LUCAS — It’s the ultimate team offense and Tommy Zirzow is the ultimate team player.
The Richland Bank Athlete of the Week, Zirzow rushed for a career-high 257 yards and five touchdowns on 33 carries as the Cubs knocked off Louisville St. Thomas Aquinas 35-21 in the Division VII, Region 25 semifinals at Canal Fulton Northwest High School.
“He’ll be the first one to tell you it’s the guys up front,” Lucas coach Scott Spitler said Saturday night. “He’s just a workout warrior. He wanted to run hills on Thursday night because he thought he hadn’t run enough during the week to get ready for this. That’s just how he is.
“He has personal accountability for himself. It’s great to see.”
The second-seeded Cubs (10-2) will take on top-seeded Cuyahoga Heights at 7 p.m. Saturday back at Canal Fulton Northwest thanks largely to Zirzow. The senior has rushed for more than 1,500 yards in 12 games.
“All the credit goes to the lineman. They block like crazy,” the unassuming Zirzow said. “We all play for each other.
“I just try to do my one-eleventh like the coaches preach. I just try to do my job and follow my guys and play for them.”
The road to the regional final has been a long and obstacle-strewn one for Zirzow. He underwent reconstructive knee surgery his sophomore year after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament, the medial collateral ligament and the meniscus in his left knee in a game against Coshocton.
“The outcome was better than expected because I came back 10 times stronger,” Zirzow said. “It was cool to see how much people had my back in the community. It was almost a better thing for me.
“Everything happens for a reason.”
The physical part of rehabilitation turned out to be the easy part. Being away from his teammates took its toll mentally.
“Those first two weeks after surgery were the worst, pain-wise,” Zirzow said. “But the worst thing was sitting out and not being there with my guys, not being able to support them and give them my all.
“That was the worst part, but it showed me how much I love football. How important the guys are and how important the team is compared to myself.”
Zirzow had a supporting role as the Cubs reached the regional championship game last year behind career rushing king Jeb Grover. He has taken over the lead role after Grover’s graduation.
“I love watching Jeb and I definitely learned a lot from him, how he was so patient with blocks,” Zirzow said. “Jeb is kind of quiet, but he was a competitor. It was fun to watch him lead the team. It was a super-exciting time for Lucas.”
The excitement is back again this year despite the loss to graduation of Grover and a host of other talented seniors. Lucas will play for a regional title for the third time in five years and will try to capture the first ever regional crown.
“Our seniors especially felt like they needed to prove something, because we graduated a pretty darn good class and Jeb Grover was an all-time player,” Spitler said. “They felt they had something to prove because we play the ultimate team offense. We might have a guy who gets a few more carries here or there, but it requires unselfishness and people do that.
“It’s being unselfish and understanding we’ve got to do what it takes to win. That’s the biggest thing.”
Zirzow and the other eight seniors on the Lucas can further cement their place in program history with a win Saturday.
“(Last year’s seniors) taught us a lot,” Zirzow said. “We’ve been in this situation because of them.
“Now we’ve got to finish it.”