PLAYOFF PROFILES : Zimmerman's Finale in Final

It is taboo in sports to anticipate life past the next game, especially a championship game.

But Hart High defensive coordinator Rick Herrington paused Tuesday to imagine how it will feel to shake the hand of senior inside linebacker Marc Zimmerman at the team's postseason awards banquet. Zimmerman, a three-year starter, will play his last game for the Indians Friday night against Antelope Valley in the Southern Section Division II championship game.

"I've been so close to him for three years, it's going to be a little emotional saying goodbye," Herrington said. "I'm so upset that he's leaving."

Zimmerman, 6 feet 3, 215 pounds, leads the Indians with 97 tackles and, since the middle of the season, has called defensive formations at the line of scrimmage.

"The last few games have been easy for me," Herrington said. "You tell him what you want each week, and he takes care of it.

"Right on the line he'll yell out what defense he wants. That's not done very often."

Although his priority is stopping the inside run, Zimmerman has led the Indians in interceptions the past two seasons. He has six this year, two for touchdowns. He had six last year and two as a sophomore for a school-record 14.

But Zimmerman has become so keen at reading offenses, the interceptions have come relatively easily.

"It's just a matter of doing my job, getting under the receivers and sliding with them," he said. "Studying game film and working on my techniques. A couple times I've had a little bit of luck."

Zimmerman last week clinched Hart's 37-3 victory over Peninsula with a 28-yard return of an interception for a touchdown in the fourth quarter. But the highlight of his season, he said, was a 36-yard return for a score against Burbank in the eighth week.

"It was sweet to get into the end zone after all those interceptions," said Zimmerman, who used to be teased for being too slow to score. "I proved that I had the speed to get there, even if I'd never done that before."

Zimmerman hopes he won't be upstaged by Antelope Valley's Tony Walker, who returned an interception 102 yards for a score against Downey last week and returned one 48 yards for a touchdown in the Antelopes' 36-15 victory over Hart in the 1994 title game.

"He's amazing," Zimmerman said of Walker. "I don't have quite his speed. I don't think I'll ever be able to do that."

But Zimmerman hopes to play well enough Friday to exact some revenge: "All I want is to be able to play a solid game and have everything click for our team and come out victorious at the end."

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