|Washington & Jefferson starting defensive players Zac Quattrone, Zack Queen, Zach Royba and Zac Taylor share more than a first name. Or the first three letters of one, at least.
Photo by Martin Santek Photography for Washington & Jefferson athletics
By Joe Sager
Washington & Jefferson is known around the PAC for its offensive fireworks.
However, its defense isn’t bad, either. So far, it tops the conference at just 8.7 points allowed through three games.
Some of that effort can be attributed to the team’s defensive “Zackfield” of Zach Royba, Zack Queen, Zac Quattrone and Zac Taylor.
You’re reading that correctly – the Presidents have a true Zack/Zach/Zac Attack.
“It’s pretty crazy. We didn’t realize it was going to happen until spring ball came around and we started to replace people and move people around,” Royba said. “It was a funny joke in spring ball. But, it’s gotten pretty real as season the goes on.”
Zac's in the backfield
Not too many teams are laughing. The quartet has combined for 59 tackles, eight pass breakups, four interceptions and a fumble recovery.
“Our mindsets coming into games are the same. Maybe, we’re all named the same so we all think alike?” Quattrone joked. “It’s pretty cool, though. When we’re on the field, we just want to play. We’re all pretty experienced. We just know to go out and play football.”
Royba (free safety), Quattrone (strong safety) and Queen (cornerback) are all seniors and bring multiple years of starting experience.
“We started talking about the possibility of all four of us starting last year. We were just joking around,” Queen said. “Z.T. was a freshman and we figured he’d step into role of O’Shea Anderson, who graduated. Quat moved back to safety and it happened. As a secondary, we’ve meshed well together and we’ve been rolling.”
Taylor, a sophomore, is the youngest of the group. He saw playing time last year, which prepared him for full-time cornerback duty this fall.
“It’s been a real big learning experience. I had to fill some big shoes and these guys helped guide me through that process,” he said. “Definitely, playing last year helped me play more comfortably this year. We’re brothers back there and they make me feel welcome. Already, we have a good idea of what each other is thinking. Maybe our names are part of the reason why?”
The seniors were happy to welcome Taylor into the group.
“In the spring, Z.T. had to step in and we didn’t really skip a beat,” Queen said. “We were one of the more experienced parts of the defense. I think it helps having three seniors back there. Z.T. had a big role as a freshman, which doesn’t always happen. The communication part has been smooth. I think we’re taking big strides. If anything, people have looked to us to see how to communicate since we bring the most experience.”
While they’ve gotten used to playing on the field at the same time, there can be a little confusion when someone yells their first name.
“Sometimes when one Zac, Zach or Zack gets yelled at, we’re not sure who they’re talking to,” Royba said with a laugh. “We’re kind of all just used to getting yelled at.”
Presidents coach Mike Sirianni insists that assembling “Zackfield” wasn’t part of his plan, but he’s happy it turned out that way.
“I didn’t even really think anything of it. It is kind of neat to have four kids with the same first name starting back there. They are all Western Pa. kids, too. It’s a neat situation that you probably won’t find anywhere else,” he said. “The three seniors were returning starters and we knew Zac Taylor could be a terrific player. He is a terrific triple jumper with great athletic ability. We graduated a lot from defensive line, so it was nice knowing that we had three experienced guys in the secondary and Zac Taylor coming up. Our secondary has been a strength. We've bent a lot, but haven't broken. When they’ve needed to make a play, they have. We can continue to get better, though.”
Washington & Jefferson has been able to stifle the run this year as teams manage just 37.0 yards per game on the ground. However, opponents have had some success through the air at 292.0 yards per outing.
“We want to be the total package,” Queen said. “We want to be the no-fly zone, but it’s just as important to stop the run.”
Nevertheless, the four players take pride in the fact the Presidents are allowing little more than a touchdown per game with one shutout already.
“There’s nothing like seeing that zero on the scoreboard. It’s better than anything else,” Taylor said. “Our defense is a very strong unit. We just have to keep plugging along.”
“We truly believe we can be something special,” Royba added. “Having the same first name only brings us closer together. We feel we can work together to accomplish our goal.”
The “Zackfield” is just a one-year wonder. Taylor will be the only returning member next fall.
“I’ll be carrying on the torch,” Taylor said. “It’ll definitely be a process next year, but we have some young guys behind the older guys who are ready to play. I am excited for next year, too.”