Win tickets to see the smash hit musical Mamma Mia at the Roanoke Civic Center. Two winners will each receive four tickets!
Once they hit the field, seniors Nate Lee and Zach Baker have a similar flair for defense.
DON PETERSEN | Special to The Roanoke Times
Patrick Henry’s matching 6-foot-2, 245-pound defensive ends Nate Lee (right) and Zach Baker are two of Timesland’s best returning at their position as high school football season opens on Friday.
Wednesday, August 28, 2013
Nate Lee’s favorite class at Patrick Henry High School is Virginia/U.S. Government. Zach Baker likes Studio Art.
Lee’s favorite movie is “Batman.” Baker prefers “Step Brothers.”
Career ambition? Lee’s goal is to play in the NFL. Baker wants to be an engineer.
Lee has a tattoo on his chest. Baker has no body ink.
The two Patrick Henry seniors do have at least one thing in common.
Namely, the matching 6-foot-2, 245-pound defensive ends are senior bookends, giving PH perhaps the best tandem at the position in Timesland.
PH head coach Alan Fiddler goes one step further.
“They’re the two best defensive ends in the area,” the third-year head coach said.
Both players were very productive in 2012, helping Patrick Henry reach the postseason for the first time since 2000.
Lee was PH’s third-leading tackler, while ranking No. 1 on the team with 22 1⁄ 2 tackles for loss and 15 quarterback sacks. Baker was the Patriots’ fourth-leading tackler, adding 10 1⁄ 2 tackles for loss and 4 1⁄ 2 sacks.
First-year PH assistant coach Jason Banks could have done worse than inherit two veterans like Lee and Baker at the position he oversees.
“They hold the other guys accountable and they hold each other accountable,” Banks said. “They’re both seniors. They both want to win.
“They’re pretty similar. They both understand the defense. They understand what we want. The both know how to get off blocks. They complement each other well.”
Lee and Baker also compliment each other well. Each man sounds like the other’s biggest fan.
“He’s stronger, for upper body,” Lee said of Baker. “In weight lifting, he’ll try to help me with my bench. I’m pretty good with the legs and speed stuff. I help him more with his speed.
“Technique-wise, he’s more like a power, strong-side guy. I like to get after the quarterback and use moves to get around.”
Baker marvels at Lee’s quickness on the other side.
“If I’m holding my own and the quarterback sees that and tries to run to the other side, Nathan’s there before the quarterback can even think,” he said.
Basically, the two teammates have one goal in each game.
“When the quarterback drops back, we like to say it’s who gets there first,” Lee said.
“It’s really just competing between me and Zach, for real. We say it’s a competition, but we hype each other up to go make a play.”
Lee and Baker joined forces as freshmen on PH’s varsity in 2010. They earned playing time as sophomores before breaking out last year when the Patriots finished 8-2.
Lee closed the regular-season with 5 1⁄ 2 sacks in a 26-8 win over city rival William Fleming.
Baker is expecting his cohort to produce big defensive numbers again this year.
“For some reason, they like to run to Nate’s side,” Baker said. “It’s much harder for me to chase them down. I’ll get a couple, but Nate’s always reveled in the fact.”
Baker credited former PH assistant Jeremy Haymore, who is now coaching at Staunton River, for helping the pair develop in 2012.
“Our coach last year really worked us on how to read what the guy across from us is doing,” he said. “Nathan and I both had that drilled into us.”
Baker might up for more drills next year. He is eyeing VMI as a possible destination to play college football.
The son of a Roanoke policeman, Baker said he would be ready for military discipline.
“I get up around 7 every day in summer,” said Baker, who grew up in Franklin County. “I know you have to get up earlier than that at VMI, but I like rising early. I don’t see any point in wasting the day.
“My father graduated from high school and went straight to the military to be a Navy Seal. He got through all the hard stuff, but in the third stage of training he tore both his Achilles’ tendons.”
PH needs to keep the two bookends healthy.
Baker also starts at center, while Lee plays tight end in some of the Patriots’ offensive packages.
Fiddler lectured the Patriots on the evils of committing mental mistakes this week heading into Friday night’s season opener at Hidden Valley.
Baker knows the impact first-hand. A bad snap he made to PH quarterback David Prince last year led to a fumble in a home loss against George Washington that cost the Patriots the Western Valley District title.
“It was supposed to be a freeze play where we try to get them to jump offside,” Baker said. “The call got to everybody but me. I didn’t hear it. I snapped the ball. David Prince got the ball and tried to make something out of the play, but he fumbled it right into GW’s hands.”
Likewise, Lee said his most embarrassing career moment occurred in PH’s other home loss in 2012, when he was pancaked to the ground by a blocker from Martinsburg, W.Va.
Lee sometimes wears a “Superman” t-shirt under his jersey, but he’s wise enough to know kryptonite can come in many forms.
“There’s a couple days you realize, ‘Oh, that hurts,’ ” said Lee, whose uncle, Monte Lee, was a standout at Lord Botetourt in the 1980s.
Winning cures a lot of pain. Lee hopes more is in store for Patrick Henry in 2013.
“When I first got here, it was like we were just trying to be a mediocre team that could go out there and compete,” he said. “After we made the playoffs, now we’re trying to go out there and do something big. But when you try to do something big, you’ve got to work for it.”
Weather JournalNext system: Possible ice/snow Sat.