Cascade Christian High has found a playmaker on both sides of the ball in the form of running back/linebacker Zach “Barto” Bartolome.
Late last season as the Cougars went on their Class 1A state-championship run, Bartolome — then a sophomore — made a comment on what it meant to him to be a part of that title run, even after his plays helped propel them to their championship.
“The Lord blessed me to be a part of an incredible brotherhood,” he said then. “I’m truly blessed.”
That was then.
Now Bartolome is singing the same tune, but this time, he’s taken charge and transformed into a key playmaker for Cascade Christian (7-1, 3-0 league) as the Cougars reclaimed the Nisqually League and get ready to defend their state championship in the 1A state playoffs.
“I’m trying to take more of a leadership role, to be someone the younger guys can look up to,” Bartolome said. “I wasn’t so sure of that when I was a sophomore, but now I know I have to step up for my teammates.”
And step up he has as the junior has accumulated 395 rushing yards on limited opportunities (46 carries) in a deep Cougar backfield.
“He’s been a real spark on offense, along with (Peyton) Berry and Madden (Tobeck),” coach Randy Davis said. “He’s really matured as a football player, and we’re going to rely on him to continue to improve for our team.”
That’s an issue that doesn’t really concern Davis and his staff as Bartolome does everything can to make himself into the football player he wants and needs to be for his brotherhood.
It’s an attitude bred from a desire to never settle for the status quo.
“I know that if I can improve myself out here, then I can make the plays my team needs me to make during games,” Bartolome said.
Defense is where Bartolome shines, and Cascade Christian’s state title game against Colville last season was his breakout.
“I feel the (Tacoma) Dome is where I really came into my own last year,” Bartolome said. “I started to become more confident in my abilities.”
That confidence has shown as Bartolome has slid right into the linebacker position and excelled, piling up 109 total tackles (77 solo) and four sacks as Cascade Christian has regained its defensive form from a year ago.
But Barto means more to the Cougars than his tackles — or one interception and forced fumble — or his ability to cut and run on offense.
It’s his desire to see the positives of the moment. It’s the understanding to see where he needs to go for others, because in the end, it truly is a blessing to be a part of something big, and Cascade Christian making another state run is big.
“I’m focused on just making the plays I can make to help my brothers get the win,” Bartolome said. “It’s my time to step into a leadership role and become that leader this team needs me to be.”
If Cascade Christian keeps winning, then Barto is good — he’s happy because a group effort has more value than an individual.
For Bartolome, winning together is much better than the solitary spotlight.
“It’s really about winning with my brotherhood,” Bartolome said. “That’s what Cascade Christian is about — coming together.”