Preston Zandier takes TJ championship memories to Youngstown State
Sunday, August 15, 2021 | 10:01 AM
Alphabetically, Preston Zandier normally is listed last because of his last name.
When it comes to sports, Zandier is at the top of the list.
The 2021 Thomas Jefferson graduate competed in football, basketball and baseball in all four years of high school, starting at the varsity level for three seasons in football and baseball.
It is on the gridiron that he’s made his mark.
“Playing sports at TJ was the best part of my life so far,” Zandier said. “Trips to Myrtle Beach for baseball, Deep Creek trips for basketball and 7-on-7 trips for football are definitely the most memorable times. Also, staying over (in Hershey) after the state championship win my junior year was a blast.
“Playing sports was the best part of high school, and being as successful in winning three WPIAL and two state (state) championships is mind blowing to me. I know every kid dreams of that, and I’m really thankful for that.
“Coaches (Bill) Cherpak, (Dom) DeCicco and (Tim) Vickers, and all the assistant coaches, made the sports I played something I’ll never forget.”
Zandier has a strong family legacy in football. His brother, TJ grad Zane Zandier, was an all-conference senior linebacker at Virginia in 2020.
His dad Rick was a safety at IUP and two uncles, Michael Reinhart and Todd Fedak, played at Cal (Pa.) and Carnegie-Mellon, respectively. Zandier’s dad and Reinhart are Brentwood products; Fedak hails from South Park.
A 6-foot-2, 210-pound wide receiver/linebacker, Zandier finished his career with 76 receptions, 1,246 yards and 16 touchdowns. He also was a terror on defense, racking up 78 total tackles the past two seasons.
He was named to the Class 4A all-state team in 2020, as well as the Trib 25 all-star team.
The son of Rick and Ria, Zander also has two sisters, Remy and Reis, who played volleyball at Youngstown State from 2016-18.
“Preston and his entire family have had an immense impact on sports at Thomas Jefferson,” Cherpak said. “They are just a great family with down-to-earth parents who instilled a great work ethic in all their kids.
“Preston excelled in all three sports without sacrificing his opportunity to earn a football scholarship. More kids should follow his lead. He is an incredible young man and a great role model for the younger kids.”
Zandier ranked third among WPIAL receivers last season with 47 catches for 718 yards and 12 scores.
He also had 34 tackles on defense, including eight (with four for a loss) against Jersey Shore in the PIAA Class 4A championship game. TJ defeated the District 4 titlists, 21-14, on Nov. 28 at Hersheypark Stadium.
The coronavirus pandemic made the 2020 football season unlike any other. Nonetheless, the Jaguars were able to secure their 10th WPIAL title and record-setting fifth PIAA championship.
“This year was crazy,” Zandier said. “There were so many obstacles our team faced with covid and having so many new guys stepping into key roles. We battled to find ways to win any way possible.
“Being able to experience three WPIAL and two state championships in my TJ football career is something very few athletes get to experience, and I’m so happy I was a part of it. Playing TJ football has been a huge part of my life, and I’m extremely grateful for it. Countless memories and meeting my closest friends in the process is something not a lot of kids get to experience. It has given me debt-free college and showed me what it takes to be mentally and physically unbeatable.”
Last season, Zandier and senior teammate Ian Hansen (42-785, 7 TDs) proved near-unstoppable at the wide receiver position, combining for 1,503 yards and 19 scores on 89 receptions. Hansen averaged 18.7 yards per catch; Zandier averaged 15.3. Both were named first-team all-conference on offense and defense.
Zandier, a Youngstown State recruit, joined an exclusive club following the season. He was the 20th athlete at TJ — and 15th since the turn of the century — selected to play in the Big 33 Football Classic.
“It was really cool playing with and against the best talent in Pennsylvania and Maryland,” Zandier said. “Getting a chance to compete with the top players in Pennsylvania is something I never thought would happen and I’m truly blessed.”
Zandier was one of two players labeled as “athletes” on the Pennsylvania squad. He recorded a couple of tackles and a fumble recovery in the game.
Zandier was recruited to play an outside linebacker position at Youngstown State, where he will major in industrial engineering.
Tags: Thomas Jefferson
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