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High school football: Pitre has a straight-ahead football mentality

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DEXTER — You’re an opposing defensive player, and you see Zech Pitre coming full speed.

Your first thought is “How can I slow him down?’’ and/or “Is he going to run right over me?’’

That’s the type of mind set the rising General Brown junior running back forces upon defenses with his no-nonsense, powerful running style that mixes great agility, better-than-average speed and a unique ability to make the first tackler miss time after time.

The 6-foot-1, 210 pounds runner describes his running style like this: “I’m a North-South runner who sees the hole and runs to it. I guess I’m not very fancy, but I try to use leverage and balance to gain extra yards.’’

Pitre said those two areas have been greatly enhanced by his work in the wrestling room, where leverage is always a key to success and good footwork is essential.

After a breakout season in his second year on the General Brown varsity a year ago, in which he rushed for 1,061 yards and 13 touchdowns, Pitre has run for 570 yards on 84 carries through five games this year. He is averaging nearly seven yards per attempt and has already scored nine touchdowns despite his touches being down a bit from last year because the Lions possess more offensive weapons.

Veteran General Brown head coach Steve Fisher describes Pitre as “one of those kids who just loves football and works hard to improve every day.’’

Lions’ defensive assist Rob Pickeral, who coaches Pitre at linebacker, calls Pitre “a kid always going a mile a minute. He’d run into the wall if you asked him to. Those are the type of kids that make your program successful.’’

Pitre is the latest in a long line of two-way stars for General Brown – players who shine on both sides of the ball and who make an impact every time they step on the field. And not just with their ability.

“Zech leads by example,’’ Fisher said. “He’s a quick learner, and always doing what’s right for the team.

“He gets great support from his parents, and is really a prime example of what we’re looking for in a student-athlete,’’ Fisher added.

Pitre’s football life began early when father Rich, a college quarterback, began throwing footballs to him in elementary school.

He developed through the vaunted General Brown Pee Wee and Pop Warner programs, the feeders for the Lions’ highly successful high school programs.

Pitre played modified football in seventh grade, moved up to the junior varsity as an eighth-grader and made the varsity as a backup running back and linebacker as a freshman.

Last season, coach Tom Frears installed Pitre as his No. 1 runner.

He responded with a superb season as the Lions captured another Class C North crown and made it to the Section 3 Class C semifinals before losing to Skaneateles. Pitre is the perfect component to the Lions’ Veer-option attack, with the ability to run off tackle or break out to the perimeter.

“What you see with Zech is great balance and great vision,’’ said Fisher. “Just look at his eyes when he has the ball and he’s always looking down field.’’

Pitre spent a good majority of time in the offseason working on speed and strength training. Fisher said Pitre “is strong enough to run over defenders, but quick enough to run around. That’s a unique combination.’’

On defense, Pickeral describes Pitre as “a tremendous run-stopper. He’s one of our hardest hitters, and really works well with our other inside backer (Pickeral’s son, senior Rob Pickeral).’’

Pitre also returned a kickoff 80 yards for a score in a 16-6 win over South Jefferson.

Coach Pickeral said Pitre is often harder on himself than the coaches are. “He’s a perfectionist who wants to do everything just right.’’

Pitre said that drives him to “become a better player every day. There’s always things you can improve on if you want to work for it.’’

General Brown entered the season a bit under the radar because only a few starters returned, and youngsters are filling so many important roles. But the Lions are 5-0 and contending for another league and sectional title.

“Our team unity has been great, and I think we’re so unselfish,” Pitre said. “Personally, I thought we would be pretty good, and the young kids have really developed quickly.’’

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