When Mountain Lakes’ football season began against Hopatcong, Zach Lesko was banged up with a knee injury but still played. And when the Herd needed a spark in the second quarter, coach Darrell Fusco turned to Lesko, who came through with a first down on a rugby punt. The Herd wound up scoring on the way to a victory.
That game set a tone for Lesko and the Herd. There have been many times when the team needed a little spark, Lesko provided it, and the rest is history.
The senior utilityman hobbled around with a knee injury in the past couple of weeks but is getting better and expected to contribute in a big way — as usual — when the Herd face Caldwell in the North 2, Group II championship game at Kean University Saturday at 1 p.m.
“He’s dynamic,” Fusco said. “He is our utility guy. He is dangerous as runner, receiver or return man. He is our rugby punter. He is a big part of what we do.”
Lesko pulls off sparkling plays almost as routinely as Mountain Lakes does victories. The Herd is 11-0 and much of the time, Lesko has a big play that contributes to a win.
In a win over Pequannock, he made a great catch on a ball thrown over his head. He also made a terrific grab in a win over Whippany Park. He made what Fusco called a “circus catch” in a victory over North Warren.
“He’s made highlight-reel catches, throws, and runs,” Fusco said. “He is our jack of all trades.”
Lesko has 29 rushes for 194 yards and four touchdowns. He has caught 15 passes for 235 yards and four more touchdowns. He has returned a punt 54 yards for a touchdown and returned a kickoff 84 yards for another score.
And he plays well on defense, too. He has 15 tackles, two interceptions and a fumble recovery from his defensive back spot.
Like many other players on the team, his stats would be more gaudy with another program. At Mountain Lakes, Fusco often pulls his starters because the game is often well in hand in the second half. But when the game is still competitive, Lesko can be called on to do just about anything and do it well. He’s been doing it that way all year.
The Herd hope Lesko has a few more big plays left in 2013.
“I like to give coach Fusco all the options,” Lesko said. “Whatever it takes to get the ‘W.’ “
Lesko grew up playing running back for the Boonton Grayhawks and played some defense as a freshman at Mountain Lakes. He soon played some quarterback out of the Wildcat in an effort to get his speed and big-play ability on the field.
Early on this year, when he was hurt, the Mountain Lakes backfield was crowded and, since Lesko missed some time and had fallen behind, Fusco got him onto the field at receiver.
“It helped spread out the offense,” Lesko said.
Lesko is one of many weapons at the coach’s disposal. Many members of the Herd would be stars on other teams, but those teams are sitting home right now, their equipment packed away for 2014.
“It shows what kind of team we have,” Lesko said. “We are not a one-man show. Everyone just does their thing.”