Norwin grad Hall earns All-American honors at Geneva
Geneva football standout Zach Hall remembers his first interception of the 2018 season like it was yesterday. But it’s what happened on the sideline afterward that sticks out the most.
After the senior cornerback stepped in front of Bethany quarterback Carlin Bason’s pass and returned it 36 yards to give the Golden Tornadoes an early second-quarter lead, a winded Hall trotted over to the sideline and celebrated the only way a close team knows how.
“Every time after someone gets an interception, everyone throws the player in kicker’s net,” laughed Hall, a Norwin graduate. “I don’t know why anyone thought of it. We kind of took it from the Miami ‘turnover chain.’ ”
Hall got tossed three more times into the kicker’s net last season, finished second on the team in tackles (66), interceptions (four) and was tops in passes defended (15). By the time Hall pulled the curtains on his final season, he had put together an All-American resume when he was named to the National Christian College Athletic Association’s All-American team.
“I’m pretty proud of it,” said Hall, who will graduate this spring with a degree in engineering. “I was kind of surprised at first, and I take it as an honor. It’s nice in your senior year to get something like that.”
Longtime Geneva coach Geno DeMarco wasn’t surprised. He watched Hall grow into an All-American from the moment he dropped his bags at the Beaver Falls campus as a freshman.
“That kid fought every day to get on the field,” said DeMarco, who has compiled a 144-116 record in his 25 years as coach. “He made himself into a good college football player.
“He’s relentless. He didn’t let the measurables keep him down. This is a kid who studied engineering and is one of our captains. He’s the total package.”
Oh yes, those measurables. Coming out of high school, Hall was under-recruited, and at one point questioned if he was going to play college football. He tossed around the idea of just going to Penn State to earn his degree. But the 5-foot-9 speedster still had the urge to play football. Geneva had the degree he was looking for, and the rest is history.
“I think everyone kind of feels undervalued or overlooked coming out high school,” Hall said. “It really came down to Geneva and their engineering.”
Hall went to Geneva as a wide receiver. He showed enough of a burst of speed to get the nod as a punt returner as a freshman. Geneva implemented the triple-option offense going into his sophomore season, so Hall defected to the defensive side of the ball.
“I kind of just did it as a trial run,” Hall said. “I definitely missed it. One of the main reasons I went for offense was that I messed up my shoulder my senior year (of high school) and had surgery. As a freshman wide receiver, you kind of get tired of getting tackled by 22-year-old college seniors.”
It was Hall’s turn to lay the licks on opposing wide receivers. He earned five starts his sophomore season, and was locked in as a full-time starter as a junior. Hall’s accent through the depth chart was a testament to his hard work.
Hall knew that the only way to make up for his lack of size was to be prepared. He was a regular in the weight room and always had his nose in the playbook.
“He was so consistent in his preparations,” DeMarco said. “That’s the one thing I can say about Zach: He was prepared.”
Hall finished his final season ranked seventh in tackles among defensive backs in the Presidents’ Athletic Conference, second in passes defended (15), and fourth in interceptions to earn All-PAC honorable mention. Not bad for a kid that was hardly noticed coming out of high school.
“If any young man wanted to copy a plan on how to improve as a college football player, they need to talk to Zach Hall,” DeMarco said. “He’s an old-school player in a new-age game.”
William Whalen is a freelance writer.