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He Does the Groundwork for Glendora : Running Back Zernickow Is a Model of Consistency the Past Two Seasons : Preps: When he rushes for 100 or more yards, Tartans usually get a victory.

October 18, 1990|MITCH POLIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

In his two seasons as a varsity running back, Bill Zernickow and the Glendora High football team have followed a strikingly similar pattern of success.

When Zernickow rushes for 100 yards or more in a game, the Tartans win. When he doesn't, Glendora loses.

The scenario has transpired in virtually every game Glendora has played the past two seasons.

Zernickow has rushed for 100 yards or more 18 times during that span and the Tartans have won every game with one exception. That was a 28-28 tie with Ramona in the CIF Division IV championship game last year.

But Glendora has lost the two times that Zernickow hasn't rushed for 100 yards or more, once last season against Damien and last week against Claremont--the team's only loss in six games.

Glendora Coach Dean Karnoski said the team's success with Zernickow in the backfield is no coincidence.

"The only time he doesn't get 100 yards is if we don't give him the ball enough," Karnoski said. "That last game was his lowest output in two years (84 yards) and that's our fault. We didn't get him the ball enough."

But getting the ball to the 17-year-old senior usually hasn't been a problem for the Tartans the past two season.

As a junior, he was second in the San Gabriel Valley in rushing with 1,761 yards and 17 touchdowns on 283 carries. In six games this season, he ranks second in the valley with 915 yards and eight touchdowns on 115 carries--an average of 7.6 yards a carry.

To Karnoski, the 6-foot, 195-pound Zernickow ranks second to none.

"There are some good backs around but I don't think there's a back in the valley that's better than him," he said. "If there is, I haven't seen him."

The coach said it is Zernickow's running style that sets him apart from other backs.

"His style of running lends itself to consistency," Karnoski said. "It always takes more than one guy to bring him down and he always cuts and slashes when he's running. Probably the greatest thing about him is that one guy doesn't bring him down. He doesn't ever look for a soft place to land."

Said Zernickow: "I'm an offensive player with a defensive mentality. I enjoy the contact a little more than most people."

That became evident last season when he excelled in his final seven games despite playing with a slightly separated shoulder.

"I had a partial separation from the Chino game on," Zernickow said. "I hurt it in practice before the Chino game."

Zernickow thinks one of the biggest reasons for his improvement this season has been adding 10 pounds through weightlifting.

"This year I'm much healthier because of it," he said. "I did a lot of lifting to try to beef up because I figured this year was going to take more of a toll on me."

Along with added size, Zernickow said it helps to have a bigger offensive line to run behind.

"Coach (Paul) Lopez keeps coming up with great offensive lines," Zernickow said. "They're a lot bigger than last year. With their size, you just know you can get (a few) yards right away."

He said that probably makes up for the fact that opponents are focusing more on him this season.

"I know that each team we play will have a guy on me every game, but our offensive linemen are the guys who take care of me," he said. "So they just don't get to me that easily."

Zernickow has played mostly offense this season, but has demonstrated that he is a pretty good defensive player. He played considerably at defensive end last week after teammate Scott Smith suffered a broken leg in the first half and has also played at strong safety and outside linebacker.

"He usually plays defense wherever we need him," Karnoski said. "If we need him at strong safety, we know he can play there. It's just that right now we need him at defensive end."

Going into last week's game, Zernickow had played in only four downs on defense, but already had a quarterback sack and an interception.

"I love defense because you get to hit people," he said. "For me, it's usually the other way around."

Despite his success on offense, Zernickow thinks his future in the sport might be on defense.

"People say I fit better at strong safety for my future, but the coach still feels I'll fit in as a running back," he said. "I don't really care where I play. I'd play anywhere that I could start."

From what he has seen the past two seasons, Karnoski believes that Zernickow can play running back at the major-college level.

"I get confused as to what colleges want but if they don't want a back who can go 100 yards in 18 of (20) games, then I don't know what they want," he said.

Zernickow said he has been recruited to play offense and defense. Twenty to 30 schools in the NCAA Division I, mostly in the Western Athletic Conference, Pacific 10, Big West and Big Eight, have expressed interest. He usually receives about a phone call a night from recruiters.

Although some scouts think he may be a step slow to play running back for a major-college team, he is merely looking for the opportunity to prove himself.

"All I want is a chance and I don't think they'll be disappointed," Zernickow said.

Besides, Zernickow said, his speed has been steadily improving. Since last season, he has improved his time in the 40-yard dash to 4.6 seconds.

"This year I'm probably better from 20 to 60 yards than I was last year," he said. "Last year I was real fast from 0 to 20."

Zernickow his little doubt that he can academically make the grade in college. He has a 3.02 grade-point average and does not anticipate any difficulty when he takes the Scholastic Aptitude Test in two weeks.

He is hoping his college career will lead to a future in real estate.

"I want to go somewhere where there's a lot of real estate and land to develop because I want to be a developer," he said.

That shouldn't be too difficult of a proposition for Zernickow to master. After all, he has already accumulated huge chunks of ground for the Tartans the past two seasons.

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