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April 7, 2013
Sometimes destiny begins at an early age.
"I was always bred to be a quarterback," said Apopka quarterback Zack Darlington, who celebrated his 18th birthday during spring break. "I wanted to carry the offense, carry the team. I liked that role."
While Apopka football coach Rick Darlington was coaching Valdosta High (GA), his son was throwing a football in the second grade.
"He had a good live arm so it was natural for him to play quarterback," said the elder Darlington.
And thus the journey began for the Blue Darter signal caller, who led his team, under the direction of his Dad, to the Class 8A state championship last year.
But sometimes being a leader means playing under adverse conditions.
Zack played most of the postseason with a broken wrist on his right throwing hand. He injured it when he pushed off a player, and scored on the play, against Timber Creek in the second round of the state playoffs.
He went on to play the final four games with the injury, including a wild 53-50 win over Cypress Bay in the 8A title game. In that game, the junior carried the ball 15 times for 125 yards while completing 13-of-21 for 254 yards. He scored three touchdowns, but accounted for more, including a 13-play, 80-yard game-winning touchdown drive with 1:29 remaining. "I think his intangibles far outweigh his tangibles," said Rick Darlington, who also led Apopka to its first state title in school history in 2001. "He's a phenomenal leader and one of the toughest players I've ever been around."
Of course, it doesn't hurt that Zack's Dad has been coaching the game for a long time.
"He understands the game more than most because he's always been around when I'm watching film," said Rick.
The offers are lining up for the 6'2'', 205-pound prospect, who can squat 405 six reps and runs a 4.6 in the 40. Virginia Tech, Nebraska, West Virginia and Ole Miss are just a few of the schools who have offered him.
He had surgery on his wrist in February and then competed in the Nike and Rivals camps last month. Now, both Darlington's turn their attention to a repeat title as spring practice approaches.
"I think we have a chance to be better," said Zack. "They (team) tasted success. Everyone is pushing each other because we want to go back-to-back."
With seven offensive starters and 10 defensive starters returning, the experience is there to make another run.
"You have to get there first," said coach Darlington, who noted his tough district with Evans, West Orange and Olympia, who defeated Apopka for the district title last season. "This team is not taking anything for granted. They're very hungry and not satisfied."