Zach Carter had no idea he’s on the cusp of breaking River Ridge High School football’s record for all-time tackles.
But, Elijah Camacho, the current record-holder — and Carter’s cousin — does.
“That’s a record that’s there for people to break,” Camacho said. “It’s an honor to break a record, and I wouldn’t want anyone else to break it but him.”
Camacho, a 2014 graduate, recorded 192 tackles in four seasons.
Carter, a junior linebacker, sits eight back at 184.
“Both of them kind of had the same start,” said Bruce Carter, Zach’s father and a third-year River Ridge assistant coach. “Both of them started varsity as freshman, but I didn’t think (Zach) would take over (Elijah in his) junior year. But he’s just had a phenomenal junior year to this point.”
Of Zach’s 62 tackles this season, 54 of them are solo. Last week at Clover Park, he broke the single-game tackles record with 18.
“This year, it seems like everything’s starting to slow down a little bit,” Zach said. “I’m just starting to see things before they happen, getting there faster, just making the plays I’m supposed to make.”
Which seems to run in the family.
“Elijah was a fireball go-getter, so we put him on the edge and let him go from there,” River Ridge coach Steve Schultz said. “Zach is incredibly disciplined to his trade. He’s perfected playing inside linebacker, reading guards and doing all of the footwork.”
Zach has had plenty of time to grow — in size and experience.
When he was about 10 years old, Camacho and his brother Jeremy — a 2012 River Ridge graduate and No. 6 on the all-time tackles list with 117 — padded Carter up in the front yard.
“We were just going at it,” Zach said. “They were just kind of lighting me up, I was taking the hits, and we were going at it full blow. It was pretty fun. Made me who I am today.”
By the time he was a teenager, Zach — 6-foot, 225 pounds — passed his cousins in size. And he would muscle up on the two when playing basketball in the front yard.
Competitiveness is a quality all three share, Bruce said.
“(Zach) grew up in that environment,” he said. “They’re a few years older than him, so he’s always trying to keep up. Which I think prepared him to play at a fast level at an early age.”
The family ties don’t stop there. Zach, Elijah and Jeremy have all wrestled for the Hawks. And Jeremy has transitioned to an assistant coach for the football team.
“It’s always nice having family around, and having them on my side,” Zach said. “I always take family first.”
Elijah’s senior season was also Zach’s freshman year.
“It was fun because I was going into my last year, and had already played the first two years side-by-side with my brother,” Elijah said. “(Zach’s) pretty much my brother, too, so it was awesome to see him grow.”
Much like Elijah and Jeremy, Zach stood out quickly due to his high football IQ and a nose for the ball — qualities Schultz said Zach shares with his cousins.
“There’s no moment that’s been too big for any of those boys,” Schultz said. “And Zach, he’s just like the other two, just a year ahead of them as far as elevating to the next level.”
Friday night against Fife could be the big moment for Zach to move to No. 1 on the tackles list.
“He’s really smart and knows how to read an offense,” Elijah said. “He’s a great linebacker, and that’s why he’s going to beat that record.”
Lauren Smith: 360-754-5473