Leader by example: Darkoch’s approach helps guide Cowboys back to playoffs


Olivia Short

Coppell senior wide receiver Zack Darkoch stands with the American flag on Heroes Night at Buddy Echols Field on Oct. 21. Darkoch grows in confidence in his wide receiver position as a senior.

Sidekick staff files

Tension stagnates the air as anxious eyes follow the ball. 


The crowd erupts in a cheer. The pin drop silence at Buddy Echols Field from just a few seconds ago is replaced by a vivid applause. At first glance, you wouldn’t notice the small boy in a navy blue Dallas Cowboys jersey. But sixth grade Zack Darkoch watches the football game in awe, enthralled by the scene unfolding before him.

It was at this moment Darkoch, a senior at Coppell High School, knew: he wanted to play football. Darkoch, who started playing as a flag football player on the Jaguars in his local league at the YMCA, had to adjust to the physicality of tackle football.

“Tackle football is more intense,” Darkoch said. “In flag football, we always messed around. But with tackle football we had to work as a team.”

Despite the skill curve, Darkoch quickly adjusted to playing football. After a brief stint playing wide receiver, Darkoch took up playing quarterback until sophomore year at CHS. 

“In sixth grade, I was a wide receiver, but that was because I was really small,” Darkoch said. “I was really small until my sophomore year, when I was in junior varsity 1 and I split reps with [senior quarterback] Jack Fishpaw. That’s when I realized I really could [be quarterback].”

Junior year, however, Darkoch went back to being a wide receiver. 

“The coaches thought that I was able to be a positive contributor in other parts of the field,” Darkoch said. “That way I also got to be on the field more.”

Although it was not where Darkoch initially saw himself, working as a quarterback developed a greater cohesion with Fishpaw.

“We think alike because [Darkoch] played quarterback, so he knows where to go or where to be open,” Fishpaw said. “We’re on the same page, when a play is called and minor changes need to be made, we both understand those minor changes and what is going to happen because he knows it from my perspective. He knows where the ball will go and does a great job finding the open window.”

Darkoch grows in confidence in his wide receiver position as a senior. (Olivia Short)

Aside from football, Darkoch plays baseball during the spring season. Despite the obvious difference between the two sports, one thing remains the same: throughout his play, Darkoch is described as an athlete of relatively few words. His actions on the field, however, are the opposite of quiet.

“It’s funny, he just does it with his play,” CHS football coach Antonio Wiley said. “He doesn’t talk a whole lot. He doesn’t have a lot to say. He’s a man of few words. He just goes out there and plays well every week. I think his teammates just follow his lead because they know he is going to be there. He is Mr. Reliable. We give him a shot, and he’ll show up and take care of his business.”

Transformation hasn’t just happened on the field though: Darkoch has embraced his role as a leader on the team. The Cowboys finished the season 9-2 with a berth in the Class 6A bi-district playoffs.

“Oh man, I’ve only been coaching here for a matter of months,” Wiley  said. “From what I’ve heard last year he was a tremendous player, I just don’t know if he was utilized in the same capacity as he has this year. He has been able to showcase his talents in the way that all of us are given a chance. He has had a chance to showcase his talents.”

Darkoch’s transformation has happened in part to the increased confidence of being a senior.

“I’m a senior now,” Darkoch said. “Last year, I was just a role player who stepped in when it was needed. Now, I always need to be that guy. This year, I have more confidence. You don’t have the older guys. When you’re a junior, you feel like you’re taking away from the [seniors]. And now, it’s my time.”

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