On Wednesday my travels took me to East Valley and North Central and yesterday I watched Gonzaga Prep scrimmage. The two 3A schools have similar concerns - lack of depth - Prep has a certain amount of inexperience, but if the Bullpups replace graduated linemen and quarterback, they should be all right.
East Valley - The Knights graduated some studly athletes and have a total of just 49 players filling varsity and junior varsity spots meaning a lot of athletes must go both ways. The loss of center Tyler Matsuda to an infection that required femur surgery, further voided depth. They have a strong crew of linemen - seniors Joey Meade, Rick Garmon, Trevor Moles among them - and experience at quarterback where Jackson Romney, an injury fill-in, beat Mt. Spokane twice and played in both Shadle Park games. Aaron Awbery moves to the offensive backfield to shore up that need. Coach Adam Fisher said that he hasn't gotten a feel for the team yet, unlike last year's surprise state top-eight placer.
Shadle Park- Like Mead and Central Valley, the Highlanders showed promise in its freshmen class last year. Don't be surprised if some of them now sophomores, find their way into the lineup before season's end. The Highlanders looked crisper at practice than I've seen the last couple of years, but I also saw them later in pre-season than before. In Jake Rodgers, they boast one of the league's premier players (another Coug) at defensive and tight end. He's one of several returning linemen, John Rawley and Anthony Esparza among them. Most of last year's skilled position players on varsity, including Taylor Pettersen, were young so there is promise. Leon Strawn is QB heir. Said coach Mark Hester, "I think (behind Mt. Spokane) we're kind of in the same spot, fighting with the rest for a (3A) playoff spot."
Gonzaga Prep - The glory of watching the Bullpups scrimmage is you get to watch two full teams (defense and offense) of players do battle. While both first and second offenses struggled, each scored on their first possessions against their defensive counterparts. Bishop Sankey is now at fullback, the position that Bullpup offense runs through. He was spectacular at times as the sophomore tailback. Replacing Travis Long, John Lampert and QB David Stockton (Charlie Hopkins, Sankey and Shane Schmidlkofer are the ones) as well as some linemen are critical. You don't replace their attributes, said coach Dave McKenna. That said, he likes the composition of this year's team - stressing "team."