In 2015, the Fighting Mustangs were in the midst of a very difficult (3-6) season, but after winning two consecutive Prep Bowl games against DeLaSalle and St. Ignatius, Head Coach Todd Kuska's squad had an opportunity to advance to the Prep Bowl by winning at Gately Stadium against Mount Carmel. The Caravan had embarrassed the Mustangs earlier in the season by a score of 35-14, a game in which the St. Rita offense had failed to score.
On that cold and windy November evening, even though St. Rita would lose a heart-breaker 7-6 to the Caravan, the Mustang coaches walked off the field that night knowing they had something very special on their hands........Jake Zylman.
After suffering a season-ending, shoulder injury in only the third game of his freshman season, Zylman had returned as a sophomore to lead Coach Brian O'Sullivan's sophomore squad to the Catholic Blue title, and he had gotten the call-up to the varsity for the Prep Bowl run. Under most circumstances sophomores are invited up to get the feel for varsity practices with no real expectation of playing any meaningful snaps in games.
After the Caravan defense continued their domination of the St. Rita offense thru the first quarter of that second meeting of the season, Kuska decided to turn to the rookie quarterback. That night Zylman displayed the guts that would become his trademark as he sparked the Mustang offense on the ground and in the air as he led St. Rita to an impressive touchdown drive. Unfortunately, the extra point was blocked and the Mustangs would lose 7-6, but Todd Kuska and his staff knew that night what they had to look forward to for the next two seasons.
Jake Zylman never disappointed in leading the St. Rita back into the IHSA Class 7A playoffs in both his junior and senior seasons. After an impressive junior season, Zylman would post some gaudy offensive stats his senior year. Playing in only 8 games due to injury, Zylman threw for 832 yards and 6 touchdowns without throwing a single interception all season long. He would also add 547 yards rushing and another 13 touchdowns on the ground, but stats only tell part of the story about Zylman. His leadership was legendary keeping the fast-paced, no-huddle Mustang offense running smoothly all season while they turned the ball over only once all season in his 8 games as the starter, a remarkable stat unmatched in Coach Todd Kuska's 20 years at the helm. For his efforts, Zylman was named the co-offensive MVP in the Chicago Catholic League Blue.
On Thursday, Zylman added another honor to his impressive resume -- Illinois High School Football Coaches Association Class 7A 1st team All-State-- despite being unable to play after his foot injury in week 8 against Brother Rice. Although junior quarterback Hayden Ekern filled in admirably for the Mustangs under center in the playoffs, who knows how far St. Rita could have advanced if they had not lost their heart and soul leader.
Zylman, who had surgery last month to have two screws inserted into his foot due to a lisfranc tear, will have the screws removed in January. Doctors are optimistic that he'll return to his customary spot behind the plate for the varsity baseball team by March.
No matter what happens going forward, Zylman, who also led the varsity baseball team to a state championship this past summer, will most definitely go down as one of the very best in history to wear the red and blue.