The fearlessness did not immediately return for Andover’s Mark Zavrl.
The unflinching, unbreakable quality Zavrl once felt as he flew around the football field was missing when the tackling machine retuned to the field this season for Phillips Exeter after a knee injury left him on the sidelines for nearly a full year.
“The first three games I was timid and unsure with my knee,” Zavrl said. “I was worried about being hit and how it would hold up. It was more mental than physical. I just wasn’t confident.”
As this fall has gone on, however, opponents from New Hampshire to Massachusetts will agree Zavrl has discovered his game in a big way once again.
Playing a post-graduate year at Phillips Exeter, the former Andover High star has excelled at both linebacker and fullback for a Big Red squad that finished the regular season at 6-2 with a near upset of archrival Phillips Academy this past Saturday.
It’s been a long-awaited return to the sport he loves after a torn MCL and PCL robbed Zavrl of his senior season with the Golden Warriors.
“It’s been awesome to be back,” he said. “It’s been a lot of fun. It’s very different than high school, but I am happy to be playing football again.”
Zavrl first exploded onto the scene for Andover High as a sophomore. Playing both safety and linebacker, he made 55 tackles, 34 solo, including 11 in a win over Dracut. He added two interceptions and had a sack.
But it was his foot that most impressed spectators that Thanksgiving Day, when he booted an amazing 42-yard field goal and added a 32-yard boot that were crucial in the Golden Warriors clinching the MVC Division 1 title on Turkey Day for their first postseason trip since 1975.