Luverne’s Zach-of-all-tradesLUVERNE — Zach Olson never played a position he didn’t like.
By: Matt Huss, Worthington Daily Globe
LUVERNE — Zach Olson never played a position he didn’t like.
A senior on Luverne’s football team, Olson has played nearly every position on the field this season while leading the Cardinals to their third consecutive appearance in the Class AA championship game.
Luverne will face defending-champion Caledonia at 4 p.m. Friday at the Metrodome, in Minneapolis.
Olson likely will play a big role in deciding the outcome. He’s listed as a fullback, but that’s probably because there isn’t enough room on a roster sheet to list all of the positions he’s capable of both playing and dominating.
Olson, who normally stays at linebacker while on defense, has played quarterback, running back, fullback, wide receiver, kick returner, punter and tight end this season. He also played some nosetackle in Luverne’s playoff game against Triton.
“They’re all pretty fun,” Olson said. “I like moving all over the place. It’s a lot of fun, and it keeps you in the game, keeps you focused.
“Whatever the coaches want, I’ll go with it.”
Olson’s versatility has been a luxury for Luverne coach Todd Oye this season.
“He’s probably the most versatile player I’ve had,” Oye said. “We had some injuries on the offensive line this last week, so we were joking around and talking about him moving and playing on the offensive line. But we haven’t gone to that extreme.”
Olson said he’d be more than willing to give it a shot.
“I wouldn’t mind it, actually,” he said. “Playing everywhere is a lot of fun, and playing the offensive line would just be that much more fun. I think being in the action full-time down in the trenches would be a blast.”
Starting offensive lineman Sam Dooyema said it also would be a success.
“He’s big enough, and I think he’s strong enough; I think he could play it,” Dooyema said. “That’s the one position I don’t think I’ve ever seen him play. I think if you gave him a couple of reps, I think he could definitely do it.”
Olson, who’s listed at 6-foot-1 and 220 pounds, has the size and strength to hold his own on the offensive line and to excel at positions like fullback and linebacker.
And, with his size, Olson crushes stereotypes as often as he does opponents.
“When he splits out wide as a receiver, you don’t expect to see a receiver that big,” Dooyema said. “You look at him and it’s like, ‘OK, the kid’s obviously a fullback, but he can move; he’s got speed.’”
Added Oye: “He probably has the best hands on the team.”
With five seconds remaining in the first half and Luverne clinging to a one-point lead against Tracy-Milroy-Balaton on Oct. 31, Olson caught a pass from Ryan Hoff at T-M-B’s 5-yard line, broke a tackle and dragged two defenders with him into the end zone as time expired. The 26-yard touchdown reception swung all of the momentum in the favor of the Cardinals, who eventually earned a 35-14 victory.
A week later, against Triton, Olson caught a 25-yard touchdown pass from Hoff to lead Luverne to a 48-42 victory.
In the Class A semifinal, Olson zipped across the field on a slant, reached behind his back shoulder to snag a bullet from Hoff, split two defenders and sprinted untouched 53 yards for the game’s first touchdown. The Cardinals beat Hawley 21-14 and earned a trip to the title game.
“They probably don’t think I’m as fast as I am,” Olson said. “With (wide receiver Zack) Clark on the other side, teams are keying on him because they don’t want to get beat by Clark. It’s nice because, if they underestimate me, we’ll make them pay.”
As a wide receiver, Olson quickly became one of Hoff’s favorite targets. But, after the first-year quarterback suffered an elbow injury during the second quarter of Luverne’s season finale, against Redwood Valley, Olson became Hoff’s replacement.
“I just said, ‘All right, Zach, you’re going in at quarterback,’” Oye said. “And he said, ‘OK.’
“I asked him what plays he wanted to run, and we ran the plays he was comfortable with, and we were able to get the wins we needed to until we got Ryan back.”
Olson finished with 57 rushing yards and two touchdowns in Luverne’s 34-0 victory over Redwood Valley. He also returned a fumble 41 yards for a score.
In the first round of the playoffs, he led the Cardinals to a 50-0 victory over St. James. Against Minnesota Valley Lutheran, in the second round, his quarterbacking skills were tested.
MVL led 12-0 after the first quarter, but Olson connected with senior running back Phil Paquette for a 14-yard touchdown. Olson scored on a 1-yard quarterback sneak midway through the fourth quarter to give Luverne a lead it didn’t relinquish.
Luverne went 3-0 with Olson under center. The position wasn’t necessarily new for him, since he was a starting quarterback on both Luverne’s ninth-grade and B-squad teams. He also played safety, cornerback and defensive end.
“It was kind of nerve-wracking, being a varsity quarterback, but it was a lot of fun,” Olson said. “When I first got in there, it was just bam, ‘You’re quarterback,’ so I didn’t have too much time to think about it. Not having played for two years, and then going out there, it was like, ‘Wow, it feels good to be back.’”
Neither his teammates nor his coach were surprised by Olson’s success at quarterback, let alone any of the other positions he’s played.
“Zach just kind of does it all,” Dooyema said. “Simply put: Zach’s an athlete. You can put him at any position, and he’ll do whatever the coaches ask. And he does it well.”