Cougars’ Akers making most of opportunity
DUBLIN – Zack Akers was short-changed on his senior year of high school football at Pulaski County.
But during the playing time he has managed to squeeze in, he certainly hasn’t short-changed the Cougars.
Akers, a 6-foot-1 215 pound wingback, has outstanding football skills but no luck. The 2012 season wasn’t a game old before ill fortune set in.
A game old – heck, for wingback Akers, the season was barely a play old.
“I got one carry for 20 yards,” he said. “And on that one play, I broke my leg.”
At first it looked as though the injury was going to be one of the manifestations of a sprained ankle. Closer medical examination revealed the break.
So for the best part of eight games he sat. When he was able to return to the lineup in time for Game 8 against Blacksburg, the devoted Cougars constituency saw what it had been missing. In the last three games including last week’s 32-0 pasting of Magna Vista in the opening round of the Group AA, Division 4, Region IV playoffs, Akers has averaged 77 all purpose yards per game.
That total includes 19 carries for 121 yards and eight pass receptions for 110 yards.
“Very unselfish,” Pulaski County coach Todd Jones said. “He blocks well, carries out his fakes, he’s run the ball well, and he’s a threat at the wingback spot to catch the football.”
Even after missing all those games, Akers still managed to forge into first place on the Cougars list for pass receptions and receiving yardage for a career. His 56 catches and 767 yards break records set by Mark Frank way back in 1986-87. It is true that in the age of the wide-open spread passing offenses, those aren’t tremendous totals, but Pulaski County has traditionally favored a heavily ground-based offense.
Even so, you get the feeling that Akers would have thrived in any system, any time. He’s that kind of athlete.
Speaking of, Akers thrives on field and floor. Along with football, he also adds basketball and soccer to his varsity repertoire. Football is his main deal, though. That’s why it was so agonizing for him to miss so much of his senior year.
“It was horrible,” he said. “I would have rather been at home listening on the radio than at the actual game watching them play. It was my senior year. I wanted to play. I couldn’t play.”
He was back in the lineup as soon as possible. Against Blacksburg, he estimated his leg at 85 percent.
“It still hurt, but I could run on it,” he said.
Since then “it’s gotten steadily better.”
Akers and the rest of the Cougars are going to have to be in top form this week for the rematch with undefeated Salem. The Spartans decked Pulaski County 28-14 in the last game of the regular season. It’s helpful to note that Magna Vista beat Pulaski County 34-21 Sept. 21, so turnabout is by no means out of the question.
“Salem’s a fantastic team,” Jones said. “Great program, great tradition, great athletes and coaching staff. They do all the little things. We have to do the little things, too. We can’t afford to make mistakes. If [Salem] makes mistakes, then we have to take advantage of them.”
Akers, who has never had significant injury in football before, has started ever since Jones arrived in 2010. Akers is a good student and hopes to have a shot at playing college football. He’s thinking biology might be a good way to go for a major.
“Whoever gets him is going to get a steal of a football player,” Jones said. “He’s a great player but an even greater person. Never once have I heard him say, ‘Why me?’ He’s worked hard, done what the doctor and trainer have told him to do, and has gotten back out here.
“It’s good for our football team that he’s here now.”
By Ray Cox
The Roanoke Times | 381-1672
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