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Nevels takes down a dozen rushers

Zach Nevels grew up with four older brothers. He didn’t really have a choice but to be tough.

On Friday night, Nevels was all over the field for the Loyd Star defense in their 36-16 win over West Lincoln. He made 12 tackles (six solo) and broke up two passes. For that effort, Nevels has been named The Daily Leader Defensive Player of the Week.

The son of Alberta Arriaga and Richard Nevels, Zach grew up playing football in the yard with his brothers Junior, James, Freddie and Ryan. James would gather up friends from school and the boys would play hours of yard football.

That’s where Nevels first began to fall in love with the game.

That love was fostered and grew in the Loyd Star pee-wee program. There he played with future teammates such as Braden Ezell, Dane Smith, Zach Baker, Rials Hester, Jared Smith, Parker Bracey and Zabien Price.

That group now makes up the core of the senior class for the Hornets. On Friday, they reached a major goal when they beat West Lincoln to finish the season unbeaten in their division and claim the Region 7-2A title.

West Lincoln has a potent rushing attack and Nevels initially began the game at linebacker in order to free himself up to chase Bear ball carriers Michael Brothern and Enrico Price.

That switch didn’t feel natural to Nevels, though, and soon coach Brian Ford moved him back to cornerback. From there he was free to attack from the edge and chase Price and Brothern all over the field.

Nevels has speed and that’s been clear all season, as he’s rushed for 605 yards and six touchdowns this season as a fullback. He averages a team-leading 9.6 yards per carry. Through 10 games Nevels has made 63 tackles, which is second on the team. He’s also made two sacks and broken up a team high 10 passes.

“When we beat Sacred Heart at their place to start the season, I think we started realizing as a team that we could have a really good year,” said Nevels.

The team has the support of the community, the cheerleaders and the band. Nevels has his own personal cheerleader in his brother James.

James can’t stand still on a Friday night, as he paces the bleachers and fence behind the sidelines. He shouts encouragement to his brother. When Loyd Star is coming and going to the field house, James is a ball of energy that is there to provide motivation for his brother and his teammates.

“James and I are very close,” said Zach. “He’s always tried to teach me and coach me and help me become a better player. My brother has always believed in me and pushed me to work harder in everything I do.”

James and the other Hornet fans will have at least one more chance to cheer their team on this Friday when Loyd Star hosts Mize in the opening round of the 2A state playoffs.

“Winning the district was one of our goals,” said Nevels. “Getting to play in front of our fans in the playoffs is going to be special. I can’t wait for Friday night.”

Story by Cliff Furr