Back in 2005, Zach Zulli was just a 14-year-old freshman quarterback, honing his craft at Perkiomen Valley High School.
It was when he met his ninth-grade football offensive coordinator that his career really started to round into form.
“He was kind of (coaching) part-time, because he was involved with baseball as well,” remembered Zulli. “But he’d come to our practices, and as I started talking to him—he was like an older brother. We had very similar understandings of the game of football.”
That offensive coordinator? Current Perkiomen Valley head coach Rob Heist.
The next year, Heist started coaching with the varsity under Scott Reed, just in time for Zulli to move up and begin a three-year career that created the standard by which all Perkiomen Valley quarterbacks (and there have been some good ones) have since been judged.
After a Harlon Hill Trophy-winning (think Heisman Trophy, but for Division II) at Shippensburg University, Zulli had a short stint with the Seattle Seahawks and the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League before returning home and starting his coaching career this fall at Methacton High School.
Friday night, that journey came full circle when Zulli, the Warriors’ offensive coordinator, found himself matching wits with Heist and the rest of the Perkiomen Valley coaching staff.
In their first meeting, the teacher(s) got the better of the student, as Perk Valley survived a challenge from Methacton, 18-9. But for Zulli, the disappointment of the loss couldn’t overshadow the novelty, the thrill, and the challenge of going against his mentors.
“I hadn’t looked into it too much — I had the date circled on my calendar, and I knew it was coming, but it’s just so different when you’re going against these guys you’ve known your whole life,” said Zulli. “It’s not just (Coach Heist), I know all of the guys on Perkiomen Valley’s staff. It was actually a cool experience watching them call a game with me on the other side.”
“Zach’s incredible passion for football will translate over to those players for Methacton,” added Rob Heist. “He knows the game extremely well and I’m excited to watch him grow in this new capacity.”
Zulli’s journey to that other side is another interesting tale. Having began a career as a personal trainer at Club La Maison in Wayne, Zulli hadn’t given much thought to coaching until this past spring, when he received an unexpected — but ultimately very welcome message on Facebook.
“I had done some gameday stuff at PV,” Zulli recalled, “but I hadn’t held any official coaching positions. And I wasn’t really looking for anything until Coach (Dave) Lotier took the job at Methacton.
“He messaged me on Facebook, and said he knew of me, my career, and asked whether I’d be interested in coaching?”
Zulli agreed to meet with the coach, and quickly became a part of the 2018 resurgence of the Methacton program. From only 19 players on the squad at the end of 2017, Zulli estimates the Warriors are dressing 45-55 players each week this season.
“I really feel that we’re improving every week,” he said. “It’s hard to imagine anyone playing a tougher schedule than we have (indeed, if the season ended today, six of the Warriors’ seven opponents thus far would qualify for the District 1 playoffs), and we’re starting to make plays. We’re understanding that we can be in games, and we can play with every one of these teams.”
When Zulli looked across the field Friday night, he saw a Perkiomen Valley team representing a program that has become the area’s unofficial “Cradle of Quarterbacks.” The past decade has seen Rasaan Stewart, Stephen Sturm, and current signal-caller Cole Peterlin emerge as conductors of a dynamic, up-tempo offense that has thrust the Vikings into their perennial standing as not only front-runners for the Pioneer Athletic Conference title, but contenders for the Class 6A District 1 title as well.
And it all started with Zach Zulli. Can Zulli’s experience aid him in turning Methacton into the area’s next great offense?
“I take little bits of everything I’ve learned from everyone — and I find myself incorporating it into my playbook, my play calling, all the time,” said Zulli. “Another guy I have to mention is Mike Yurcich (current offensive coordinator at Oklahoma State, worked with Zulli at Shippensburg). He taught me to see a defense, call a play… I mean, to this day, I can recall his entire playbook off the top of my head. He helped me tremendously, and it’s crazy because he was only my OC for two years.
“But [my coaching style] is a mixture of everything I’ve learned. I’m still using plays that I picked up from Scott Reed’s offense. You look at your own athletes, and you throw in your own little wrinkles—but the guidance I had along the way has been incredible.”
Great night at Vikings Stadium, 2 teams played hard. Shoutout to #54 for stopping and helping the grounds crew fold the flag! #muchrespect #classact @PottstownTrojan @PacTenSports @MontCoSports pic.twitter.com/PYoeQrbdBj
— UM Athletics (@UMAHS_ATHLETICS) October 6, 2018
Grace in Defeat
After a hard-fought loss at Upper Merion Friday night, Pottstown junior Zack Griffin stopped on his way off the field to help the Upper Merion grounds crew properly fold the flag of the United States of America.
“Even in defeat, Trojans know how to show sportsmanship, respect, and class,” said John Armato, director of community relations for Pottstown School District after Griffin’s gesture.
Aside from his position on the football team, Griffin also wrestles at Pottstown, serves as a cadet in the Junior Air Force ROTC Unit PA951, and can be seen on the Pottstown High drum line.
Around the Area
Owen J. Roberts continued to show remarkable balance in their offensive attack in running their record to 5-2 (2-1 PAC Liberty) with a 35-13 win over Norristown. Marcus Martin’s 245 all-purpose yards (185 rushing, 60 receiving) led a 441-yard offensive output for the Wildcats. QB Cooper Chamberlain ran and passed for a touchdown, while Ian Sordilla led the pass catchers with 76 yards through the air. Sordilla was singled out ahead of time by coach Rich Kolka as a player OJR would look to for a big game on Friday.
Next up for the Wildcats is their homecoming game against division-leading Spring-Ford (6-1, 3-0 PAC Liberty) who lit up the scoreboard on Friday night in a 66-31 shootout against Boyertown (1-6, 0-3 PAC Liberty). The first quarter was relatively quiet, with Spring-Ford forging a 10-0 lead on the first of what would be eventually be a half-dozen Ryan Engro TD passes.
But the second quarter saw both teams explode in all directions. The one hour, nine-minute quarter featured 60 points and 23 accepted penalties and ended with the Rams in front, 52-18. Jamie Moccia had a pair of long Boyertown touchdowns—a 74-yard catch on a double pass play from Connor Rohrbach, and a 97-yard kickoff return. Moccia added a 94-yard kick return score to his array, but it was negated by one of the aforementioned flags.
Pottsgrove continued undaunted on its road to a third consecutive Frontier Division title with a 51-0 shellacking of Upper Perkiomen (1-6, 0-3 PAC Frontier). After a 139-yard rushing performance last week against Pope John Paul II, quarterback Jay Sisko showed off the other side of his game by throwing for 200 yards and four touchdowns, two of them to WR/CB Jimai Springfield, who’s emerged as one of the conference’s most dangerous playmakers over the past few weeks. Pottsgrove (7-0, 3-0 PAC Frontier) can seal the division title with a win Friday at Upper Merion.
On the other side of last week’s big showdown stood Pope John Paul II, who took a little while to get their legs under them before eventually dispatching Phoenixville, 28-12. A sluggish first half shifted when QB Kamal Gray found Justin Kormos just before halftime for a 38-yard “hail Mary” touchdown. It would be the first of three scoring connections for the duo on the day, as the Panthers ran their record to 6-1 (2-1 PAC Frontier.) Ambrose Colliluori was in on two sacks for a PJP defense that completely negated Phoenixville’s passing game. Travis Pannella was the area’s leading rusher this week for the Phantoms, compiling 191 yards and two touchdowns.
Upper Merion rode the legs of Michael Zelli (21 rushes, 104 yards, TD) to a 26-13 victory over Pottstown in a showdown between the conference’s two breakout squads of 2018. The Vikings now stand at 5-2 (3-0 PAC Frontier) with an opportunity to grab everyone’s attention in this coming Friday’s showdown with Pottsgrove. Pottstown (4-3, 1-2 PAC Frontier) has a chance to add a statement victory to their resume when they host Pope John Paul II.
2018 Mercury Area Passing Leaders
2018 Mercury Area Rushing Leaders
2018 Mercury Area Receiving Leaders
2018 Mercury Area Interception Leaders
2018 Mercury Area Kicking Leaders
|3||Nate Millard||Daniel Boone||37||28||3|
|4||Hugo Mateos||Owen J. Roberts||35||23||4|
|5||Nick Lindelow||Upper Merion||31||19||4|
|6||Brayden Basile||Perkiomen Valley||24||18||2|
|9||Joe McMichael||Upper Perkiomen||12||9||1|
|10||Matt Moroz||Pope John Paul II||9||3||2|
|11||Kevin Beattie||Perkiomen Valley||7||7||0|
|15||Tim Youndt||Hill School||4||4||0|