted desperately to play again him and in front of his extended family.

“Something was missing inside,” he admits. “My whole family is from (Naugatuck). I kept telling Mike I was going to kill him when we played.”

Being on the side, Schebell struggled to keep that football intensity that playing brings.

“I wasn’t around, I lost that football mentality for a couple of games,” he said. “I was lifting and conditioning by myself. I was slow getting back into everything.”     

            And along the way an amazing story was unfolding on the field. Mr. Lytton, the same back Schebell had tackled in the preseason, began rewriting the record book.

 A progression of 200-yard rushing games with the regularity of a tax hike. A state record nine-TD effort against Wilby. More than 2,000 yards, state-wide acclaim, brilliance for the ages.

Schebell saw that whatever he made of the season, coming back and picking up his dream wasn’t going to happen. Fate may have created a situation, but Lytton’s legs and talent gobbled up the opportunity.

Schebell is thrilled for his teammate, nobody should ever think different and he knew what he had to do.

“I saw Brenden was having a great year and told the offensive coordinator I would play football to block. I realized that I could still be useful and I didn’t want to say give me back my position. I know that isn’t how it works,” said Schebell.

“I am so proud of Brenden. He’s having such a big year. I have accepted my role. It’s my senior year; I wanted to play a part. I asked coach what I could I do to help us win games.”

The role has been one of rugged linebacker and occasional ball carrier. Oh, and team leader.

Schebell does wonder what havoc the Raiders could have caused the opposition if both he and Lytton were healthy to form a dual-threat backfield.”

“We went to camps together and talked about working together and having a good year,” said Schebell. “I honestly think if I didn’t break my jaw we’d be the best two-back backfield in the state with his speed and my power.”

Schebell’s season wasn’t about to disappear without one grand day. Against St. Paul’s there was the performance that he had dreamed would be a routines part of the season before the plan was altered. Four touchdowns, 135 yards on the ground.

And there is still Watertown at this writing.

You measure the talent in part by the statistics. You measure the person with a different stick. Diversity and how it is handled tells much.

Zack Schebell could have turned the other way, the dream of big things lost in a tackle, collapsed helmet and broken jaw. The spotlight shifted. Yet, he decided if he couldn’t be the lead singer, he would gladly be in the chorus.

In the end, it wasn’t about him. He struggled at times, who wouldn’t. But, he made sure he returned the field to contribute what he could to what has become a successful season.

When the fingers go back over the photos, it should be a proud touch. He understands the team and experience will last a lifetime. These are his guys, this is his experience.

In the end, Zack Schebell made the most of it. A proud ending.  

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