A year ago, Connor Zulk was powering the Centennial offense with both his arm and legs until his season ended abruptly, and painfully.
It was especially fun when Zulk, a junior, hooked up with deep-threat wide receiver Carter Anderson, also a junior.
Zulk passed for 648 yards and seven touchdowns, six of them to Anderson, and ran for 384 yards and six scores, leading the Cougars to a 3-2 record — before suffering a broken collarbone early in the sixth game, a loss to Blaine.
The Cougars would finish the season 3-6.
“When Connor went down, it hurt us. It was a big loss,” acknowledged coach Mike Diggins. “That is no disrespect to the other guys we used, because I, as coach, had not spent enough time preparing them as backups, and they were good athletes.”
Zulk and Anderson are both back in pads for their senior year which starts Thursday evening when the Cougars take the field at Edina, kickoff 7 p.m.
Anderson caught just 12 passes last year, but scored on seven of them and averaged 34 yards per catch. Anderson is also a 40-plus yard punter, and Zulk is also a placekicker.
Anderson got through football unscathed but missed the last half of the season with a back ailment after averaging 16 points through 13 games. Zulk, also a basketball player, missed the whole season.
So the two of them are elated to be back with their teammates and vice versa.
The Cougars have other weapons, but, no question, the physically-imposing Zulk-to-Anderson combo will be on the minds of all opposing defensive coordinators.
“Connor is six-three, 200 pounds, and Carter is six-four, 205 pounds, and both are Division I prospects,” said Diggins, who, as a precaution, held Zulk out of Saturday’s scrimmages.
Also getting the ball a lot will be fullback Noah Larson, who showed breakaway ability last year out of the back field and on kick returns. The 5-8 senior added 20 pounds in the weight room, and tips the scales at 190 bruising pounds.
“Noah will be our ‘super’ back,” said Diggins, “and he’ll be good. Our receiving corps is the best we’ve ever had, with a number of juniors in the mix.”
Meanwhile, the “jury is out” on the lines, which are smallish by Class 6A standards with little varsity experience. “But they are all seniors and they have worked very hard in the weight room,” the coach said. “They had an average gain of 65 pounds on the squat.”