ST. JOHN — Most would've thought that Zach Bundalo would've played football in his crib, jumping out of the womb and flinging footballs all over his bedroom.

His father, David, played center for Don Howell at Hobart in the early 1970s. His home was the Brickie Bowl. Mud, bruises and glory was a big part of his youth.

Then, David Bundalo played college football at Indiana State, where one of his teammates was a guy named Rick Bartolomeo.

But David's son, Zach, was busy eating Pop Tarts, not playing Pop Warner football.

"I didn't play organized football until I was in the eighth grade," Zach Bundalo said. "And they put me on the offensive line. Left tackle."

That only lasted for a few days at Clark Middle School. A coach saw Bundalo throw a football, and he was made the team's quarterback in about 2 1/2 seconds.

As a freshman at Lake Central, Bundalo only played half of a junior varsity game. He threw three interceptions against Valparaiso, one of the picks came from then L.C. coach Brett St. Germain's son.

"I never heard the end of it," Bundalo said with a laugh Thursday in between practices.

On Aug. 19, 2016, Bundalo started his first varsity game for the Indians, against rival Munster. He was nervous. His teammates were unsure. The fans were freaking out, along with the coaches.

A collective, "Oh my God, we're starting an inexperienced sophomore behind center, run for the hills" could be heard around the stadium.

He threw for 178 yards and two touchdowns in L.C.'s 35-7 win.

"The more repetition I got, the calmer I got," Bundalo said.

In a crazy year in St. John, the power-armed kid without a razor went 93-of-204 for 1,245 yards and 11 touchdowns. The Indians went 4-6, losing five games by a touchdown or less.

First-year L.C. coach Tony Bartolomeo, whose father played college football with Zach's dad, was also nervous before the opener last year. He knew Bundalo had the arm, personality, drive and passion to lead this team. But there's one thing every coach in the Region is thinking about right now.

Opening night is just two weeks away.

"I believed in him but I did not know what he was going to do under the Friday night lights," Bartolomeo said. "You never know for sure how a kid will do until he gets out there."

At 6-foot-4, Bundalo has a chance to be really special. He can throw a deep ball 65 yards. He was invited to camps at Miami of Ohio and Ball State after his sophomore year.

I saw him play twice last season and was impressed. His lone issue last season was connecting on the 10- or 15-yard passes at a high percentage. He knows that and has been working hard on those routes for the past year.

If the shorties become consistent this kid could be unstoppable this fall.

"We have to stay consistent this year," Bundalo said. "We can't get too high. We can't get too low. We didn't make the plays last year in the fourth quarter. That's something we need to be better at."

There are a lot of reasons for the Region to get pumped up for the upcoming football season. Zach Bundalo is one of them. Trust me on this one.

He didn't play. He played left tackle for two days. He played and didn't fare well, then, he got it going in a very big way.

A pretty cool story to say the least.

This column solely represents the writer’s opinion. Reach him at


Steve has won awards during two different stints at The Times. In addition to being the Prep Beat columnist, he covers football, boys basketball and boys track. He is a long-suffering Cubs fan.