Finley recovering, preparing for college

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By Phil Terrigno
A-J Media High School Editor

WOLFFORTH — This is the story of Zach Finley’s shoulders — or what little remained of them before December.
Finley has one labrum repair procedure to go after a successful December surgery on his left and the 6-foot-1, 230-pound linebacker will be on his way to transitioning from Frenship Tiger royal blue to Southwestern Oklahoma State Bulldog dark blue and gray.
Seasons of recurring stingers were abated with shoulder pad and collar adjustments and Finley’s progress was hardly slowed, but the truth was his form was first hampered with a left labrum tear as a junior and debilitated with a right labrum tear as a senior.
“It was going good at first,” Finley, an All-State honorable mention as a junior, said of his senior year, “(My shoulders) were a little tweaked here and there. Then, after tackle and tackle, they wore down. I played through it until I couldn’t play anymore and decided I better get surgery if I want to keep playing.”
That point came in Frenship’s 26-21 win over Amarillo High, an enormous win spoiling the Sandies’ perfect record that captured the 2-6A crown.
“He was going OK through the season,” Denise Finley, Zach’s mother, said at his college signing. “He said, ‘I’ll just fix it after the season. The Amarillo game, both of (his shoulders) kept coming out. After the game, I walked up to him and I said, ‘What do you think? Are we done with high school football?’ He said, ‘Yup. I think it’s time to get this thing fixed and get ready for college.’ ”
Finley’s senior season stat line reads: 98 combined tackles, six sacks and five tackles for loss. All while playing with arms that Finley could just lift, “not even hit anyone, and it would come out.”
“He wanted to play football so bad that he played through some games where he’d come off the field and go back in the game,” Frenship coach Brad Davis said. “To do what he did with two shoulders, not many kids can do what he did.”
Finley’s time on the sideline was brief, spanning only a playoff win against Eastwood and a loss to Abilene High, but draining: “I always wanted to help the team as much as I can. To kind of know that injuries are going to hold you back, kind of makes you sick.”
Southwestern Oklahoma State assistant football coach and defensive coordinator Eric Gibson, who came across Finley’s tape on a recruiting database, said a strong returning linebacker group makes it likely that Finley will redshirt.
“I love him at the point of attack (on film),” Gibson said. “I want my linebackers to have a certain personality. You can see the fire behind their eyes. I feel like I could feel that he’s going to turn into a good ballplayer. I think you can feel it about some guys. Some of them just have that ‘it’. And ‘it’ is so many different things. You can feel his drive.”
Gibson said that when evaluating Finley’s film, it wasn’t entirely clear that he was hampered by shoulder problems.
“You can maybe tell something was wrong,” Gibson said. “But I don’t watch the upper body too much. I watch feet and how they move. I wasn’t looking to see if he was wrapping up. I was worried about his feet or if he’s in the right position.”
In a 4-2-5 defense employed by the Bulldogs, the linebackers rotate often and Finley’s role would be similar to his senior year responsibilities in Frenship’s 3-4 of occupying the A-gap or following the ball.
“(Finley is) one of those kids we could move around at different positions because he had speed, quickness, strength, agility and all the things that you look for in a defensive player,” Davis said. “We felt like playing him (on the defensive line) his junior year, we needed someone with real quickness and strength at nose guard. This year, we needed him at inside linebacker.”
At the end of the Frenship signing ceremony, which featured four of Finley’s classmates, he was beaming and even mustered enough shoulder strength to slap high-fives with classmates that wanted to congratulate him.
“Probably the beginning of summer, I’m going to hit (the weights) real hard just so I don’t die once (college workouts) start,” Finley said. “I do legs pretty much every other day. Just to keep those in shape. Can’t do upper body, at least do lower body while you can.”

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