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Leader Times Q&A: Apollo-Ridge's Jesse Zelonka

| Thursday, Sept. 26, 2013, 12:56 a.m.
Jason Bridge | Valley News Dispatch
Apollo-Ridge's Jesse Zelonka (10) runs the ball while trying to avoid North Catholic's Brennan Sefick (21) on Friday, Aug. 30, 2013, at Lt. J.C. Stone Field in North Park.
Erica Dietz | Valley News Dispatch
Apollo-Ridge's quarterback Jesse Zelonka looks to make a pass during a scrimmage against Burrell at Apollo-Ridge High School on Wednesday, July 24, 2013.

When Apollo-Ridge takes the field to stay in the Eastern Conference title chase Friday at Avonworth, expect Jesse Zelonka to play a role in the outcome.

Zelonka, a senior quarterback and second-year starter under center for the Vikings, has been the leader of a potent attack for Class A No. 5 Apollo-Ridge (3-1) since he started calling the plays.

Last season, he had more than 2,000 total yards and accounted for 27 touchdowns, and this year, he's on a similar pace. Through four games, Zelonka has thrown for 493 yards and seven touchdowns — both second among all Armstrong County quarterbacks — and he has run for a team-high 258 yards with three rushing scores.

With his team gearing up to face undefeated Avonworth, a team the Vikings beat in overtime last year, 28-21, Zelonka is eager to face his team's next big test.Q: Are you happy with where your team is at right now?

A: We are happy with where we're at. It was a tough loss Week 1 to North Catholic in double overtime (22-21), but we've moved on and bounced back from that.

Q: Are you excited for the team's first big test since North Catholic?

A: Yes. I don't want to talk bad about the other teams we've played, but we sort of moved easily through them. We know how good this opponent coming up is, and it's going to be a tough game.

Q: Last year, you won in overtime. Do you expect this year's game to be that close?

A: As much as I'd like to say we're going to blow them out, I know it's probably going to be very close again. It might not be overtime, but it could come down to a couple of points and a couple of plays at the end.

Q: With the injury to (No. 1receiver) Tre Tipton, is it good to see the way others have stepped up?

A: Definitely. My boy, Alex Smith, has stepped up on the opposite side of the field, whether Tre has been there or not. And our freshman at Z (receiver), Duane Brown, he's been excellent. We have a lot of depth at the skill positions.

Q: You're the team's leading passer and rusher. What do you think you're more of a threat doing?

A: I feel like I'm more of a threat rushing. My passing, it's there and has been getting better, but I feel more comfortable running.

Q: How has your game developed?

A: It's improved a lot. Last year was my first time playing quarterback, and running an offense for the first time, it was pretty crazy. From that first game to where I am now, it's so different. Throwing, decision making, leadership — they're all a lot better.

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