In the most crucial series in the biggest game of the year, Oshkosh North’s Zach Angle wasn’t able to be on the field.
The senior defensive lineman tore his ACL, MCL, PCL and meniscus and dislocated his patella (kneecap) on a play with just three minutes left in the Spartans’ WIAA Division 1 Level 1 playoff game against Brookfield Central, and with his team down just one score, there was no place else where Angle wanted to be.
The Spartans ended their season with a 13-0 loss, but for Angle, it was an end for his high school career — for all sports.
It’s been a tough couple of weeks for Angle because not only does he have to go through months of therapy, but he’ll miss baseball in the spring.
“It was hard because I didn’t get to finish the season with my teammates, but I know after I got hurt they held (Brookfield Central) on fourth down, which was cool because they were playing for me,” Angle said. “But it sucks. Now I’m out for baseball.”
Although Angle wasn’t there for the Spartans in the final three minutes of that game, he was the anchor of the defense all season long. Angle, who was chosen as the Valley Football Association-South’s Defensive Player of the Year, was also picked as Oshkosh Northwestern Media’s Defensive Player of the Year.
“I didn’t expect anything,” Angle said of his honors. “I just went out and played the best I could and it just happened.”
“I don’t make these comments very often, but in my 24 years of coaching he is the best defensive lineman I have ever coached,” North coach Chris Kujawa said. “He was a destructive force in the middle, and he was double teamed, triple teamed all season long and was still second or third on the team in tackles. He was just an absolute wrecking force for us.”
It was quite the rollercoaster-type season for Oshkosh North — winners of the VFA South each of the last two years — but there was always one constant: Its defense.
Angle led a defense that allowed only 15.8 points per game this season and helped the Spartans earn a spot in the playoffs with a 6-4 record. The Spartans finished third in the conference with a 5-3 record.
It was a rough start offensively for North, which started 2-3. But the Spartans figured things out and won four of their last five games to sneak into the playoffs.
“I’d say it was a successful season because we made the playoffs and that was one of our goals,” Angle said. “Although we didn’t accomplish what we wanted to in the end with a conference championship, we still made the playoffs and that was a good thing.
“We knew our offense kind of struggled early on, and we knew that we had to step up our play if we wanted to have success.”
Angle finished third on the team in tackles (67), was first in tackles for loss (10) and was second in sacks (6).
Looking back at his football career, Angle said his favorite high school memory was week one this season where the Spartans beat Appleton North in overtime — a playoff team — on the road in Appleton. Other than that, he’s going to miss being around the ‘guys.’
Angle recently had surgery to repair his knee and is starting therapy with the school trainer. Like all major knee surgeries, it’s going to be a long road to recovery.
Angle said he’d love to play football at the next level next year but hasn’t received any offers yet. Angle said he was accepted at UW-Stevens Point and would like to play there but has yet to talk to the coach about it. But wherever he goes, Kujawa thinks he could potentially make a difference right away, depending on how he recovers from that injury.
“The college game is going to be … I mean, he’s gone against some pretty damn good competition,” Kujawa said. “He’s so destructive in there he could have an immediate impact. Because of the knee injury, and he’ll work hard to get back, but that knee injury could slow him down a little bit to go into camp, but I do think if he sticks with it he certainly could have an impact within the first or second year of playing.”
Alex Wolf: (920) 426-6661; firstname.lastname@example.org; on Twitter @Wolfa07
2015 All-Area Football Team (Defense)
Position, Name, School, Year
DL: Zach Angle, Oshkosh North, Sr.
DL: Gavin Haehl, Oshkosh North, Sr.
DL: Andrew Grignon, Winneconne, Sr.
DL: Kenny Thums, Omro, Sr.
LB: Walter Williams, Oshkosh North, Sr.
LB: Mitchell Markert, Winneconne, Sr.
LB: Mitch Kramer, Berlin, Sr.
LB: Austin Meulemans, Oshkosh West, Sr.
LB: Justin Kasuboski, Omro, Sr.
DB: Mikaal Geenen, Oshkosh North, Sr.
DB: Brady Bouras, Winneconne, Sr.
DB: Andrew Johnson, Omro, Jr.
K: Sam Herkert, Oshkosh North, Sr.
DL: Hunter Laabs, Omro, Sr.; Landon Mueller, Oshkosh North, Jr.; Murphy Osmond, Oshkosh North, Sr.; Ryan Wenig, Berlin, Sr.; Zach Wilson, Berlin, Jr.; Jacob Gonzalez, Berlin, Jr.; Jake Buyeske, Winneconne, Jr.; Ben Peterson, Valley Christian, Sr. LB: Mitch Sundstrom, Oshkosh North, Sr.; Austin Meulemans, Oshkosh West, Sr.; DeShawn Dickinson, Oshkosh West, Sr.; Nathan Purtell, Omro, Sr.; Brady Krebs, Berlin, Jr.; Brent Kiefer, Valley Christian, Sr. DB: Jack Werch, Berlin, Jr.; Brett Peth, Ripon, Sr.; Zach Henderson, Winneconne, Sr.; Isaiah Kilgas, Omro, Sr. K: Ethan Becker, Berlin, Jr.; Max Potratz, Omro, Jr.