Zach Keiser figured the best way to get a scholarship to play football in college was to go camping last summer.
And a-camping the Coeur d’Alene senior running back went – to nine camps, to be exact. From the University of Washington to a couple of Nike combines to Washington State University to Oregon State.
“I was trying to get as much exposure as possible,” he said.
The result is he’s being recruited by WSU and Montana, to name a couple of schools. Keiser, who has made his name on offense for the top-ranked Vikings the past three years, is projected as a free safety in college.
The 5-foot-10, 195-pound Keiser came into this season in his best shape, and he increased his speedy measurably through a bigger, faster, stronger conditioning program. He was poised to have his best season personally.
It’s been an injury-riddled season, though. He strained ligaments in his right ankle in Coeur d’Alene’s season opener and had to sit out two games. He was thankful the Vikings had a bye in mid-September, allowing his ankle four weeks to heal.
Then in CdA’s league opener at Lewiston, he suffered a similar injury in his left ankle. He attended physical therapy twice a day the following week, avoiding loss of playing time.
Then in CdA’s come-from-behind 28-24 win over Capital last week in the State 5A semifinals, Keiser was knocked woozy early in the fourth quarter. Concerned that Keiser might have suffered a concussion, CdA’s trainer wouldn’t release him to return to the game.
Keiser visited a doctor Monday and was cleared to play Friday when CdA (10-1) faces Centennial (9-2) of Meridian in the state championship game at the Kibbie Dome in Moscow. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.
“I don’t think we’ve had a kid that’s been as productive as he’s been considering the injuries he’s had this year,” CdA coach Shawn Amos said. “He hasn’t been 100 percent the whole season. To do what he’s been doing is pretty impressive.”
Amos tagged Keiser with a nickname last year – Kaizen. It’s a Japanese word that means continuous improvement.
“He’s had nothing but steady improvement,” Amos said. “He never goes half speed in anything. He only has one speed. He’s always going 100 mph, and his teammates tease him about it. The thing that’s typical for high school kids is to find the easiest way to get through things in high school. He’s not one of those guys.
“As far as his ability to work, we’ve had few kids who would match his willingness to put in the time.”
Keiser came into the season with an outside chance at breaking CdA’s all-time rushing record. He will fall short but has firmly established himself in third with 2,520 yards.
What Keiser wants more than the yards is a state title. If the Vikings win Friday, it would be the first championship in 25 years.
“We talked about it at the start of the year,” Keiser said. “We came up short last year. We’re in the driver’s seat now.”
CdA lost to eventual state champ Eagle in the semifinals a year ago.
CdA, like Keiser, has battled some adversity. The Vikings’ lone loss came in Vancouver when Skyview rallied from a 17-point deficit to win 36-34.
The Vikings not only played without Keiser, but lost two left tackles in the game.
Then there were some off-the-field difficulties. Two CdA athletes and 2010 graduates died in a car accident in late September.
“We put memorial stickers with their initials on the back of our helmets,” Keiser said. “We wanted to support them and support their families. We’ve dedicated our season in memory of them.”
Now Keiser and the Vikings want to close the door.
“We’re pretty focused,” Keiser said. “The finish line is in sight. We just have to play our game and we’ll be fine.”