Prep football: Hurricane's Pate well-rounded player
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Hurricane opponents will surely be fixated on Redskins quarterback Austin Hensley, who had more passing yards last season (2,200) than any other returning player in Class AAA.
There is another weapon at Hurricane, however, that will demand equal attention.
Zach Pate, a 5-foot-8, 173-pound senior is listed on the Hurricane roster as a running back, but he does much more than that for second-year Coach Jeremy Taylor.
Pate is a multidimensional weapon for Hurricane who is one of the leading returners in the state in rushing yards (700) and receiving yards (644). Pate combined for over 1,300 total yards and 13 touchdowns, not including special team scores.
"Zach Pate does it all," Taylor said. "He was our all-purpose back for us last year. He does everything. He catches passes, runs the ball and returns punts and kickoffs. He's going to get the ball. He will be a little bit of everywhere."
Pate's solid season earned him honorable mention All-State honors, but Taylor thought he deserved even better.
Entering this season, Pate and Hensley are Daily Mail preseason first-team All-State picks.
"I want to be all-state this year," Pate said. "Me and Austin have worked our butts off. I think we deserve it, and hopefully we get good results at the end of the season. I have been dreaming about it since I was young. I've worked hard for it, and I am ready for it."
Pate has high hopes for the offense.
"Lethal," said Pate, when asked about how good the offense could be. "It takes a lot of pressure of me and the rest of the offensive players shoulders, knowing we have the best quarterback (Hensley) in the state. It's going to be really tough on the defenses."
Pate should get even more looks in the offense this season due the fact that Hurricane is without two of its better players from last year due to unforeseen circumstances.
Koi Turner, Hensley's top receiver, moved to Columbus, and running back Steven Handley turned 19 years old and is ineligible to play.
"Koi was Austin's go to," Taylor said. "He is moving to a heck of a school, and it was a good opportunity for him. It hurts losing him and Handley.
Taylor added that the school "appealed to the state Board of Education" for Handley, "and we hope they hear us out and think a little differently."
Taylor is planning on getting the most out of Pate's abilities by playing him solely on the offense. Not only did Pate play a little bit of everywhere last year on offense, but he also was the starting cornerback and played special teams.
Pate started strong last season, including a game in which just missed racking up 500 all-purpose yards (he had 491) and scored five times. He had 252 yards rushing on just 10 attempts and three touchdowns, caught four passes for 153 yards and two touchdowns, and tacked on 86 kickoff yards on two attempts for good measure.
However, as the grind of the season wore down, so did Pate and the rest of the Hurricane offense, causing Taylor to look more at trying to eliminate two- and three-way players.
"We are going to keep Zach off the defensive side of the ball," Taylor said. "He is a good defensive player but he is an exceptional offensive player. We want to keep him fresh. At the end of the game, his tongue may be hanging out but it won't be because he has to make 10 tackles.
"You could tell Pate didn't have the step he had at the beginning because he was playing both ways. If I could redo one thing last year, that would have been it. I tried to do the old school style of playing your best 11 guys on the field. That iron man crap don't work anymore."
Pate thinks the move will be beneficial.
"It's going to be a big thing," Pate said. "Last year I remember coming back from defense into the offensive huddle and was winded. This year I know I will be fresh and ready to go. It's smarter to keep a bunch of us fresh. We have the depth too. I really like it."
Pate and Hensley hope to play collegiately.
"I'd like to play college football for sure," Pate said. "I am getting D-2 looks right now. I am trying to get to 1-AA (FCS). I think that is where I could play. I thought about playing with my brother at Fairmont (Tyler), too. That would be pretty cool."