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Down to a science

University High School coach Bill Diedrick, left, talks with his quarterback, Tony Tabish during a break in the game  Oct. 2 at University High School. Tabish is close to breaking some passing records at the school. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
University High School coach Bill Diedrick, left, talks with his quarterback, Tony Tabish during a break in the game Oct. 2 at University High School. Tabish is close to breaking some passing records at the school. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

After five wins out of seven games, QB Tony Tabish figures U-Hi could set sights on final two

In addition to being a standout, three-sport athlete, University High School’s Tony Tabish stands out in the classroom. The Titan quarterback carries a 3.92 grade-point average while taking a class load that includes advanced placement courses in chemistry and calculus.

Just what you want in a quarterback: a student who understands scientific method (in particular the need for repeatable and verifiable results) as well as the mathematics of chance and its limits and functions.

Put that kind of a mind into an athlete who starts in three sports and you have the basis for University’s strong showing in the Greater Spokane League this season. The Titans are 5-2 after Thursday’s 30-27 win over Lewis and Clark.

“I do like to understand the game,” Tabish admitted. “I am a smart kid, and I like that whole mental part of the game. I’m a pretty good thinker, and I like to break things down.”

Understand this about Tony Tabish: Through the first seven games of the season the senior has thrown for more than 1,400 yards and 14 touchdowns while being picked off just three times.

Tabish is a two-year starter at quarterback, but his game has taken on more luster this season under first-year U-Hi football coach Bill Diedrick, considered by many to be one of the game’s true offensive gurus, with stops at Washington, Washington State, Stanford and Notre Dame in Division I college football, a Division 1-AA national championship ring and several stops in the Canadian Football League professionally.

“When I heard that he’d been hired to be our coach, I was very excited,” Tabish said. “I didn’t know all that much about him at first, so I started looking into him a little bit. The more I found out the more excited I got. I didn’t realize that he’d been at Notre Dame and in the CFL, for example. That got me really excited because I knew he’d have some important things to teach us.”

In essence, it’s like taking an AP course in football.

For his part, Diedrick was pleased to find a seasoned quarterback to work with right off the bat.

“I was glad to have someone like Tony, who had been a starter before,” he said. “It’s much easier than if we had to start out with someone who hadn’t played before.”

Technically, the coach said, Tabish was fundamentally sound. He threw the ball well, and his footwork was solid.

“What really sets Tony apart are two things,” Diedrick said. “First, his intelligence. He just understands the game – he’s a guy who plays and starts in three sports, basketball, baseball and football. That helps tremendously. We may have tweaked his mechanics a little bit, but that’s not something you really want to do unless you have to.

“Secondly, his decision-making ability is strong. He makes good decisions on the field. That comes from his having experience.”

Sometimes those decisions are pretty simple, Tabish pointed out.

“Sometimes our whole offense is to just turn around and hand the ball off to John,” he said, referring to running back John Wright, who rushed for 683 yards and 10 touchdowns through the team’s first six games. “When you have a back who keeps making yards like that, you don’t need to throw the ball that much.”

There’s a new-found excitement around the football program this year, Tabish said, and that, too, contributes to the team’s success.

“A lot more people care if we win this year,” he said. “We went out, and we won our first game by scoring 50 points (a 52-7 win over Shadle Park), and that got a lot of people’s attention.

“I got a call after that game from a friend of mine who played with me last year and graduated. He was so proud of us for going out and having an impressive win like that.”

For his part, Tabish has the school record for most passing yards in a season within reach. In 1992 Brian Sherick passed for 1,678 yards in eight games – a mark that ranked among the 20 best seasons in GSL history for many years.

“I don’t even think about that kind of stuff,” Tabish said. “I don’t even know the numbers.”

One mark that still ranks among the league’s best dates back to 1977 when Diedrick’s senior quarterback at North Central passed for 1,898 yards: Jim Dorr, now the head volleyball coach at East Valley.

To reach that mark, Tabish will have to do it against the toughest part of the Titans’ regular-season schedule with Mead and Ferris next. The finale with the Saxons will be a showdown of the GSL’s two top passers. Ferris’ Connor Halliday had 1,290 yards passing and 14 touchdowns before Friday’s game.

The number Tabish is most focused on, he says, is three.

“It’s great to still be in the middle of the hunt at this part of the season,” Tabish said. “We broke the season down into three-game chunks. We went 2-and-1 in the first three games and 2-and-1 in the next three. Now we want to go 3-and-0.”