Follow the leader: Roseville quarterback Zac Cunha shows the way at Minot State

By: Ike Dodson■of the Roseville Press Tribune
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As Roseville High football players strive for success this season, they have the ultimate source of inspiration just one generation away from their head coach.

Zac Cunha, a 2012 Tigers graduate and son of longtime Roseville football coach Larry Cunha, is once again leading by example.

After a brief position battle, Zac was named the starting quarterback for Minot State University this year, marking the third time the Rocklin native has captured the helm at the next level.

He was a true freshman starter in 2012, kept the job in 2013 and retook the position this fall after an injury halted his streak of 21 consecutive starts. In his last two appearances (vs. Wayne State College and Northern State) Zac has completed 36 of 62 passes for 478 yards and four touchdowns with just one interception.

“I think it just comes down to mentally knowing where to go with the ball,” Zac said Wednesday. “I put tons of focus on recognizing the defense and putting my guys in the best position to win.”

Despite Zac’s efforts, Minot State is 0-5 to start the 2014 campaign. His defense has surrendered over 40 points in four games and the program is plodding forward despite the dilemma of a third head coach in a five-month period.

Zac outperformed sophomore Crosby Jensen by throwing for 242 yards and two touchdowns (a 169.25 efficiency rating) during a 20-17 loss to Wayne State College Sept. 27.

“We feel that our passing game is the strength of the team,” Minot State coach Tyler Hughes said afterwards on the team website. “We've got to keep going to that. We worked on that a great deal this week and made sure that was a focal point of our attack. I was certainly happy with the results we got out of it.”

Zac has completed 419 of 807 passes in his career, with 29 touchdowns and 36 interceptions. He’s thrown just 15 picks since his 21-interception season in 2012.

Zac’s no stranger to success.  His 2011 squad at Roseville was the last to make the playoffs, thanks to his 30 touchdowns and 2,598 yards.

It was a year that coach Cunha never had the chance to appreciate.

“When I coached him in high school, I was making sure that I was more demanding of him and his performance, because he was the coach’s son,” coach Cunha said. “I think I didn’t enjoy it as much as I should have, as a dad.

“Now I have an opportunity to not worry about coaching him and just be a fan and a spectator.”

Coach Cunha said the family has attended several of Zac’s games since he took the reigns as a true freshman. He plans to watch another Saturday when Minot State hosts rival University of Mary.

He says he’s only a spectator now, but once a coach, always a coach.

“The coach side of him still comes out,” Zac said with a laugh. “He’s prepared me really well for being a college athlete.”

It all comes back to dad.

“You can ask any other current teammate of mine — the biggest jump from high school to college is learning how to get coached really hard,” Zac added. “It’s a result-oriented business and when you are not getting the job done, they let you know how it’s going.

“Having my Dad coach me the way he did actually really helped me make the transition.”

Zac’s living a good lesson for current Roseville players, who are stuck in a 1-4 rut this season with only an outside shot at the playoffs.

Learn, get better, and follow the leader.