East Ridge finds new comfort in quarterback’s moxie, prolific passing
Former Gophers quarterbacks coach Jim Zebrowski shed a few tears watching his son Zachs first football game this season, grateful just being in the same stadium.
Jim, in his second season as University of Buffalo quarterbacks coach and co-offensive coordinator, made a rare in-season trip home to watch Zach start at quarterback in East Ridges season-opener. This beat watching his sons highlight reels or catching live video streams.
Oh my gosh, is he good, Jim recalled saying as he watched the game unfold at Champlin Park. Afterward he thought, Dang, he might have dropped back 60 times.
Close. Zach, a senior, completed 37 of 56 passes for 416 yards, a brand of football nothing like the run-heavy attack that fueled the Raptors to the 2015 Class 6A Prep Bowl.
One of my coaches said after the Champlin game that we threw more than we did that whole  season, Zach said.
Close again. In 13 games that season, quarterback Otumos Payemanu went 41-of-82 for 769 yards. Through three weeks, Zebrowski has gone 84-for-122 and ranks second in the state with 1,047 yards.
East Ridge coach Dan Fritze conceded that a spread offense is way out of my comfort zone. But youve got to do what youre good at. Im not going to force them into my mold, I need to fit their mold.
Adept at making plays with his arm, feet and brain, Zebrowski is making Fritze a believer.
Hes got moxie; he just gets it, Fritze said. Kids respond to him and you need that, especially when youre throwing the ball that much. Our team is in his hands.
Speaking of hands, Cameron Ashford, Alex Larson, Patrick Lynott and Simon Stark provide a strong receiving quartet. Three of the four Ashford, Larson and Stark have each posted at least one 100-yard game. And Lynott averages five catches per game.
They all contribute and theyre all selfless so its pick your poison for the defense, said Zebrowski, who leads East Ridge (2-1) into a tough Metro East District game Friday at Roseville (2-1).
Keeping his receivers happy is a welcomed problem.
Theyre always open; they always have their hands up, Zebrowski said. And thats a good thing because they have confidence.
Playing quarterback became a passion of Zebrowskis early in his career, a role he said Jim never forced. There was no need.
Throwing a ball always came natural to him, said Jim, an assistant at Minnesota for five seasons starting in 2011. I never wanted him to not want to be a quarterback by telling him a million things. If he brings it up, well talk. But really, all I tell him is, Stay loose, make plays and be accurate.andthinsp;
And one other thing: Ball security. Zebrowski logged 24 carries for 129 rushing yards and one touchdown last week against White Bear Lake. While the 6-foot, 155 pound Zebrowski ran hard, he drew his fathers ire.
The only thing he gets mad about is when Im running with one hand on the ball, Zach said.
I asked him, Why do you do that? Jim said, and he said, I can run faster.andthinsp;
Fritze, who father, Dave, coached him at Eagan, values having a coachs son at quarterback.
You just look at the game differently and I can tell its the same for Zach, Fritze said. With this type of offense, sometimes I go into a game and I feel like I dont even know what Im going call. So Zach is a great help. We have conversations every day about how the game is going to go.
The grind of college football makes such face-to-face interactions Jim scarce.
Its been difficult but even when he was home, he was gone a lot coaching so Ive kind of gotten used to it, Zach said. I still call him almost every day so its good.
For Jim, heading back to Buffalo was tougher than ever.
I cried, Jim said. Its tough. But I can get through this because I know how happy he is to be home and finishing his senior year here. And I know hes in good hands.