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Throwback QB looking ahead

Bill Beckner Jr.
| Monday, Aug. 26, 2002

PLUM: From his long hair to his grunge outfits, Plum quarterback Zach VanLemmeren is a throwback in every way.

The area's top returning passer loves classic rock, playing bass guitar and shopping for the most off-the-wall T-shirts at any Goodwill store.

"It's no secret, I'm real laid back," said VanLemmeren, a senior who will try and guide a depleted Plum team back to the Class AAAA playoffs this fall.

"There isn't too much that gets me too mad, or too excited. Coaches always tell me to stay level, to calm down and relax. I'm not one to go out there and yell and scream, he said.

A roster that usually pushes upwards of 70 players shows only 56 this season. Make that 55 - senior starting linebacker Ryan Sloan went down with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in practice and is out for the season, VanLemmeren said.

Low turnout is the big story in camp, although VanLemmeren said the team is not distracted by the fact it is the smallest Plum team since the early 1990s.

"I don't care if they don't want to come out," he said. "As long as we have 11 who want to play, who want to be here, that's what matters.

"There are so many open positions in camp. We have to have a lot of juniors step up."

Decreased interest could lead to lowered expectations for the Mustangs, who made the WPIAL Class AAAA playoffs the past two seasons, but lost several key two-way starters to graduation.

"No one ever gives us any respect," VanLemmeren said. "People picked us to finish last in the conference, to win three games. But we won our first five last year.

"We don't care what people think. We like to go out and prove them wrong. We don't base our whole season on predictions."

As for replacing a talented senior group:

"We have the players to come in and do the job," he said. "You lose people every year in high school football. I think we can be just as good, and maybe win a conference championship. Or, we could go 2-8, it depends on how hard we work.

"Coach tells us we can be as good as we're willing to work."

Two of VanLemmeren's top targets graduated. Steve Snyder and Matt Cassidy combined to catch 42 passes for 871 yards and eight touchdowns.

Cassidy also rushed for 1,158 yards and 15 touchdowns.

VanLemmeren does have receiver Alvin Hill back. But Hill caught only eight passes for 133 yards and two scores last season.

VanLemmeren picked up the offense well as a junior, passing for 1,419 yards and 14 touchdowns against 12 interceptions.

The old-school QB, who considers himself a pocket-passer, said he learned a lot about the position during his first year as a starter.

VanLemmeren had not taken a varsity snap prior to last season.

"I learned what to expect from every Friday night, how to be a leader out there," he said.

Joe Namath is among VanLemmeren's favorite players, but not because of his passing ability. VanLemmeren likes Namath's cool demeanor and his legendary Super Bowl guarantee.

"He went out and guaranteed victory. Now that was cool," VanLemmeren said. "You don't get that too often."

Plum coach Bill Rometo considers VanLemmeren to be a Division I prospect, but the QB said he has no offers yet despite interest from Kent State, Ohio and Dartmouth, among others.

VanLemmeren wants to major in engineering.

Before college, though, he has some unfinished business to take care of, off the field.

"Me and (Plum linebacker) Ed Tissue are trying to start up a band," VanLemmeren said. "It's in the early stages of planning, now. The season started while we were planning it.

"After football, maybe we'll try again."

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