Jackson Romney looked forward to waking up this morning.
Not because it’s Halloween. Not because it’s a birthday or an anniversary.
Because it’s the first Saturday in almost two months when he won’t wake to aches and pains from Friday night football.
“I’m going to wake up and, for the first time in a while, I won’t feel like I’ve been run over by a truck,” the East Valley High School senior quarterback explained. “Most Saturdays, by the time we drag ourselves in to watch game films, we’re the walking wounded.”
The Knights found themselves in the enviable position of having Week 9 be their bye week in the Greater Spokane League. Finding a nonleague opponent to sign on for a game that late into the season is about as easy as finding a pair of brown loafers in a tuxedo shop.
So instead, the Knights took the week off to heal up and prepare themselves for next week’s crossover playoff game with Hanford – with the winner advancing to the state Class 3A playoffs. It’s the sixth consecutive season the Knights have qualified for the playoffs against the Columbia Basin Big Nine League.
“We’ll have two weeks to get ready for Hanford and get ourselves healed up and ready to go,” Romney said. “Most of us are pretty healthy, but we’re going to be without Joey (Meade) and we’re going to miss him. He’s our fullback and a big part of our defense.”
And the Knights have plenty of time to prepare a game plan for the Falcons.
“Our coaches already have a scouting report,” he said. “They’ve watched film and they’re going to go watch Hanford’s game this week. We’re going to be ready for them. If we win this game, we come back and play the next round at Albi and we’re looking forward to that.”
The Knights finished their regular season with three wins against Class 3A GSL opponents North Central, Shadle Park and Rogers and losses to Gonzaga Prep, Lewis and Clark, Mead, University and Mt. Spokane.
“When we got beat in our season opener at home to Prep, that was a real eye-opener for us,” Romney said. “We got our confidence back with back-to-back wins over NC and Shadle.
“It’s hard to compete with the big Class 4A schools and (they) got us pretty good. But I think the fact that we got it together and beat Rogers in our last game says a lot about this team.”
The 34-14 win over the Pirates clinched the second of two playoff spots behind Class 3A No. 1 seed Mt. Spokane. Senior Aaron Awbery rushed for 212 yards and a pair of touchdowns and Romney passed for two more scores to lead East Valley.
The Knights learned early on that their strength would not be in their numbers this season.
“From the first day our coaches have told us that for every two plays we were in the game for, our opponents would only be in for one,” Romney said. “We were going to have to work twice as hard as our opponents, especially because most of us play both ways – offense and defense. We just have to be in better shape and I believe we are.”
Romney has been excused from much of that two-way obligation this season (“I think they want to try to protect the quarterback,” he laughs). But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t take his share of hard hits.
“Oh, man – I have never been hit as hard as I have this year,” he said. “Of course, I’m playing more and that may have something to do with it, but I’ve taken some pretty good licks.”
One hit in particular, on a touchdown pass in Week 3 against Shadle Park, made a local television station’s “Play of the Night.”
Romney entered the season on a winning streak. Filling in for injured senior starter Ike Falk a year ago, he was 4-0 as a starter.
But that was last year.
“Last year was a much different team,” Romney said. “We had a lot of very talented seniors last year and I didn’t have to do that much to be successful. About all I really needed to do was turn around and hand the ball off to Nick Bellomy and watch him run.”
This year has had its ups and downs as players stepped into some big shoes.
“It’s been a struggle at times this year,” Romney said. “But we all just concentrate on getting a little better every day. That’s all you can do.”
In many ways, the senior quarterback epitomizes this year’s team.
At 5-feet-9 and 167 pounds, Romney doesn’t have the ideal size most teams like to see in a quarterback.
At Wednesday’s practice, he spent time on the sideline, between drills, working on his three-step drop.
“The thing about Jackson is that he does everything we ask of him and more,” East Valley coach Adam Fisher said. “He gets everything out of the talent he has, and that’s all we ask of our players.”