He goes by "The Freak" and no wonder.
Freakish in the weight room. Freakish off the line of scrimmage as a rush-end specialist. Freakish stats.
Say hello to Zack Claiborne, No. 31 in your program and registering as "too much" in the minds of every foe he faces.
The Oak Ridge High School senior defensive end set a tone by refusing to be blocked, recording four of his team's seven sacks, and the No. 7 Trojans were balanced behind quarterback Jason Samuels with methodical drives or big-play ability in belting No. 8 Pleasant Grove 38-19 Friday night at Sheldon High School in a Delta River League game with league title implications.
At 6-foot-1 and 195 pounds, Claiborne isn't being nationally recruited at defensive end. But he'll surely play somewhere next season, perhaps linebacker, because of his ability and motor, his coaches say. His teammates say Claiborne is a sight to behold in practice and in the weight room, too, a leader in example and results.
"That's why we call him 'Freak,' " said Samuels, a 4.0 student who passed for 225 yards, including a 15-yard touchdown to Ross Dwelley in the second quarter. Oak Ridge also rushed for 251 yards behind Blake Martin (touchdowns of one yard and 44 yards) and Tanner Hughes (powerful scoring bursts of seven and 10 yards).
Claiborne had 11 1/2 sacks last season and now has a school-record 16 1/2, the most in Northern California this season. Last week, Claiborne's late sack and forced fumble sealed a 20-17 victory over rival Ponderosa.
"Zack continues to play well," Oak Ridge coach Eric Cavaliere said. "The whole 'big players make big plays in big games' statement certainly rings true with him."
Oak Ridge (8-1) quickly trailed 12-0 after Sedrick Allen returned the opening kickoff 93 yards for a score and Isaiah Saunders scored from a yard out after a Trojans fumble. Saunders also had a 20-yard touchdown run for the Eagles (6-3) but was held to 62 rushing yards with little room to work. After the early hiccups, it was all Trojans in a crush of line dominance.
Claiborne was joined on the defensive front by Chandler Christy, another relentless senior at 5-9 and 190 pounds. He had 2 1/2 sacks after coming in with three this season.
The Trojans' offensive line was just as physical in controlling the tempo. That unit is headed by twins Joseph and Jason Chapman, Cory Greg- ersen, Kareem Ballal and Jacob Proul.
"You look at them, and they don't have any weaknesses," Pleasant Grove coach Joe Cattolico said before the game. "They're the most balanced team in our league, and they present some challenges."
Pleasant Grove still seeks a share of its fifth league championship since 2007 and needs a win at No. 2 Folsom next week. Oak Ridge can secure a share of its first DRL title if it wins next week against Jesuit and Pleasant Grove topples Folsom.