Preps notebook: Jake Zenger enjoying senior year at FSHS

photo by: Kevin Anderson

Peyton Sparks (4) celebrates as Jake Zenger carries the ball into the end zone as Free State played Shawnee Mission North Friday in Merriam.

Free State senior Jake Zenger couldn’t remember much in the moments following his first career touchdown catch.

Junior quarterback Malik Berry connected with Zenger on an 8-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter of Free State’s 62-0 route of Shawnee Mission North. After that, it was all a blur to Zenger, who was overwhelmed with congratulatory messages from his teammates.

As soon as he got to the sideline, though, Zenger had a memorable exchange with his dad, Sheahon Zenger.

“He said, ‘You can catch,'” Jake Zenger said. “It’s nice to have him here my senior year. It’s a dream come true for both of us.”

Those types of moments have made this year particularly special for Jake Zenger.

Sheahon Zenger, who spent seven years as the athletic director for the University of Kansas, joined the Free State coaching staff this fall as a linebackers coach. Free State coach Bob Lisher admitted it was an easy decision to bring Sheahon Zenger on the staff for this year.

“It’s great to spend that time with your son and enjoy life,” Lisher said. “Jake has meant a lot. He comes out here and works everyday. He’s done everything you have asked him to do, and that’s all you can ask for.”

Behind his father’s influence, Jake Zenger has been playing football and baseball since he was 5 years old.

Zenger always believed he’d play football at the collegiate level before he discovered his ability as a sidearmer on the mound. In fact, Zenger verbally committed to play baseball at Illinois State University just days before catching his first touchdown pass of his high school career.

As a baseball player, Zenger enjoys coming up in big spots for his team and hopes to do that at the next level.

“My dad is the one that got me into long snapping and sidearm pitching,” Zenger said. “He always encouraged me to find my niche, and that’s what I did.”

Zenger has different roles on the football field, however. This is the first season that he’s played meaningful snaps at the varsity level, as he serves as the team’s starting tight end and long snapper.

The touchdown grab last week is Zenger’s only catch of the season, as well. Yet, he’s been crucial as a blocker for a juggernaut offense, which has outscored opponents by a 144-0 margin through the first three games.

Even though Zenger’s days as a football player are inevitably numbered, he wants to make his final year count.

“I want us to win a state championship,” Zenger said. “We need to do whatever it takes to get there. We just need to keep getting better, and doing the little things right.”

Free State (3-0) plays host to Shawnee Mission West (0-3) at 7 p.m. Friday.

Prediction: Free State over Shawnee Mission West

FSHS probable starters


QB — Malik Berry, jr.; RB — Jax Dineen, sr.; WR — Peyton Sparks, sr.; WR — Jaxon Webb, sr.; H — Keenan Garber, sr.; H — LJ Mack, sr.; TE — Jake Zenger, sr.; LT — Turner Corcoran, jr.; LG — Shane Skwarlo, sr.; C — Kyle Flachsbarth, jr.; RG — Zach Rasys, sr.; RT — Ryan Lutz, jr.


DT — Lovette Epelle, jr.; NT — Devon Buck, jr.; DT — Brandon Zeller, sr.; OLB — Matt Georgie, sr.; ILB — Jalen Nash, sr.; ILB — Jax Dineen, sr.; OLB — Ben Miller, jr.; CB — Oliver Paranjothi, sr.; CB — Jaxon Malone, sr.; FS — Keenan Garber, sr.; SS — Malik Berry, jr.

Baldwin at Eudora

A pair of area teams enter this week’s matchup on losing skids.

Baldwin, which dropped a 21-7 decision to Louisburg last week, has lost consecutive games after claiming the season opener at Ottawa. Meanwhile, Eudora suffered a loss in all three outings this season under first-year head coach Sean Hayden. The Bulldogs have scored 49 points through three games, while the Cardinals have managed just 13 points.

Baldwin (1-2) travels to Eudora (0-3) at 7 p.m. Friday.

Prediction: Baldwin over Eudora

Bonner Springs at Tonganoxie

Tonganoxie notched its first win of the season, and will look to keep things rolling.

Last week, Tonganoxie erased an early deficit to claim a 34-6 road win over Eudora for the first win of the year. Senior running back Korbin Riedel is leading the Chieftains with 242 yards and four scores on a total of 43 carries. Senior quarterback Hayden Robbins is 26 of 44 for 292 yards and two touchdowns through three games.

Tonganoxie plays host to Bonner Springs at 7 p.m. Friday.

Prediction: Bonner Springs over Tonganoxie

Wellsville at Perry-Lecompton

After a heartbreaking defeat, Perry-Lecompton will look to rebound this week.

The Kaws were unable to convert on a two-point conversion late, falling to defending state champion Sabetha by a 35-33 margin. Perry-Lecompton, which is ranked No. 5 in Class 3A, is averaging 333 rushing yards per game on the ground. Senior Dalton Kellum is pacing the Kaws with 10 rushing touchdowns.

Perry-Lecompton (2-1) will play host to Wellsville (2-1) at 7 p.m. Friday.

Prediction: Perry-Lecompton over Wellsville

KC East at Veritas

Veritas will look to get in the win column for the first time this season.

After three losses to open the year, the Eagles will try to get their offense going in a home matchup. Veritas has scored just six total points this season, which includes consecutive shutouts over the previous two outings. Andrew Windheuser rushed for 84 yards in last week’s 34-0 loss to Manhattan CHIEF.

Veritas will play host to KC East at 7 p.m. Friday.

Prediction: KC East over Veritas

Prediction record

Last week: 6-0

Season: 17-1


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