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Making a Difference

When you play on a football team with so many phenomenal athletes, as is the case at Crater High, it's not easy to stand out.

For pure speed, it's hard to look past fleet-footed wide receiver Kelley Beck.

In terms of size, 320-pound nose guard Mike Bishop stands out like no other.

In between, you can rattle off names like Christian Massey, Devin Massey, Tyler Turituri, Ryan Sonday and on and on until you get dizzy with the countless talents the fifth-ranked Comets (9-1) can call upon.

In the wake of such athleticism, a player or two is bound to take a backseat every now and then — and that's where senior Jacob Ziegler comes into play.

Looking at just one element of the game, you could make a case that Ziegler isn't head-and-shoulders above any of his peers. But when you look at what the 5-foot-11, 175-pounder contributes as a member of the offense, defense and special teams, few can compare.

"He's probably the most dynamic player we've ever had here when you talk about all three phases of the game — offense, defense and special teams," says Crater offensive coordinator David Douglas.

The accolades don't stop there.

"Jacob Ziegler is probably the best skill kid in the valley," says Crater head coach John Beck, whose team plays at Sherwood Friday in the Class 5A state quarterfinals.

"Besides his playmaking abilities in all three facets of the game," adds Beck, "he's a super hard worker and super dedicated and has a great attention to detail. He really wants to be the best player on the field in every aspect. He's very quiet but very competitive."

As a starting wide receiver and cornerback and leading threat for punt and kickoff returns, Ziegler has found many ways to make a positive impact for the Comets. He's hauled in 17 passes for 239 yards and four touchdowns, run 16 times for 64 yards and two scores and returned a punt 52 yards for Crater's final TD in a 14-13 win over North Medford.

Ziegler had another punt return for a score called back due to a penalty away from the play against Eagle Point and, in terms of total yardage, eclipses the century mark in just about every game he's sent back to return kicks.

All told, Ziegler plays a role in every phase of the game but on extra-point attempts and punt coverage.

And that's just the way he likes it.

"I feel like I contribute a lot and can play in a lot of different positions," says Ziegler, who turned 18 one week ago today. "Whatever the coaches tell me to do, I'll do it."

That trait may be as important as any other when describing Ziegler.

"He's probably one of the only kids I've ever had who really wants to do it all," says Chris Parnell, Crater's special teams coordinator and defensive backs coach. "When guys go both ways, most of them don't want to be on special teams, but not Ziegler. He kinda got mad at me today because I took him off some stuff because he's nursing an injury."

"When one of your top guys wants to do a lot of the dirty work," adds Parnell, "it really helps and sets a real good precedent for some of the other kids that maybe they need to be picking it up, too. He never loafs in practice, and when one of your top guys is a hard worker and wants to be in on everything, that's a good problem to have."

Each of Ziegler's coaches say they appreciate his tenacity the most.

"I think the No. 1 characteristic about Jacob that separates him from other guys is he's just no-nonsense," says Douglas. "If you coach him, he'll do it and he'll do it right the first time, every time. He doesn't complain and will do whatever it takes to win. He's one of those kids that can kinda do anything, and he's a very unselfish player."

That bodes well for the Crater attack, which utilizes a spread offense to take advantage of the team's many playmakers. Not counting a forfeit win over Ashland, the Comets are averaging 33 points and 331 yards of total offense per game.

"Everybody on offense is a playmaker," says Ziegler, who ran the lead leg for Crater's state champion 4x400 relay team last spring with Devin Massey, Hunter Sanders and Beck. "As long as we execute the play, we know it'll be a good turnout no matter who gets the ball."

That same team-first philosophy spills over to the defensive side of the ball, where Ziegler is flanked by fellow seniors Sonday (cornerback), Christian Massey (free safety) and Sammy Clark (strong safety).

"We like working together and we can communicate real well on the field," Ziegler says of the group, which is in its second straight year as starters. "It's nice to have the chemistry there when we're doing our zone reads and our combo coverage."

Parnell says he's never had a senior-dominated secondary or a better group than this one, and Ziegler more than holds his own opposite Sonday, who has 11 interceptions in the past two seasons. As a group, the Comets are allowing 14 points and 227 yards per game — 118 rushing and 109 passing.

"There's just not much he can't do," says Parnell of Ziegler. "He plays the run well, he plays the pass well and he's fast as all get-out. He's made every big play that he can make."

Whether you live for the spotlight or are content with unsung glory, there really is no greater compliment than that.

Reach reporter Kris Henry at 776-4488, or e-mail khenry@mailtribune.com

Jacob Zieger is a three-way starter for Crater, which has advanced to the Class 5A quarterfinals thanks largely to the triple threat senior. - Jamie Lusch