Zach Nelson Proves to be “Special” in Senior Year

Listen to the public address announcer at a Casteel football game, and you’ll hear Zach Nelson’s name a lot.

The senior wide receiver is one of many sure-handed targets for quarterback Gunner Cruz, and has been consistent the past two seasons with 96 catches, 1,500 yards and 17 touchdowns. This year, he trumped those numbers already with 59 catches, 913 yards and eight scores through seven games.

“I’m just trying to block for my guys, catch the ball and do anything to win,” Nelson said.

Nelson, a Minnesota native, likes to style his game after Vikings receiver Adam Thielen and takes the same pride in coming down with a catch as the NFL receiver he admires, whether it’s on a vertical route or over the middle. In Casteel’s statement win over Higley last week, Nelson was on the receiving end of a hard hit late in the game, a hit that forced him to leave the game for good. But even after he was slow to get up and get off the field, he made sure to show the referees he came down with the catch, one of his 13 receptions that went for 188 yards and a touchdown.

“Zach Nelson in my opinion is one of the best receivers in the Southwest,” Casteel head coach Bobby Newcombe said. “Phenomenal route-runner, natural hands, big playmaker, aggressive, squats 375 (pounds), the guy is an incredible athlete.

He has the ability to come down with the tough catch and run those precise routes, and with Cruz delivering the passes, Nelson sees this Casteel air attack thriving in their first year in 5A.

“We’re like surgeons,” Nelson said. “Gunner finds the windows, he knows what to look for. He’s great at anticipating the windows. I think it’s the best passing team in the state.”

The 6-2 Colts end their year in a tough 5A San Tan region with Maricopa and Campo Verde.