(Doug Kapustin / The Baltimore…)
Ask those who know Archbishop Spalding quarterback Zach Abey for one adjective to describe him and "tough" will be the most common response.
A talented, durable two-way football player, Abey is also a champion wrestler and a rugby player. At 6 feet 2, 205 pounds, he can take a pounding and keep on going.
When coach Kyle Schmitt took over the Cavaliers program last summer, he said: "Everything goes through Zach."
The No. 13 Cavaliers are 4-1 overall and 1-0 in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference after Abey ran for three touchdowns in Friday's 21-10 win over Loyola. The Cavaliers have scored 23 touchdowns this fall and Abey has had a hand in 14.
He has 87 carries for 646 yards and eight touchdowns and is 33-for-67 passing for 520 yards and six touchdowns with three interceptions. As a safety, he has 14 solo tackles and two interceptions.
The A Conference wrestling champion at 195 pounds, Abey has a 3.5 grade-point average and has committed to play football at Buffalo.
How did you get started playing football?
I was really young, I think 6. My uncle played. All my cousins played college football and they always knew I wanted to play. My brother (Donnie Abey) played. He's three years older than me and he played at Spalding as well, so I just kind of followed in his footsteps.
What do you like about playing quarterback?
You can work so much at it and there's always something you can get better at. In the summers, every Sunday and Monday, I would be at the Quarterback Factory. There's so many things you can get better at and they teach you. It's such a wide variety of skills, but it's more like a mindset. You have to know what's happening in the defense and in film study. It's fun to be in control of everything, so I guess that's why I like it so much.
What has the adjustment been like for you under coach Schmitt and his new offensive scheme?
Our offense has definitely changed a lot. With coach [Brian] Probst and coach [Mike] Whittles, we had a Wing-T. It was more under center and the run game first. Now, we're going all shotgun. We're not under center any more and we're not huddling up, so we just get to play. I don't even get a call in for the play anymore. We all just look at the sideline and get a hand signal call, so our whole team has to be on base with the signals. It's just high tempo and fast paced.
Why did you choose Buffalo?
They were my first offer and I talked to coach [Jeff] Quinn and went up and visited over the summer and they all welcomed me so much. They seemed like they had a similar offense to us. They'll let their quarterback run. I think it's a growing program in the NCAA, so I'm excited for it. Can't wait to be a Bull.
Did you want to play quarterback in college?
Yes. To be honest, I really wouldn't have minded playing any position anyone would have put me in. I wouldn't mind being a tackle (laughs), but Buffalo came and they said they wanted me at the quarterback and that's what I've been working for all these years, so it all worked out.
Not a lot of quarterbacks play defense too. What do you like about playing on both sides of the ball?
I like being in the game. It'll bother me way more if I sit out to think I could do something better. Playing most of the game, I can contribute all over to the win and I really like that. But I have full confidence in my back-up.
Your Spalding career has only about a month to go, so what has it been like to play here through all of the things that have happened over your four years?
It's been great. When my brother was a senior, I was a freshman, so watching my brother play on the varsity field made me can't wait to do that and follow in his footsteps. I've always wanted to play with my brother, so being able to be on his team at the very end of freshman year when I got pulled up to varsity, that was a great feeling. And then, playing for coach Whittles, (who battled pancreatic cancer during the 2011 football season and died in June 2012) he's the most influential guy I've ever met. It means a lot to be able to say I was on the last team he ever coached.
Why did you start playing rugby?
[Laughs] It's funny. I always played lacrosse and I played my freshman year here. My brother played rugby for two years and he told me to play, but I wasn't really interested. Then my sophomore year, I was about to go out and try out for lacrosse and for some reason I just walked to the rugby field. I started playing that week and I loved it. It's the closest thing I can get to football in the offseason.
What do you like to do for fun when you have spare time?
I live on the water, so I always fish. We go crabbing. My brother and I wake board a lot. We love being on the water. There's nothing more relaxing than being out on the boat.