Eastern senior Zane Downing broke the school record for all-time rushing yards during the close match-up against Delphi (38-35) earlier this month.
The Comets’ record previously was held by Mike Winger with 3,199 yards. Winger set the record in 1994. Against the Oracles, Downing surpassed 3,200 yards for his high school career. The running back said he was honored to hold the title.
“It’s a pretty cool honor to think that you’re the all-time leader of something for a school with a great history of a great football program. It’s just cool and a really great honor to be able to have the all-time leading rushing record,” Downing said.
At the beginning of his high school football career, Downing said the thought of breaking the school record never crossed his mind. He didn’t earn a starting position on the team until his junior season, but after quickly creeping up on Winger’s record last season, Downing set a personal goal to exceed the previous number. He credited the Comets’ dominant offensive line to his success.
Unlike many of his friends, Downing did not start playing football until sixth or seventh grade. Previously, he played soccer until his friends “peer pressured” him into joining the football program. After convincing his parents to let him play, Downing was hooked.
“(I enjoy) the camaraderie I think that the team has. It’s not like any other sport I’ve ever played, just the brotherhood that we have as a team. We’re so much closer. Every single player is like family to me,” Downing said.
Currently, the Comets are 4-0 on the season. The team shutout its first two opponents Oak Hill (13-0) and Blackford (42-0). After defeating Delphi, Eastern beat Taylor last week 61-0. Last year, the Comets had its first undefeated regular season since 1974, setting school records for most wins in a season (11) and making it to its second-ever sectional championship.
Knowing that Eastern has a long history great football teams, Downing said he loved being a part of such a special program and seeing many past players watching from the stands.
“It’s really cool to pad up every Friday night and look in the stands at so many of the great people that have been there coming back to the games and just knowing that you have to be able to carry on the legacy that they set all those years ago. It’s really cool to be able to play with a team with the legacy that it does,” Downing said.
With the COVID-19 pandemic canceling sporting events throughout the country at many different levels, Downing said he felt blessed to still have the opportunity to play his senior season so far.
“(We’re) blessed to be able to have the opportunity to even play with everything that’s going on. Our team is still rolling as far as everything. We have had minimal worries as far as the pandemic has gone. Everything has gone well so far still. I’m optimistic and thankful we’re getting a chance to play,” Downing said.
Although he tries to treat each game the same, Downing said he was looking forward to his final homecoming game at Eastern against Clinton Central on Sept. 25.
Currently, Downing said he has plans to continue his football career in college, but no official decisions have been made.
Eastern will travel to Carroll this Friday, Sept. 18, at 7 p.m.