Skyview's Zach Rowell carries the ball during a game last month.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
It's hard to keep Zack Rowell down.
A good example came Friday night, when the Skyview football team hosted Homer. Both teams had already been eliminated from the playoffs.
Skyview had just a 1-6 record heading into the game. Rowell, a running back and outside linebacker, was nursing neck pain after rough treatment from Kenai Central's Michael Scheffert, Dakota Craig and Papapa Nicholas the week before.
Despite the pain, Rowell had little doubt he would play heading into the game.
"It's my senior year and last game," he said. "After this game, I'll never touch a football again. After playing for four years, I can play for one more game."
Rowell then went out and rushed for 25 tough yards in a 14-13, come-from-behind victory over the Mariners.
Afterward, rubbing an injured shoulder, he sat in Sheridan's office and was asked how he felt: "It was all worth it," he said. "This was such a fun game."
Sheridan said having kids around like Rowell was crucial to helping the team have a positive finish. Skyview had three different varsity coaches during the four years Rowell and his fellow seniors spent at the school. During those four years, the varsity team won 10 games.
"I'm impressed with Zack because he's always been optimistic for four years at every level," Sheridan said. "He's always stepped up as a leader with a positive attitude. He works hard despite having a neck problem."
Rowell was just 5-foot-9, 140 pounds, as a sophomore when he started playing against some of Skyview's varsity. The constant hitting has taken a toll on his neck and back over the years.
"I've always been a small running back," Rowell said. "Some of the hits I've taken are insane."
Rowell's father, Craig Rowell, said at times the hits his son takes have been tough to watch.
"His mother (Beth Rowell) tried to talk him out of football for a couple of seasons," Craig said. "Some of those guys out there are 6-4 and over 200 pounds.
"He gets pounded pretty good but he gets in there and goes for it. He has a lot of heart."
Rowell stuck with football, however, and said this year was the most enjoyable yet. His enjoyment has rubbed off on his teammates, such as senior lineman Justin Dahlen, who calls Rowell a hard-core positive leader.
"For how little he is, he packs a punch," Dahlen said. "He hits hard. It's a lot easier to block a 250-pound guy when you're doing it for Zack. It just feels right."
Dahlen, who went out for football his sophomore year after some prodding from Rowell, also said it has been great having Rowell around for the constant shuffling of coaches.
"He helped everybody adjust to a new coach," Dahlen said. "Different coach, same Zack. He's always intense."
Rowell said he knew from the beginning of this football season that the Panthers were in a rebuilding mode.
"I try to keep everybody up throughout the season," Rowell said. "When we were watching game film on the next opponent, I'd say 'Look at them. They're not that tough. We can keep up with them.'"
Up until he hit seventh grade, Rowell was primarily a soccer player. However, a friend got him into football that year and his brother, Josh Rowell, got him interested in basketball.
While it is common for area players to wait until middle school or high school to pick up football, basketball players typically start a lot younger.
However, Rowell worked his way onto varsity by his junior year and was named the team's top defensive player that year.
"A lot of what he has been able to do in basketball is because he is such a good athlete," Skyview coach Dave Blossom said. "The best thing about him is that he plays really hard."
The Panthers only have one returning starter this season, so Blossom will count on Rowell's leadership.
"He leads by example because he works hard in practice and never slacks," Blossom said. "That's nice because everyone looks up to him a little bit. He'll be our vocal senior leader, as well."
Rowell also performs for Skyview in the classroom. He has gotten all A's and B's so far.
In what spare time Rowell has, he attends other Skyview sporting events, listens to music, plays the guitar and works at Custom Automotive Refinishing Service in Sterling.
After high school, Rowell would like to further pursue his love of cars by enrolling at Universal Technical Institute in Phoenix. He plans to go there with his brother, Josh.
In the meantime, Rowell will try and get his shoulder ready for basketball season. But if the past is any indication, the injury shouldn't keep him down for long.
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