December 28, 2012 9:42:23 AM
ABERDEEN -- Playing in the shadow of consensus All-America defensive end Channing Ward last year and with first-team preseason All-State linebacker Justin Lucas this season, it would have been easy for the average high school football fan to overlook Aberdeen High School senior Zay Forshee.
A three-year defensive starter for the Bulldogs, Forshee didn't go unnoticed by every offensive coordinator he played against because his name and/or number was invariably mentioned by every opposing head coach after every game.
Based on that recognition, Forshee is The Dispatch's Small Schools Defensive Player of the Year.
"Zay has God-given talent," Aberdeen coach Mark Bray said. "He's a big kid at 260 pounds who is extremely quick off the line, and he uses his size and quickness to his advantage."
A versatile player who lined up at defensive tackle and end, Forshee didn't mind playing in the shadow of more celebrated teammates.
"If I play up to my potential, I know I've done my best and all that other stuff will take care of itself," said Forshee, who helped lead the Bulldogs to the playoffs the past three years. "I just try to go out and play hard every game and play like every play could be my last one."
Bray has no doubt Forshee, who was named to the Mississippi Association of Coaches (MAC) Class 3A All-State first team as a defensive tackle, has what it takes to play at the next level.
"Zay doesn't know how strong he really is and if he wants it bad enough he'll be playing on Saturdays the next four years and maybe even on Sundays," Bray said.
An East Mississippi Community College signee, Forshee led the Bulldogs with eight sacks and had 87 tackles, 71 unassisted. He also had a 59-yard interception return for a touchdown.
"A lot of Zay's tackles were behind the line of scrimmage," Bray said, "and that's because he attacks. He just doesn't sit there on the line of scrimmage and wait for the ball-carrier, he lays his ears back and goes straight to the ball."
Two of his better single-game efforts this year came in a third-round playoff loss to Charleston (13 tackles, 10 solo) and against Shannon (14, 12).
"Two plays early in the Shannon game were the turning point," Bray said. "Shannon had a third-and-1 and then a fourth-and-1 deep in our territory, and Zay stopped their quarterback and their running back cold on successive plays to end their drive without a score."