by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
Between football seasons, Jake Antolak regularly mobilizes his 6-foot, 250-pound physique to jog around Lake Fremont like some cross-country runner. The Zimmerman lineman further taxes his legs by sprinting and stretching at a velocity camp through the winter.
“I really try to build up my legs and my endurance with running,” said Antolak, “and it really helps during the games.”
Keeping those legs pumping until the whistle on every play, Antolak was such a force at offensive center and defensive tackle for the champion Zimmerman Thunder that he was named co-Most Valuable Player in the Granite Ridge Conference, sharing the honor with a Foley tailback.
Coach Tom Kish praises Antolak’s physical and mental sharpness.
“Jake is unbelievably strong and has a non-stop motor,” said Kish. “He is great at block recognition which allows him to work down the line of scrimmage fast, and that’s why he makes so many tackles for losses. On offense, he is responsible for calling our pass protections schemes, and he does a great job of driving the guy across from him backwards.”
Antolak led the Thunder with 92 tackles, 66 solo. He was second with 5.5 sacks and led with 14 other tackles-for-loss.
Most of his stops were between the tackles but he racks up a few in the open field as well. “You want to keep that motor going and never, ever give up on a play,” said Antolak, who finished his career with 200 tackles, second-most in ZHS history. He had 24 tackles-for-loss and 8.0 sacks.
The three-year, two-way starter was all-conference in both Mississippi 8 and Granite Ridge.
At center, he’s snapped to standout quarterbacks Ethan Lunning the last two years and the late Bubba Bye in 10th grade. His job is to read the defense, make a call, and “make sure nobody comes through the middle.”
Especially fun for Antolak are pulling plays when he gets to obliterate a D-lineman who doesn’t see him coming. “He gets a lot of pancake blocks,” said Kish. The coach adds that Antolak’s most memorable play on defense was his interception against Foley when he read a screen play and made the pick like a DB.
Antolak has talked to some college coaches. Most project him as an offensive lineman. “I like offense and defense the same. Wherever I can play is fine with me,” he said. “I definitely plan to play in college.”
Antolak’s grid career ended Nov. 5 with a loss to Annandale. The best team in ZHS grid history was 9-2 with their first conference title, and first time reaching the section finals.
His two top thrills: “Getting the MVP award, and reaching the finals and playing at St. Cloud State for the first time.”
In track, he’s one of three strong throwers along with Lunning and Alex Seymour. “We have a great time, boosting each other,” said Antolak. In shot put, he placed sixth in conference, second in sub-section with his PB of 48-2, and fourth in section. His discus PB is 142 feet.
Also a 3.9 GPA student who roots for the Thunder winter teams while playing trumpet in the pep band, Antolak is described by Kish as an emotional player and a self-starter in academics and sports.
“Jake wants to be the best in everything he does,” said Kish. “He is a great teammate and friend and loves seeing others around him having success. Whatever college team gets him next year will be very fortunate.”
THE ANTOLAK SCORECARD
Personal file – Age: 17 …. Family: parents Ron and Deann; sister Gabby, 15 …. Sports: football, track … Other activities: band (trumpet), Link crew, National Honor Society … Academics: 3.9 GPA … College plans: undecided where, football, education major … Ambition: teach and coach
Favorite stuff – Class: contemporary literature, pre-calculus … TV shows: “Nitro Circus” and “Sports Center” … Movie: “The Dark Knight” … Music: AC-DC, Misfits … Food: Buffalo Wild Wings (blazing) … Drinks: Gatorade red … Team: Baltimore Ravens … Athletes: Ray Lewis, Haioti Ngata … Kickback activities: video games, especially Madden 12 … Place he’d like to visit: England