Zach Fredericks’ earliest memories of playing football with his younger brother, Jake, goes back to childhood when they’d play catch and the older brother would always yell at Jake to throw the ball the right way and not throw it over his head.
Over a decade later, the brothers are playing side-by-side at an All-State first-team level and two crucial members for undefeated Winnacunnet as takes on Londonderry in Saturday afternoon’s Division I championship game at Exeter High School’s William Ball Stadium.
Winnacunnet (11-0) entered its 10th week atop the Union Leader poll, while Londonderry (10-1) was ranked second. This is Winnacunnet’s first championship game since it won the 2017 title.
“We’ve been playing with each other since I was in third grade and it’s a little hard to think this will be the last time we’ll be playing together, but we’ll be looking out for each other and hopefully come out with that win,” Jake Fredericks said. “He’d always yell at me when I was a kid and it made me who I am today as a competitor and get better to play with my older brother and help me play at the varsity level.”
Senior Zach Fredericks plays defensive end and tight end, while his junior brother is a 6-foot-2, 255-pound force at tackle. The brothers’ defensive chemistry has wreaked havoc on opposing backfields and has been a major part of the reason why the Warriors have allowed an average of 8.4 points a game.
“We talk in the game all the time about defense and on that side of the line there is not much a team can do because we’re just really good,” Zach Fredricks said. “Obviously, having that connection as brothers really helps with our game on defense.”
Winnacunnet coach Ryan Francoeur was forced to throw Zach Fredericks into a starting role as a sophomore out of necessity. Francoeur said Zach’s best games during his all-state season last fall came when Jake was promoted to varsity action down a stretch run that ended with Winnacunnet’s 27-15 loss to Goffstown in the semifinals.
“We’re really lucky we have them, and I think it’s pretty cool that no matter where we line them up offensively or defensively, they’re right next to each other on pretty much every snap,” Francoeur said. “They’re both fast, they’re both athletic and they both have a nose for the football. Usually when we need to make a big play, they’re usually there to make it.”
Zach Fredericks doesn’t have the stature of Jake, but he has made the most of his frame (5-feet 11-inches, 190-pounds) by becoming a fierce pass rusher and edge controller against the run. He leads the team with eight sacks and 13 of his 37 tackles were for a loss. The brothers are complemented well on the other side of the defensive line by LeBron Miller and Chris Capezzuto (seven sacks).
Francoeur knew of Jake Fredericks since he was in fifth grade and he saw him blossom into becoming one of the best difference makers at the point of attack in the state. He has six sacks, two fumble recoveries and seven of 31 tackles for a loss.
“He’s playing as well as any two-way lineman in the state this year,” Francoeur said. “I think he’s still growing. He’s pretty dominant right now, but I think next year he’ll be as dominant as any football player in the state.”
Jake Fredericks credits his brother a lot for helping reach a level that is escalating every game.
“Sometimes you don’t want to go to practice, you’re tired, but he really motivated me to keep grinding and keep working,” Jake Fredericks said. “Having my brother right next to me gives us that extra edge.”
On the offensive side, the brothers have helped paved the way for Winnaunnet to average 273 rushing yards per game, while Zach Fredericks added nine catches for 174 yards and a touchdown. They combined with Miller, Jack McCann, Bodey Reed and James Robillard to help running back Tucker McCann gain 1,262 yards with 13 touchdowns.
“Jake has been a force; almost every single play I see a kid on the ground because of him,” Tucker McCann said. “He’s a key part for us and a massive kid. Running behind him is easy.”
Now the Fredericks and their teammates look to close out Winnacunnet’s undefeated season against Londonderry. This will be their second championship game together within five months; they were members of the Winnacunnet baseball team that fell to Concord in the Division I title game.
“This was the goal all along; it feels good to be here,” Zach Fredericks said. “We played together in the baseball state championship game last year and we didn’t win, so hopefully we’ll come out with a W and we get this one to celebrate a little.”