ABERDEEN — It’s rare that a noseguard gets the nod as league MVP, but Quilcene junior Zach Budnek stands out by going all out.
The SeaTac League MVP Budnek wears many hats for a Rangers squad that has reached the eight-team Class 1B State Football Tournament for the second straight season. Seventh-seeded Quilcene (8-1) will face No. 2 seed Naselle (10-0) at Aberdeen’s Stewart Field tonight at 7 p.m.
He leads the team in tackles, sacks and tackles for loss from his position along the defensive line. At his hybrid tight end/offensive lineman spot, Budnek creates running lanes with his younger brother Deakon for sophomore brother Bishop Budnek, who has racked up 1,377 yards rushing and 22 touchdowns this season.
As for the creative first names?
“We are a Christian-based family, so our parents picked out names from the Bible and also from cool movies,” Budnek said.
“Bishop is from Aliens. I know that [younger brother] Ben is named after a pastor that we used to know. [Younger brother] Max is from a German basis of John.”
Zach Budnek is not just a lineman, according to head coach Trey Beathard.
“When not protecting quarterback Holdem Elkins’ blindside, Zach caught four touchdown passes and four 2-point conversions,” Beathard said. “Zach regularly kicked off into the end zone and made most of his extra-point attempts. Zach would also be the Rangers’ punter, but is needed to deep snap on punts, so he does that instead.”
Budnek rarely gets a break — and it’s one he would rather not receive as it comes after opponents score.
“The only time I’m not on the field is kick return,” Budnek said.
“I feel valued. I know the team needs me to do a lot and I’m always there to do the best I can at my position.”
When asked whether he enjoys hauling in a touchdown pass or hauling down an opposing quarterback more, Budnek stayed wedded to the team concept.
“Probably the best feeling is just winning the game in the end,” Budnek said. “Winning as a team is the main focus. I’m more excited to have opportunity to better myself. If leading the team, or catching a pass makes me a better leader and person I am excited for that.”
Quilcene has accomplished plenty of winning since Budnek first started for the team as an eighth grader in 2016 — running up a 34-6 record in that time span.
“Two factors: the coaching we receive and the second is the interest of the student’s in playing football,” Budnek said when asked to explain the team’s success.
“We are blessed to have the opportunity to show our school spirit and we get a large crowd and everybody is always supportive.”
And Budnek excels not just on the football field or in the weight room, where Beathard has said Budnek “works harder than any kid I’ve ever seen.”
Budnek has a perfect 4.0 grade point average and is involved in pretty much everything Quilcene offers outside of sports.
“I got into math this year and have been drawn to it,” Budnek said mentioning his Algebra 2 class. “I’m Quilcene’s ASB president, I’m in Mathletes and we are about to have our first Knowledge Bowl meet.”
Budnek explained that achieving his goals is just part of who he is.
“I believe in working hard,” Budnek said. “And it’s just me. It wouldn’t make sense not to have that [motivation]. God has blessed me with great family support and working hard and building up myself it’s something where I can’t let him down.”
And Budnek is aiming high with his post-high school plans, hoping to lock down a spot with the Air Force Academy or another service academy.
“I’m looking to apply to the military academies,” Budnek said.
And his coaches are behind him.
“[We are] are confident that with his work ethic on the field, in the weight room and in the classroom, where he is a 4.0 GPA, Zach will be even better next year,” Beathard said.
Sports reporter Michael Carman can be contacted at 360-417-3525 or [email protected].