When Central Valley football quarterback R.J. Del Mese communicates with his center Mike Van Houten they could be discussing calculus as easily as a snap count.
They are among four Bear starters who carry straight-A grades from the classroom to the football field. Two others are a B away from perfection.
Their intellect and athleticism, something coach Rick Giampietri has talked of since their sophomore year, are reasons CV is considered among this year’s Greater Spokane League favorites.
Del Mese and Van Houten both stressed the importance of academics in athletics.
“Most people think of studying as a chore,” said Del Mese, who plays three sports. “I look at it as my future.”
Van Houten, who at 5-foot-9, 215 pounds said he is likely too short to play in college. “I’m small, even for a running back, which is why grades are so important to me.”
They are among eight returning offensive starters and five on defense hoping to improve on last year’s 5-3 season and five-way tie for second.
Included are 4.0 student-athletes Rick Giampietri and Ryan Millar and 3.9 teammates Kris Burkland and Giorgio Usai.
The Bears suffered a blow when Giampietri, a three-year starter at running back, defensive back and on special teams, separated a shoulder. He is out indefinitely.
But the offense includes 260-pound Aaron Bauer and 290-pound Mike Caruso at tackle, 212-pound tight end Jeff Allen, fullback Luke Stavros and wide receiver Millar. They are joined by 250-pound Bob Perkes, 220-pound newcomer Jerret Jordin at guards and Ryan Butner at wide receiver.
“Offensively we should be better than last year,” said coach Rick Giampietri. “The question is the defensive line.”
Line hopefuls are 260-pound sophomore Will Beck, seniors Robert Grizzle and John Hemmert.
Burkland and Giampietri head a secondary that includes Usai, Butner or junior Tyler Zyph and sophomores Zac Scott and Nate McFarlane.
Veteran linebackers include Allen, Stavros, Saty and Shane Yackel.
Classmates in upper level academic courses, Del Mese and Van Houten are at opposite ends of football’s glamour spectrum. From the second game of the season, the two combined on every center snap.
In the unheralded center spot, Van Houten is responsible for a check system to assure linemen know the count and helps his guards with blocking assignments. He said it is a matter of paying attention.
“For some it’s hard to get in the huddle, hear the play and snap count,” he said. “I’d never played center until two days before the game.”
He was a quick study.
“I think he could play in college,” said Del Mese. “In a game, I’ve never been hit up the middle.”
Quarterback, by contrast, is the marquee position. Del Mese, in his first varsity season passed for 1,116 yards and 7 touchdowns and was named second-team All-GSL in a league rich in quarterbacks.
Both players said that, with discipline, playing sports and getting good grades is not difficult.
“It’s not hard if you do the work,” said Del Mese, whose routine includes practice, going home to eat, study and sleep.
“It’s a matter of cutting out what you don’t need to do - watching TV and hanging out,” said Van Houten. “I’m not necessarily smart, just a hard worker.”
Those ingredients have placed both athletes at the top of their positions and CV among GSL elite.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: 2 Photos
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