Kingsway's Kevin Zehner nears 1,000 receiving yards
Kingsway coach Mark Hendricks said he thinks Zehner is the first player in school history with 10 touchdown catches in a season and 16 in a career.
Kevin Zehner was a top baseball player and basketball player in middle school.
Football wasn't his game.
"I liked watching it, liked the Eagles," Zehner said. "I just didn't play."
That changed about a month into seventh grade when his buddy, Joel Scerbo, asked him to join a youth team that was short on players.
The unlikely result of that conversation is one of the best pass-catching careers in Kingsway football history.
Zehner has a chance to cap his career by reaching the 1,000-yard receiving mark for his senior season when the Dragons face old rival Clearview in the 31st renewal of the annual Thanksgiving Day series between the Gloucester County schools.
"It would be nice," Zehner said of becoming just the 32nd player in South Jersey to reach 1,000 receiving yards. "But at the end of the day, the main thing is to win the game."
Kingsway coach Mark Hendricks said he thinks that Zehner is the first player in school history with 10 touchdown catches in a season and the first with 16 touchdown catches in his career.
"His uncanny ability to locate the football and position himself has made him one of the premier wide receivers in South Jersey," Hendricks said of Zehner. "He runs excellent routes and is extremely dependable and reliable."
The 6-foot-1, 190-pound Zehner probably looked like a long shot to develop into a record-setting football player when he entered high school since he was relatively new to the sport.
He only decided to play because Scerbo, now the Dragons' senior quarterback and a top lacrosse player, "twisted my arm" when they both were in seventh grade.
"I loved it right away," Zehner said. "Joel actually got hurt that year, and I ended up being the backup quarterback. Then I moved to wide receiver and safety."
Zehner has 53 catches for 918 yards and 10 touchdowns this season. He is averaging better than 100 receiving yards per game, and he's developed a knack for scoring.
"This year, he just knows how to find the end zone," Hendricks said of Zehner, who has drawn recruiting interest from college programs such as Maine, Rhode Island and Bryant, among others.
The second-year coach notes that Zehner's statistics are even more impressive given the caliber of competition, since Kingsway is a member of the West Jersey Football League's American Division — with two sectional finalists in Shawnee and Hammonton as well as perennial powers Cherokee and Williamstown — and also played cross-over games with Millville, Delsea and Atlantic City.
"Playing our schedule, nobody has been able to effectively defend him," Hendricks said.
After an 0-5 start, Kingsway has won three of four, beating South Jersey Group 4 finalist Hammonton in the process. The Dragons have won their last two games, over Washington Township and Toms River North, by a combined score of 59-0.
Hendricks said Zehner, Scerbo and other seniors have rallied the team after the challenging start against five quality opponents.
"Kevin has all the intangibles you want in a senior captain," Hendricks said.
Zehner and the rest of the Kingsway seniors are hoping to finish strong in their final game. They have a chance to match last season's record of 4-6, a solid showing given the team's schedule.
In addition, Kingsway has a nine-game winning streak over Clearview, including a 21-20 triumph in 2016.
"It's on my bucket list, to finish with a win and never lose to Clearview in our careers," Zehner said.