May 20, 2018

Don’t underestimate ‘Zeus’: Jacob Wetzel leads Walkersville into hyped bout against Damascus

Illustration by Kyle McFadden/MSA.

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.”

About Kyle McFadden 416 Articles
Kyle McFadden is a graduate from Linganore High School's Class of 2014, a sports junkie and general news-hound. He got his start as a sports writer in January 2014 for Linganore's student-run newspaper The Lance, where he wrote 13 articles. McFadden then launched his own blog in October 2014 called The Beltway Dispatch covering collegiate, local high school and professional sports. Formally known as The Beltway Dispatch, McFadden and Evan Engelhard merged respective platforms in June 2015 to make what is now Maryland Sports Access. With baseball, basketball and golf experience, McFadden brings ample knowledge to the helm of MSA. McFadden covers a wide variety of sports in football, baseball, basketball, golf, hockey, lacrosse, soccer and specializes in the collegiate and high school levels. McFadden volunteers his time at Damascus Road Community Church -- serving as a mentor to the youth, basketball coach at the varsity and junior varsity levels, and leads a small group of high school sophomores every Wednesday night. Although he's only been around journalism since January 2014, he's a high school sports reporter for The Baltimore Sun and freelancer for The Frederick News-Post. McFadden's work has also appeared in DMV newspapers The Aegis, The Capital Gazette, The Daily Times (Delmarva Now), The Hometown Observer, Howard County Times, Germantown Pulse and The Towson Times. He's also won two Mike Powell Excellence in Journalism awards and has appeared on The Best of SNO, which showcases top student work of high school and college journalists. McFadden currently studies at Frederick Community College and plans to transfer to the University of Maryland in the fall of 2018 to work on a bachelor's degree in journalism with aspirations to be a national college basketball writer.
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