Athlete of the week: Cam Korlath, Zimmerman, football: Best option

by Bruce Strand, Sports editor

Cam Korlath did not seek the quarterback job at Zimmerman. Rather, he was appointed. Bbut it’s working out pretty well for Korlath and the Thunder. As an option quarterback with plenty of chances to run, Korlath has led them to a 6-3 record while justifying coach Tom Kish’s faith in him.

“Quarterback is not my first choice,” said Korlath, also a second-year starting outside linebacker. “I would rather be a running back. I don’t think I’ve got the arm to be a really good quarterback. But I’m enjoying it.”

Korlath, 5-9 and 180 pounds, is the  second-leading rusher with 514 yards in 104 carries  and seven touchdowns. His passing has been solid: 57-of-111 for 907 yards and six touchdowns, with eight intercepted.

“What Cam does best is manage the offense. He’s good at reading the option play and he can make the pass when it’s there,” said Kish. “He’s not the most glamorous quarterback and won’t make the 40- or 50-yard run, but he is the model of efficiency.”

Cam Korlath, a running back at heart, has adapted well to his appointed position of option quarterback as a senior. (Photo by Bruce Strand)

Korlath played some QB in youth football and figured he was done with the position after that. However, tragedy struck two years ago with the death of senior quarterback Bubba Bye in an auto accident. The sophomore QB, Jake Wilson, had to take over on varsity, and Korlath was asked to take Wilson’s soph slot.

Wilson was injured and Ethan Lunning, another reluctant QB (preferring linebacker, which he now plays in college) took over capably for two years. Wilson moved to receiver last year and dropped football this year.

Korlath played linebacker last year and got some carries at fullback late in the season with a 105-yard game and a touchdown in a playoff win over Melrose. He had 39 carries for 185 yards.

“But I kind of figured I would be the quarterback this year, because we really didn’t have anyone else,” he said.

After two camps this summer, Kish was confident by then that Korlath would be an asset, not just a caretaker. “He is a good leader and a real hard worker, and the guys feed off him.”

Korlath feels his main responsibility is to make good reads on the option “because when our option game is working, it really opens our whole playbook.”

The Thunder opened with a 37-22 win over Albany. He fired three of his six TD passes in that game, then ran for 132 in a win over Mora. He calls Albany his most enjoyable so far “because we knew there as no way we were going to lose that game. We were fired up and it was just a super fun game to be part of.”

At linebacker, Korlath “grades out real high” every week, with few mistakes, said Kish. He’s made 25 tackles and three sacks.

Korlath has played hockey since first grade (including a state trip in “A” Peewees) and was Elk River-Zimmerman’s backup goalie last year, with a shot at the starting job this winter. He plans to concentrate on academics in college and hopes to be a teacher and coach.


Cam Korlath

Personal file — Age: 17 … Family: parents Bill and Lisa; brother Christian, 19 … Sports: football, hockey … Academics: 3.6 GPA …. Other activities: DECA, coaching 8th-grade football …. College: undecided where (probably UM-Duluth or UM-Morris), education degree
Favorite stuff — Classes: math … TV shows: “Castle,” college football … Movies: “American Pie” series … Music: country, rap … Reading: Sports Illustrated …. Food: lasagna … Drink: cherry coke … Teams: Vikings, Wild, Oregon football … Athletes: Clay Matthews, Percy Harvin …. Would like to