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Barket sees nothing but daylight in his Lehigh future
The fall of 2008 will always be one of the most special times of Zach Barket’s life.
While the Phillies were winning the World Series that autumn, Barket was electrifying the crowds at Schuylkill Haven games and bringing national attention to sleepy Schuykill County.
His rushing totals were among the most amazing any high school player has ever compiled — a nation-best 4,187 yards and 66 touchdowns — totals that broke down to 299 yards and 4.7 touchdowns per game.
When his season and high school career were over, Barket had 8,325 rushing yards and enough hardware to fill up a locker room.
But all those of accolades, all of those yards meant nothing once Barket arrived at Lehigh University.
He had to prove himself all over again, and spent a lot of time over the past two seasons waiting and watching.
Now after totaling 318 yards — just 19 more than his single-game average — in his freshman and sophomore seasons on South Mountain, Barket may be ready to show Lehigh fans what all the fuss was about back in 2008.
Nothing has been decided yet, but Barket, now a junior, could be making his first career start when the 13th-ranked Mountain Hawks travel to Monmouth to open the 2011 season on Sept. 3.
An injury to sophomore Keith Sherman has increased the possibility of Barket being the opening-day starter, although Marcus Dormevil, another junior, is also in the backfield mix.
“It’s here now,” Barket said of his opportunity. “I feel like it’s my time to step up and contribute. I learned a lot from Jay Campbell the last two years, but I’ve worked hard on getting better and I feel good about this season.”
Barket said he has never felt any pressure to live up to his high school career. He has been more concerned about not letting down the coaches that brought him to Lehigh.
“I had a lot to work on,” said Barket, who is listed at 5-foot-10, 205 pounds. “What I made my name on in high school was running the ball. But here, in the offense we run, there’s a lot more to it than just running the ball. I had a lot of learning to do and being the backup for two years actually helped me.”
Barket said he was physically “beaten up” after all of the carries he got at Schuylkill Haven.
“Another season right away as the featured back wasn’t probably the best thing for me,” he said. “I just had to get squared away on a lot of things. When I came here, I was just a first and second-down back. On third down, I wasn’t anywhere near what I needed to be. Now I feel as though as I am a complete back who can play on any down.”
Lehigh coach Andy Coen has always been supportive of Barket and said “Zach has had a really good camp. He has really worked to get better.”
Barket knows he’s never going to get the same number of carries at Lehigh that he got at Haven.
Lehigh is a wide-open attack that likes to stretch the field by throwing the ball. And the Mountain Hawks also believe in spreading around the carries.
“No one is going to get 30 or 40 carries and that’s fine with me,” Barket said. “I just want to be ready to do my job on every play. That’s what separates you from the competition and gets you out on the field. Even when you don’t have the ball in your hands, it’s important to be able to make a block that will allow the quarterback a little extra time to throw a 40-yard pass.”
One of the concern areas for the defending Patriot League champs is rebuilding an offensive line that lost an all-league guard in Ricky Clerge and another lineman that was taken in the third round of the NFL Draft who reportedly has won the starting left guard position with the Jacksonville Jaguars, a fellow by the name of Will Rackley.
However, Barket said the offensive line is coming along faster than expected. The O-line along with an even more polished Chris Lum at quarterback and quality receivers at every turn, Barket said the offense is set to soar.
“What’s helping is going against our front seven on defense every day in practice,” Barket said. “They’re really tough and they were getting the best of us early in practice, but we’re catching up to them now. Maybe I shouldn’t tell them that.
“But we know that a lot of teams we’ll face aren’t nearly as good as our defense, so to get to practice against that kind of competition is only making us better as an offense.”
Barket is all about the future now.
Being the king of Schuylkill Haven won’t get him extra yardage against New Hampshire, Princeton, Colgate or any of the other tough opponents on Lehigh’s schedule.
“I may have been something special in high school and all of that was great,” Barket said. “A lot of people still know me back home. Remember, it’s a one-horse town. But I never saw myself as anything special. That’s how I’ve always approached it.
“Right now I am just a normal college student playing football,” he added. “I’m just another student-athlete fighting for a starting job. Nothing is going to get handed to me because of my name. And that’s the way it should be. Hopefully, this year I can put myself back on the map.”
By Keith Groller, Morning Call