GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP – Success as a placekicker often requires short-term memory loss during a game and selective amnesia for a career.
Zach Sterr has mastered both, along with a lot of skill and composure under pressure, to become the best kicker in Absegami High School history, and one of the best in what used to be called the Cape-Atlantic League.
“It’s the kicks that you miss and the big ones that you make that you definitely remember the most,” said Sterr, who will kick for the Braves one last time on Wednesday, the night before Thanksgiving, against intra-district rival Oakcrest.
“It’s a little bittersweet,” Sterr said this week as he prepared for his final high school football game. “It started four years ago. I think I had a good career. I’m leaving a legacy, creating some records. It’s just a little sad that it’s coming to an end.”
Sterr has definitely left his mark, as both a punter and kicker for the Braves. He has kicked a school-record 15 field goals, third most by a CAL kicker, and scored a school-record 118 kicking points, 10th most in CAL history. He also holds Absegami records for career extra points (73) and field goals in a season (six, in 2016).
His longest field goal of 42 yards, four short of the school record set by Cody Sawhill in 2004, is part of his favorite memory at Absegami. It came during last year’s Thanksgiving game at Oakcrest, and was just one of several highlights for Sterr in a remarkable Absegami victory.
“I ran for a first down (on a fake punt) to set up a touchdown in the second half,” Sterr remembered. “I had two field goals, the one from 42 that got us back in the game before halftime.”
Absegami rallied to take the lead on a big run by Ifreke Andy and a great touchdown catch by Chris Dolan off a scramble by quarterback Andrew Marcucci. Sterr could only watch as Oakcrest set up for what would have been a game-winning field goal, but Kendall Elliott’s kick bounced off the upright.
“I was a little nervous at the end, and Kendall hit the post,” Sterr said. “But I had faith that if he made it, we were going to get downfield and get into position for another field goal. Even if it was over 50 yards, I probably would have hit it.”
Sterr doesn’t lack confidence, which is another required trait for a good place-kicker. Even as a sophomore two years ago, he had the composure to kick a game-winning field goal in hurricane-like conditions at Egg Harbor Township.
“It definitely comes with maturity, and being put in the situation multiple times,” he said. “I remember freshmen, sophomore years, coach (Dennis) Scuderi would have me go out and kick field goals and if I missed our team would do ‘up-downs’ or we’d condition. If I made the kick we wouldn’t have to condition. So he prepared me for it, and just with thousands of reps you get that mental toughness, and being able to keep your technique the same definitely keeps you from folding in those situations.”
Sterr has been kicking since seventh grade, prospering under the tutelage of local kicking guru Jim Cooper. He hopes to continue his kicking career in college. He just received a walk-on offer from Rutgers University but plans to keep his options open.
Though he lost more games than he won during his time at Absegami, the memories of the good kicks and the friendships he made will sustain him going forward.
“Coming into camp freshman year I got to know a lot of the seniors,” he said. “They took me under their wings, which really helped me out going into school. So every year I start up new relationships, teach the undergraduates to get to know the seniors. It’s just taking the kids under your wing, getting them to understand the team aspect and buy in and create that chemistry. Even if we don’t win every game, it definitely helps the team and makes you want to be here every day.”