What started as a playful joke has now escalated into a source of embodiment for Walkersville’s Jacob Wetzel. Last June, during a daily-themed school spirit week, Wetzel dressed along the lines of a Greek God. “It’s Zeus!” one of Wetzel’s friends proclaimed. Once his classmates and teammates got past the sneering, the nickname stuck.
Wetzel’s robust frame and scruffy hairdo fits the physical attribution of mythical stories. His presence on the football field, though, is the foremost reason why the name has attached to the 5-foot-10, 200-pound do-it-all football player. Zeus is the sky, thunder god and controller of destiny and fate in ancient Greek religion.
Wetzel powers the Walkersville football team with mortal versions of those traits, and since the name was given to him, the Lions are 25-0 with a state title on the ledger. Tonight, “Zeus” leads Walkersville into Damascus in a heavyweight bout for the 2A West region title. The Swarmin’ Hornets have won its past 39, along with the previous two 3A state titles before they moved down a class.
“In terms of stakes, it’s at the top [of my career],” Wetzel said. “I’m looking forward to it. It’s gonna be fun.”
On game days, Wetzel posts a cartoon picture of Zeus on his Instagram, and usually receives a good amount of encouraging notes in the comments section.
“I embrace it,” Wetzel said. “It’s worked. So why not?”
Through 11 games, Wetzel has rushed for 1,055 yards (11.2 yards per attempt) and 18 touchdowns on 94 carries. He also has a team-leading 29 first downs, three interceptions, two defensive touchdowns and averages roughly 31 yards per kickoff return.
In the dominant Week 5 win against ranked Linganore, 40-10, the senior tailback amassed 197 rushing yards and four touchdowns. During the 19-13 win versus No. 15 Oakdale, Wetzel delivered a crunching hit on Bryce De Maille — the Bears’ 6-3, 230-pound – forcing a fumble, which allowed teammate Christian Policelli to scoop and score. Last week against Oakdale, in the first round of the playoffs, Zeus erupted for 312 all-purpose yards and three total touchdowns (a 7-yard reception; 58-yard rush and 90-yard kick return).
Though the Lions have a pair of 600-yard rushers in Policelli and Ty Littleton, their fate – like it has for many years now – rests in Wetzel, key target number one for Damascus on Friday night.
“He’s done it since he was little; make plays,” Walkersville coach Joe Polce said. “Just when you need him the most, he shows up. He’s a different cat.”
Walkersville will not only need Wetzel on offense, but on the defensive side of the ball and in the return game, too. The Old Dominion baseball commit has played strong safety all year long, and is expected to play toward the line of scrimmage on Friday against a beastly Damascus line that boasts a pair of Division I recruits in Michael Jurgens (Wake Forest) and Jordan Funk (Army West Point).
“I’m going to have to be more physical than I’ve ever been,” Wetzel said. “They run smash-mouth football, too.”
And on the contrary, Funk and Jurgens play on the defensive line, alongside 6-5, 250-pound end Bryan Bresee, the top-ranked player in the Class of 2020.
“That’s going to be awesome,” Wetzel said. “I honestly think we can move the ball. … It’s gonna be hard, obviously, because they’re studs, but I think we’ll be able to move the ball. They’ll obviously stop us, that’s the way the game is going to go. It’s just who makes that one mistake, that’s what I believe.”
All week long, Wetzel has navigated social media and thumbed through Twitter, where outsiders have tweeted he and Walkersville will be overmatched by the high-profiled Damascus line, which boasts four Division I bound linemen. Walkersville, meanwhile, lacks a Division I football recruit. Wetzel has one response, and one only: Don’t overlook the power of “Zeus.”
“Yeah, some people overlook me,” Wetzel said. “I’ve never talked to a college football coach in my life. I’ve told Coach Polce, my parents have told Coach Polce, we’re doing baseball. I feel overlooked by some people. People who have seen me play, they know what I can do.”