They call themselves the Grady Bunch.
The Ferris football team’s secondary of seniors Riley Stockton, Cody Sorensen, Beau Bozett and Jordan Tonani came up with the nickname for themselves as a tribute to Grady Emmerson, the Saxons’ defensive coordinator.
The foursome has been among the best in the Greater Spokane League defending the pass.
They’re double trouble, too. Tonani, Stockton and Bozett also are the frequent targets at wide receiver for quarterback Ben Goodwin. Tonani has also proven to be a threat running and passing the ball.
Tonani passed for a touchdown, rushed for one and caught two TD passes in the Saxons’ win over Central Valley last week.
CV coach Rick Giampietri is glad Tonani is finally a senior. Giampietri has seen more than enough of him.
“He’s a heady player,” Giampietri said. “When he was a sophomore and they beat us at our place, he makes a play that was as heady as I’ve ever seen. There was a fumble and he dives from the hash mark and knocks it out of bounds so Ferris keeps possession of it. He’s pretty darn slick. He obviously caused us a lot of trouble everywhere last Friday. He has a really nice feel for the game.”
Giampietri thought Ferris in general was difficult to deal with, and he was especially impressed with the Saxons’ defense and their secondary.
“Their defensive speed impressed me,” Giampietri said. “They just rally to the ball so fast. The defense was a lot faster than I thought it was. That’s what impressed me the most. And the secondary kids are all solid.”
They will be tested Friday night when co-leaders Ferris (5-0) and Mt. Spokane (5-0) square off at Albi Stadium at 8.
The foursome are all two-sport standouts. Stockton, the nephew of NBA Hall of Famer John Stockton, and Tonani also started for the Saxons in basketball last year while Bozett and Sorensen are starters in baseball.
Tonani is being recruited heavily in football – not specifically as a defensive back or wide receiver but primarily as an athlete. Ferris coach Jim Sharkey sees Tonani playing safety at the next level.
“I love Jordan’s work ethic,” Sharkey said. “That’s what is really neat about this group of kids. They show up and practice and have fun at games. Every day they’re excited.”
Tonani knows why he and his teammates have stood out.
“We all compete with each other,” said Tonani, a three-year starter at slotback and two-year starter on defense. “I think that’s what makes us a good secondary. We go against each other all the time. … We don’t let up. We love hitting.”
Stockton is being recruited for football and basketball. His height – he’s 6-foot-5 – makes him an attractive recruit in football at wide receiver.
“A year ago I wouldn’t have thought I could have played college football,” said Stockton, who admits his first love is basketball. “I was tall and gangly and a little uncoordinated on the football field. I’ve had another year to mature. The game has slowed down quite a bit for me this year.”
“It’s all starting to come together for him,” Sharkey said. “He’s a better wide receiver from playing defensive back. He really started to blossom in the playoffs last year.”
Stockton credits Drew Buchkoski, the Saxons’ strength coach, for making a big difference in his development.
“He’s made me more fluid more than anything,” Stockton said.
Bozett, a starter at WR and the team’s nickel back on third-and-long situations on defense last year, has come the furthest among the players in football. He didn’t start playing the sport until eighth grade. His first love is baseball.
“My coaches have taught me a lot,” Bozett said. “I had no idea about coverages or anything like that. Football has toughened me up for baseball, especially mentally.”
Sharkey appreciates Bozett’s blue-collar mentality.
“He’s been pretty productive,” Sharkey said. “He’s a real fun-loving kid. He always has a smile.”
Sorensen, the son of former Washington State University safety Paul Sorensen, is called the “Baby-faced Assassin.” He’s the Saxons’ most feared hitter.
His teammates try to avoid contact with him at practice.
“Cody is the best striker on the team,” Stockton said. “Getting hit by Cody in practice is not one of my favorite things.”
Sorensen played cornerback last year but switched to strong safety this season.
“It’s a more natural position for me,” Sorensen said. “It allows me to run downhill and be more aggressive.”
In Sharkey’s mind, Sorensen plays much like his dad did.
“He’s got a lot of Paul in him in terms of his physical nature,” Sharkey said.
In many cases, Sorensen is the last line of defense if a ballcarrier or wide receiver from the other team gets past the linebackers.
Sharkey says the foursome’s abilities in the classroom carry over to the field. They all have at least a 3.5 grade-point average, led by Stockton’s 3.94.
They also have a tight bond.
“We’re all close friends,” Stockton said. “Every weekend we all seem to find each other – we’re at somebody’s house together.”
That’s because they’ve become the Grady Bunch.