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Through fire

Tartabull has turned early adversity into motivation for the season

Posted: November 27, 2008 8:35 p.m.
Updated: November 28, 2008 4:55 a.m.

Valencia's Zach Tartabull and the Vikings have faced many challenges this season. Tartabull has turned that adversity into a standout year with 883 yards and eight scores as a junior.

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It was the perfect way to start the season.

On the first play of their first game, senior quarterback Dominick Solley hit junior wide receiver Zach Tartabull for a 57-yard gain.

Two plays later Solley was sidelined with an injured ankle and would miss the next three games.

By the end of the half, Tartabull too was out, a concussion forcing him to leave the game.

The Vikings went on to lose their season-opener 23-14 at home against Thousand Oaks.

"When Dominick went down, it felt like the whole team let down," says Tartabull. "But we all backed each other up and just tried our best."

After only one game, the team was at a crossroad.
So was Tartabull.

"When I went down I felt like I let my team down," Tartabull says. "I wished I could go back in but I couldn't. When I came back, I'm going 100 percent and doing the best I can to get this team to a championship."

The junior came back on fire.

In his next three games, Tartabull scored four touchdowns.
Against Hueneme on Oct. 3, he caught seven balls for 173 yards and two scores.

On the year, the 6-foot, 180-pound wide receiver has caught 43 passes for 883 yards, getting into the endzone eight times.

He has taken his experience and built upon it, turning adversity into motivation.

"I've matured a lot," Tartabull says. "Definitely. I understand the game way more than last year. Being a sophomore on varsity helped a lot because this year I came in strong. I knew the speed and knew what I had to do to win."

Win is what the Vikings did, taking their next seven games while scoring an average 38.7 points per contest.
In his second year starting and his senior season still on the horizon, the sky is the limit.

Valencia head coach Larry Muir credits his big-play ability, an improvement from last season.

In 2007, Tartabull caught 40 balls for 432 and three TDs. With only three more receptions this year from a season ago, Tartabull has doubled his yardage, scoring five more times.

"I think he could be the best receiver we've ever had here," says Muir. "That says a lot because of kids like Shane Morales. His playmaking ability is special."

Morales has racked up 41 receptions for 570 yards and six touchdowns this season for Oregon State, who is on the verge of making it to the Rose Bowl for the first time since 1965.

Tartabull, who says he would also like to play in the Pacific-10 Conference - but for UCLA, has shown improvements in other areas.

"His route-running has gotten better," Muir says. "He has always been a steady, consistent player for us."

Tartabull's on-field accomplishments have come without a consistent face under center.

Last season, Graham Wilbert was at the helm.

This season, Tartabull has seen Solley, junior Nick Moss and sophomore Alex Bishop, but believes he has been able to maintain great chemistry with his quarterbacks.

That chemistry comes from one thing - trust.

"We look to each other," Tartabull says. "The team is young. We've been friends for a long time - the whole team. We trust each other. We know each other. We know how they play. We know how they block."

For Tartabull and the rest of the Vikings, this trust has come through refinement, the kind that only comes from being thrown into the fire.

pputignano@the-signal.com


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