Zach Leal doesn’t have the typical build of a receiving superstar.
The Poudre High School junior is 5-foot-7 and 135 pounds “soaking wet,” says coach Marty McVicker.
But he’s quick.
Super quick, with sharp cuts, good vision and a big dose of heart.
Every game he’s becoming a go-to threat for the Impalas.
Friday night at French Field he turned in a couple of the biggest plays of the game to boost Poudre to a 13-6 homecoming win over rival Rocky Mountain.
“I think this is a really good win, especially after losing a close game (last week),” Leal said. “We knew we would have a lot of people out here, we really wanted this win.”
The defensive slugfest was 3-3 after a penalty-filled first half. The score was the same entering the fourth quarter when Poudre (3-2) had a 3rd and 20 and looked likely to turn the ball back to Rocky Mountain (0-4) after another fruitless performance.
Then quarterback James Campbell slung a quick screen to Leal to open the quarter, he cut inside, evaded a couple Rocky Mountain defenders and raced all the way to the opposite sideline.
By the time he was finally tracked down it was a 33-yard gain. A 22-yard run by Dylan Marsh, then followed and JT Erickson finished the drive off with a 1-yard touchdown.
It was one electric series of plays in a defensive battle, but that series — along with clutch 37- and 42-yard field goals from Austin Davis — was enough to boost Poudre to victory.
“We lean on those guys, heavily,” McVicker said. “Our playmakers made plays tonight when we needed them.”
Marsh and Leal also played a key role in the defensive effort for Poudre, with Marsh intercepting Rocky Mountain’s last-second Hail Mary attempt outside the Impalas endzone.
Rocky Mountain could only muster two field goals off the right boot of Maxwell Poduska and the Lobos never truly threatened in the red zone.
The Lobos average under 10 points per game and just couldn’t find a rhythm as a young team still tries to find it’s way. Rocky Mountain is still winless, but have been in a couple close games, frustrating but also part of the learning experience.
“We’ve got to practice our butts off each week and go into each game as we’re 0-0,” senior defensive back Brady Morris said. “We can’t look at it as 0-4, because if we do we’ll start forcing things. Next week we start over.”
The win snaps a two-game losing streak for Poudre against Rocky Mountain, sending the Impalas into a rare midseason bye week before starting conference play on Oct. 7. Rocky Mountain hosts Horizon next week in its final nonconference game.
Follow sports reporter Kevin Lytle at twitter.com/Kevin_Lytle and at facebook.com/KevinSLytle.
POUDRE 13, ROCKY MOUNTAIN 7
Rocky Mountain 0 3 0 3 — 6
Poudre 0 3 0 10 — 13
RMHS — Maxwell Poduska 32 kick, 1:35.
POUD — Austin Davis 37 kick, 00:00.
POUD — JT Erickson 1 run (Davis kick), 10:24.
POUD — Davis 42 kick, 7:46.
RMHS — Poduska 33 kick, 3:47.