As his team’s leading returning tackler, Zach Dowell understood before the start of the football season exactly what was expected of him.

In short, a lot.

“Coach (Adam) Reese called me into his office one day and said he really needed me to step up this season,” said Dowell, a senior at Franklin Community High School who plays middle linebacker, fullback and special teams for the Grizzly Cubs.

He embraces each role.

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“I love it,” Dowell said. “I would have to say I’m a more of a linebacker who plays fullback, but special teams are an important part of our team, too.”

A 5-foot-10, 200-pound senior, Dowell’s versatility and willingness to serve whatever role needs filled is evidenced by his production.

Dowell averages a team-high 10 tackles per game and is the Grizzly Cubs’ third-leading rusher with 157 yards. He also has three receptions for 27 yards, averages 18.7 yards on kickoff returns and is part of the punt coverage unit, and has collected an interception and a fumble recovery.

Moreover, Dowell is one of Franklin’s three captains, along with running back/free safety Cole Miller and halfback/cornerback Phoenix Campos.

“Zach is very coachable and very intelligent, which is key because he doesn’t get a lot of practice reps at any one spot,” Reese said. “If he didn’t know what he was doing, that athleticism of his wouldn’t stand out.

“As a leader, Zach chooses to be vocal on occasion, but when his teammates see how hard he works, that’s leadership, too.”

Dowell is coming off his best statistical performance of the season after rushing for 74 yards and contributing a career-best 17 tackles — including 12 solos — in the Cubs’ 21-17 home loss to Mooresville on Friday.

Dowell is confident Franklin, which is trying to avoid finishing below .500 for the ninth time in the past 11 seasons, can reverse its gridiron fortunes. The Cubs (1-5) travel to Mid-State Conference rival Plainfield (3-3) on Friday night.

“It’s definitely frustrating, but you can see the progress from Week 1 to Week 6. It’s pretty promising,” Dowell said. “We just need to keep playing and improving.”

Zach Dowell pullout


Name: Zach Dowell

Age: 17

Born: Franklin

Family: Parents, Rodney and Dessie; brothers, Jason, 28; Brett, 21, and Eric, 21; sister, Cassie, 27

Favorite TV show: “The Walking Dead”

Favorite food: Pizza

Favorite movie: “The Sandlot”

Favorite athlete: Cam Newton

Favorite team: Buffalo Bills

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Mike Beas is a sports writer for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at