Friday, September 19, 2008

Feldmaier endured bad breaks with Bengals

William Montgomery
The Record

CLUMS CORNERS – The Tamarac football program knows all about bad breaks.

The Bengals have not had a winning season since 1992 and in 2002, interest in football was so slim that the school decided not to field a team. The team returned in 2003, but Tamarac went without a win until the 2005 season.

Then came Zach Feldmaier.

As a sophomore, Feldmaier broke his leg in a junior varsity game and missed the last two weeks of the season. Less than a year later at football camp, preparing for his first season on the varsity squad, Feldmaier broke the same leg. He missed his entire junior season.

But the bone healed and Feldmaier, a linebacker, is back on the field. With him, the Tamarac defense has excelled, posting a pair of shutouts in the team’s first two games. In fact, the Bengals (2-0, 2-0) are off to their best start since 1992, a year in which the team won its first three games and finished 5-4.

Zach Feldmaier runs a pass pattern in practice on Wednesday afternoon. (JS Carras - The Record)

Through the pain of breaking the same bone twice and the frustration of watching his teammates and friends playing without him, quitting never once crossed Feldmaier’s mind. He watched the games from the sideline last year and although he couldn’t don a helmet and shoulder pads like his teammates, he still felt like part of the team.

“I really love playing and I felt a commitment to the team, so I worked hard during the offseason and I figured it would pay off,” Feldmaier said. “And so far it has.”

“He didn’t miss a day in the weight room,” said Tamarac head coach Erick Roadcap. “He dedicated himself and this year, it’s showing. He is like the unsung hero. He does his job and he doesn’t miss a beat.”

It’s no wonder Feldmaier and his senior teammates have a special bond. A dozen of them have been playing together since third grade when they started their gridiron careers as the initial class of the Brunswick Bulldog youth football program.

Second-year head coach Erick Roadcap watches his players during Wednesday's practice at Tamrac High School. (JS Carras - The Record)

“Zach Feldmaier, he’s been with the program all the way from the Bulldogs,” Roadcap said. “We didn’t have him last year in that 3-6 season and that hurt us. He was there on the sidelines and supported us and now he’s here and he’s helping us. I can’t tell you how much he’s worth.”

The Bengals success, to the Tamarac seniors, is no surprise. Not only has the group been playing together since elementary school, but Brian Fox, the father of senior quarterback David Fox, has moved up with the team at each level. Fox coached the class of 2009 first in the Bulldog program, then at the modified and JV levels and now serves as defensive coordinator for Roadcap.

“I had an idea (the defense) would be good,” Feldmaier said. “We’ve been in the weight room working hard during the offseason and going to camps. Once we were all seniors we knew we would have a great team and a good defense.”

“(Brian Fox) has been my saving grace,” Roadcap said. “He knows the kids, he knows their talent levels and he helps me strategically place them where they’ll have the most success.”

Mechanicville and Schuylerville are the only other Section II teams yet to allow a point this season.

The Bengals will put the defense to the test again tonight when they host Class C South Division rival Coxsackie-Athens (1-1, 1-1) at 7 p.m. Rain drenched the Tamarac team in their first two games and they’re hoping that dry conditions tonight will let them unleash the offense.

“Hopefully we can get the offense clicking like our defense and special teams,” said senior Rayne Russell. “Special teams-wise, we’ve had great coverage and blocked a punt and forced a few fumbles.”

Roadcap calls Russell his “special teams guru,” and as one of the team’s key defensive substitutes, Russell recorded a safety in Tamarac’s 24-0 victory over Catholic Central last week.

Senior Rayne Russell, at 5-foot-2 and 120 pounds, is a special teams "sparkplug" for the Bengals, so says head coach Erick Roadcap. (JS Carras - The Record)

“The big key to staying focused is we’re not looking past anyone this year,” Russell said. “We have a saying: ‘another rung on the ladder’. Voorheesville was the first, Catholic Central was the second and Coxsackie is the third. We don’t look past any teams. We stay focused on that team for that week and then move on.”

The turnaround at Tamarac seems almost too good to be true, but Feldmaier made the mot of his bad breaks and he thinks his misfortune has inspired his teammates as well.

“We come out here and work hard every day and I try to work my hardest too,” Feldmaier said. “I think when (my teammates) see that, it motivates them a little to work harder.”

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