Roy Ostwald has seen a lot of a couple different things; fire and football.
Although after all of the plays on the gridiron and the water shooting out of the hose, there was one connection that brought him across the street from his fire station.
Over 20 years ago, he watched one Zapalac family member wear #64 and play for Head Coach T.J. Mills. Last week he watched another Zapalac wear #64, playing in a stadium named after that legendary coach.
The first one went on to change the entire landscape of Sealy firefighting, and the second was that man’s son.
Eric Zapalac passed away in November at the age of 39 after serving as a firefighter on both Houston and Sealy forces. In 2009, he spearheaded an effort to change Sealy’s fire service from volunteer-based to a fully-paid department.
For the first time in his life, Lucas Zapalac played a football game without his dad.
He was joined by his teammates on encountering another first, their initial game of the season.
Lucas relied on his family, friends, and teammates for support, and paid them back with contributions from the defensive line to help the Tigers shutout Bay City.
Members of the Sealy Fire Department showed that encouragement by attending the first game of the 8th-grade season where both A and B-Teams pitched shutouts.
Jonathan Tollett, Scott Musgrove, and Reed Brasher joined Ostwald in making the journey from across the street and were treated to front-row seats after a quick conversation with Coach Mobley.
All of them served alongside Eric and visited with his wife Kelly, a mere sample of the outpouring of support she received throughout the game.
Her son sang her praise after the game noting, “She’s supported me through it all, she’s been telling me what my dad would be telling me and helping me get through it.”
Lucas picked the same number his dad wore to start this season and he knows he owns the backing of everyone around him.
“I thank [the community] a lot because if we have them cheering behind us then that’s all we need,” he said.
The A-team proved that to be true, going up big on contributions from D’vonne Hmielewski and Parker DeBerry who scored a pair of rushing and receiving touchdowns respectively.
Hayden Wernecke threw a score and A’vonte Nunn ran for one to put the Tigers up by a score of 33-0, which they were able hold on to by the final horn.
William Forrester, Richard Hahn, and Ryder Ramirez, along with Zapalac, anchored the defense that picked up two fumbles off the ground and didn’t allow the Blackcats to put any points on the board.
That shutout came after the B-Team won by a 21-0 margin, headlined by Colby Eschenburg Cambrien Lang and Eduardo Gomez’s touchdowns. Rudolfo Olivarez, Adrian Gonzalez and Nicky Gaitley provided the formidable defense that also did not allow a point in their first action of the season.
The fans in the stands were sure to let the young men in black and white hear the reassurance that they were most certainly behind them.
Among the usual black gold and white in the stands were a handful of bright-red shirts with the message, “Take it EZ,” both commemorating Eric, and ensuring that message will live on forever.
His impact will span generations and one of those younger ones is taking off, with Lucas’ siblings, Nicholas and Leah, making their way through Sealy ISD, preparing to take on the world in a few short years.