FOOTBALL PLAYER OF THE YEAR

North’s Zak Searle takes on new role, leads Chargers and earns the 2020 Football Player of the Year

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Heading into his junior season Zak Searle was tabbed to be the starting tailback for North Montgomery, but a back injury limited his ability to play both offense and defense in 2019.

That was okay though. 

Things worked out and the Chargers recored their first winning season since 2015. Zach Waldon took the bulk of the carries off Searle’s hands, while Searle tied for the team lead in tackles with 66.

“I felt like it was going to be my first year as a two-way starter, but I stayed patient and careful just like my coaches and Hook (North Montgomery athletic trainer) told me,” Searle said. “I still got to start as a linebacker for the rest of the season and Zach Waldon did a heck of a job at running back last year — it’s all about what’s best for the team.”

The Chargers have had a wide variety of talent in the last decade, but the ones that emerge as leaders of the team each season are those that can do more than throw far, run fast, and hit hard. They are the players who work hard and put the team first.

And that’s what Searle has always been for North Montgomery football.

“Zak understands that it takes hard, focused work to become a great player,” North Montgomery coach Josh Thompson said. “He has put the time, energy and focus in so that he was able to have success this year. His laser focus allowed him to overcome previous injuries to have a great season.

“Zak was always willing to do what was best for the team. He had no issues about putting the needs of the team ahead of his personal wants.”

The patience and due diligence put forth by Searle paid off in 2020.

Over 800 rushing yards later and leading the Chargers to back-to-back regular season winning records has earned Searle the 2020 Football Player of the Year.

It didn’t come easy though. The COVID-19 pandemic made sure of that, canceling spring workouts and limiting the summer workout schedule. Searle knew he had to get to work.

“In the offseason, with all of this COVID stuff and none of us being able to do workouts as a team, I decided to get a temporary membership at Planet Fitness to stay in shape for my senior season,” He said. “It was difficult with my work schedule, spring Zoom workouts, and homework, but I found time for lifting and cardio.”

It was noticeable that Searle and his teammates were ahead of their opponents in the early part of the season. The Chargers opened on a four-game winning streak and Searle broke 100 yards rushing three times, including 175 yards in a win over county rival Southmont. 

“Zak was a natural leader for our team,” Thompson said. “The other players recognized his love of football and the dedication he had for improving his skills. His success early on energized our team and helped show the other players that hard work will pay off.”

Searle’s season was cut short with a knee injury suffered during the Frankfort game in week 8 of the season.

But the impact he made. The way he and his senior teammates helped turned the tide on the program the last two seasons. That will be a long lasting imprint.

“I feel like I made an impact for the football team, but I feel like our senior class as a whole made more of an impact,” Searle said. “I felt like we showed a lot of heart on the field and we put our all into the game. We had great role models from the previous years and we followed their lead and tried to be great seniors for the team and I felt like we did that. I hope the underclassmen see that as well and do the same for the next few years at their time at North and be good roles models for the future kids of North Montgomery.”

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