When Mazama running back Buddy Zakour lost his starting spot last year, he did not worry.
Zakour was the team’s starter at running back at the beginning of the year, but there was a switch Mazama head coach Vic Lease decided to make after he had various runners last season.
The job was again Zakour’s this season and there was no one who was going to take his job.
Zakour became the team’s power back and was quickly put on notice.
He did not just push through defenders this season, he ran over them and led to a Skyline Conference Offensive Player of the Year award.
“I was shocked and relieved that my hard work paid off,” Zakour said. “I did not think I would be Player of the Year, but I really worked hard at this. I sat down with my coaches and I had it in my mind that I wanted to get this.”
Zakour was still a linebacker last year, his first real minutes playing varsity for Mazama.
Going into this year, he started the season as both linebacker and running back before he purely became a ball carrier.
Zakour had some of the largest muscle gains in the program.
He came into Mazama as a 5-foot-5, 160-pound freshman and currently is 5-9, 210 pounds.
His hefty running for the Vikings earned him the nickname “Train,” given by Mazama announcer Tom Keller.
Zakour led the Vikings in rushing this season and ended up with 874 rushing yards on 140 carries. He ended with 10 touchdowns this season.
Zakour had to mature quicker than he would have liked since he did not grow up with his father present.
His mother, Ally, attended all his football games.
“I had to grow up quicker than I would have liked to, I would say,” Zakour said. “I have been fine not meeting my dad. Growing up without a dad was probably the hardest thing for me, but I learned a lot from it.
“I just want to be the best player on the field. I really hope I can play college football.”
Mazama’s Jake Healy and Klamath Union’s Jagger Hogan shared Defensive Player of the Year awards this season.
Healy was the only sophomore to start from his class three years ago.
He was taken under the wing of veteran player, Josh Hammers, a senior at the time. Healy was ready to take over his position the following year. What always stuck with him was a phrase echoed by defensive coordinator, Beau Fullerton.
“He told us to not rise to the level of hope, but to fall back on the level of training.” Healy said. “I want to be remembered as a player who gave it all but realized that it takes that training, that drive to be the best player you can be.”
Healy was one of the leaders to push his team after difficult moments.
Mazama had a disappointing semifinals loss to Cottage Grove last year, a game played on a Saturday.
Two days later, the entire football team was seen in the weight room, looking to improve on physique and strength for the following season.
“The prep for this season all started that day,” Healy said. “Even some of us seniors, after just losing in the quarterfinals, we were back at it again on that following Monday. The juniors are watching. We want to show the younger players how hard we work to motivate them. Go Viks.”
Healy went from not being able to do a single pull-up to being able to do 20 in a row.
Healy led the Vikings in total tackles and had 52 this season.
The next step for Healy will be joining the Navy.
Healy’s father was a part of the Air Force, and both his grandfathers were in the military.
Hogan, a team captain, propelled the Pelicans to a second-place finish in the Skyline Conference this year.
It was the first time since 2013 the Pelicans have made the first-round of the playoffs.
“The support we had from everyone this season really helped us,” Hogan said. “I am glad that we helped change the culture this year at Klamath Union. This was a great season for us. I am so glad I got this for our team.”
Hogan said he was taken by surprise of the award after he dislocated his shoulder in the first quarter during the Canal Bowl this season. He missed the rest of the game, along with a nonleague matchup with Elmira and the team’s playoff game against La Grande.
The hard work for Hogan started his freshman year.
His first season of ever playing football took a hit when he broke his leg during his team’s first play in its first day of practice.
The months of weight training and summer camps felt like they went to waste.
Being raised in a one-parent household, Hogan had to take responsibility quickly as he is the second oldest child in his family.
He is the lone male of his siblings, part of five total sisters.
“I take it serious and value every moment because this can be the last time you ever get the chance to play sports. You realize life’s not about you,” Hogan said. “I have had to really help out and raise my sisters since I was 10. I have tried to be their role model.”
Lease added another Coach of the Year award this season after he led Mazama to a 7-2 record and it was unbeaten in the conference. Mazama’s five conference titles in a row are the most by any team in league history.
For offense, Hogan, Mazama’s Christian Kasper and Zach Coon, all made first-team offensive line. Honorable mentions in the category were given to James Hasskamp of Henley and Mazama’s Cade Wynne.
First-team running backs are Izak Peterson (Klamath Union) and Zakour. Honorable mention backs included KU’s Cameron Taylor.
First-team wide receivers are Henley’s Sam Dixon and Klamath Union’s Jayce Turner.
Mazama junior Nate Beck was named as a first-team quarterback.
Brian Baker (Henley) finished first-team kicker.
Second-team offensive line players were Braden Lawrie (Henley), Trenton Higgins (KU) and Isaac Hagerty (Mazama).
Kaden Wood (Mazama) and John Tacchini (Henley) made the second-team running backs.
Zach Gibson (Mazama), Cameron O’Connor (Henley) and Darius Holmes (KU), all made second-team wide receivers.
Klamath Union junior quarterback Xavier Arvizu was named second-team quarterback.
Kya Hammersley, a sophomore, was named a second-team kicker. Maddy Lease of Mazama earned honorable mention.
Holmes was also a first-team defensive lineman player, along with Coon and Christian Kasper.
First-team linebackers were Healy, Hogan and Tacchini.
Taylor and Gibson were named on the first team for defensive backs.
Henley players Lawrie and Josh Schneider were second-team defensive line selections, while Henley’s Joe Northcutt and Mike Sierra, Hagerty and I.J. Gonzalez (Mazama) were honorable mentions.
Second-team linebackers were Peterson and Mazama’s Ben Hoegee, while Mazama’s Cadence Baltz and Cooper Hamilton, Henley’s Dylan Sreniawski and Brandon Kesterson and KU’s Josh Yeaman, were honorable mentions.
Defensive backs in the second team are Vikings Cole Bosterhous and Leighton Alexander, along with Klamath Union’s Turner.
Honorable mention defensive backs are Sawyer Harrington (Henley), Zach Hill, Isaiah Huck (KU), and Mazama’s Tristen Lee. First-team punter was Holmes.