Truth be told, football really isn’t a seasonal game.
Sure, there are calendar dates set aside for the first day of practice and first game and, yes, there are dates set aside for playoff games right through the championship game.
But if a team wants to make a date for that season finale game, it had best ignore the calendar and live the dream year-round.
Central Valley entered Week 6 of the high school football season undefeated. For a team with just three returning starters on defense, building success doesn’t start in mid-August.
“I think this season started, at least for me, right after our last game last year,” Central Valley senior Keegan Shea said. “The seniors on last year’s team were right there to encourage us.”
It was time well spent, the tight end/linebacker said.
Junior Brandson Schmidt agreed.
“We have just a couple guys on the offensive line who played last year,” said the second-team All-Greater Spokane League lineman. “We started working together just as soon as school got out in June. We lifted weights together, we did speed and agility workouts together, we did camps together.
“Coach Sam (Giampietri) likes to tell us that playing on the offensive line is the toughest position to play in football because you need five guys that all work together seamlessly. We’ve all been committed to making that happen.”
A year ago Shea saw most of his playing time in junior varsity games, stuck behind a deep senior class. He worked hard in practice, did his best in limited action with the varsity, and was happy to be part of the program.
“Those guys were all my friends and, to be honest, they’re still my friends,” he said. “I wasn’t frustrated by not playing; I just wanted to do what I could to make the team better. I do feel a sense of urgency this year. I want to make the most out of my senior season.”
From the first day of practice, head coach Rick Giampietri was pleased with Shea’s attitude – pointing him out as he discussed the Bears’ rebuilding effort.
“He’s one of those guys who didn’t get much of a chance to play last year,” he said in August. “He can play. And he came in ready to prove it.”
After being a supporting player on a league championship team, Shea is eager to earn a repeat as a starter.
“I saw what those guys ahead of me were able to accomplish,” he said. “I want that for this team, for me and for my teammates.”
At first, Shea was called upon to play just about every play.
“At first I was playing offense, I was playing defense, I was on special teams,” he said. “But I have to give our younger players a lot of credit. They’ve come in and worked hard and tried to do whatever they could to help the team and they’ve taken on some of those roles.”
It’s an attitude Shea appreciates.
“Having been one of those guys, I’m always encouraging our younger players to hang in there and keep working so they can be ready when their time comes. I know some of them were hoping they could step in and take some of these spots after we graduated so many seniors from last year.”
Schmidt said offensive line play has been a matter of pride.
“We’re committed to getting out there and doing what we have to do,” he said. “We’re not the biggest guys in the league – in fact we’re kind of undersized. That’s why we spent so many hours in the weight room. We knew we’d have to be stronger than some of those big guys we were going to have to go up against, especially when we got into the second half of the season.”
It helps, he said, when the team has hard-running backs to make them look good.
“As a group we know that, if we make our blocks, our running backs are going to hit the hole full-speed and make big plays.”
Schmidt insists that he and his teammates refuse to look beyond the team’s next opponent. Judging by the look on his face, he’s telling the absolute truth.
When asked if next week’s looming game with Ferris might overshadow this week’s nonleague game at Post Falls, Schmidt was taken aback.
“We have Ferris next week?” he confessed. “I didn’t know we had Ferris next week to be perfectly honest. Our coaches are always talking to us about not looking past anyone. For some reason, in my mind, our next game was against Gonzaga Prep – so I guess that answers your question.”
The main thing Central Valley must do down the stretch is maintain the momentum it’s built through the first half of the season.
“I think we’ve shown that we can make the plays when we have to,” Shea said. “We’ve won games when we’ve had to pull it out late and we’ve won games where we ran away from teams.
“The key for us is that we’re a team that may bend a little, but we don’t break. We have confidence in our ability to step up and make the big play when we need it to win games.”