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Frazier's Zurich hopes to build off strong junior season

| Sunday, Aug. 24, 2014, 9:24 p.m.
Celeste Van Kirk | Daily Courier
Frazier's Nate Zurich catches a pass during the team's photo day on Thursday, Aug. 14, 2014. Zurich will be a mainstay for the Commodores on offense and defense.

Whenever a top player goes down, it's incumbent on another to step up and fill the void.

During the 2013 football season, Frazier's Nate Zurich was one of those players to rise to the occasion when the team needed him the most.

Heading into last season, Michael Luce and Dakota Hixson were slated to be top receivers for quarterback Charles Manack. However, Luce went down in the middle of the season with an injury, leaving a big hole in Frazier's aerial attack.

That's when Zurich rose up and didn't let the team miss a beat. Playing tight end, Zurich caught 29 passes for 441 yards and nine touchdowns. He averaged 16 yards per catch and helped the Commodores post a 7-3 record, which included a trip to the WPIAL Class A playoffs.

“When Mike (Luce) got injured midseason, Nate really had to step up,” Frazier coach Mike Steeber said. “He made some big catches in some big games for us.”

Hixson, Luce and Manack graduated, so Zurich will have to assume an even bigger leadership role during his senior season. By all indications, he is doing exactly that.

“He certainly hasn't disappointed,” Steeber said. “He's become a leader in camp. Nate is also good in the classroom, which is great.”

Zurich has his priorities in the right place as the Commodores prepare for the start of the season, which begins Friday with a home game against Avella.

“I definitely want to win the (Tri-County South) conference championship, and win some playoff games,” Zurich said. “I just want to play my best and make the other players around me play their best.”

Zurich earned third-team all-state as well as all-county and all-conference honors as a tight end last season, but his play goes beyond catching the football.

“His blocking at the tight end position was excellent, and he was one of our leading tacklers on defense,” Steeber said. “He's an excellent outside linebacker. He's good at what he does, and we expect him to continue that.”

With Zurich playing at a high level on defense, the Commodores held opponents to 10 points or fewer in five games last season, including two shutouts.

Zurich has made an impact for the team on both sides of the ball, and he certainly relishes playing both ways.

“I enjoy playing tight end because I like the feeling of making a big play or making a big score,” Zurich said. “Defensively, it's nice to get out there and run around like a nut and hit people.”

Zurich, who is also a sprinter on Frazier's track team, intends to study engineering in college but is undecided on where he will go, or if he will play football at the next level. For now, he's thrilled to be representing Frazier on Friday nights.

“It's just a great feeling to be a part of this team,” Zurich said.

Jason Black is the Local Sports Editor of the Daily Courier. He can be reached at jblack@tribweb.com.

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