High and tight can mean a lot of things to a lot of people.
To the son of an Air Force sergeant, it can define a type of haircut.
It has a specific meaning, though, to Gonzaga Prep senior running back Bishop Sankey.
“Yeah, I know what it means,” Sankey said, a smile moving across his face quickly but not as speedy as most of his runs.
High and tight is how Gonzaga Prep coach Dave McKenna wants Sankey to carry the ball. McKenna makes it a point to remind his prize running back of it every game. Not that Sankey has a propensity to fumble the ball, but it’s a reminder to value each possession.
“It happens. It’s frustrating,” Sankey said of fumbles.
“In all fairness to him, he’s not the only high school kid in America who fumbles the ball,” McKenna said. “Sometimes he gets the ball too far away from his body.”
Hence the occasional reminder.
The 5-foot-11, 190-pound Sankey had more of a proclivity to fumble as a sophomore and junior. So far this fall it hasn’t been a problem.
What Sankey has a predisposition to doing, though, is gaining yards in bunches. Last Friday, he rushed for 299 yards, second most in his career. It’s the seventh time in three years that he’s cracked 200 in a game.
Sankey, who has averaged 262 yards through three games, started the season ranked 20th among career rushers in the Greater Spokane League. The 299 raised him to sixth (2,766). If he averages 195 per game in the final six, he would be just a yard back of all-time leader Tyree Clowe of Central Valley (3,937).
He also will crack the 4,000 mark overall soon. He has 3,420.
“He’s very, very gifted as a runner,” McKenna said.
Sankey gave an oral commitment to Washington State University in December. But he continues to be recruited.
He calls his commitment a “soft verbal.” He plans on taking the five visits allowed by the NCAA. WSU, Minnesota and Washington will be among the schools he visits. The other two spots will come from Arizona State, Hawaii, Vanderbilt, Northwestern, Army, Air Force Academy, Ohio, Michigan State and Bowling Green.
“I just feel like I’d be selling myself short if I don’t see what’s out there,” Sankey said. “I want to try to confirm that WSU is the best fit for me.”
It’s no wonder why Sankey is being heavily recruited.
“His best attribute is to change directions and gain full speed rapidly,” McKenna said. “His left to right movement is impressive.”
It’s in the genes. His father, Chris, was a standout running back at East High in Akron, Ohio. Dad gained more than 2,000 yards rushing as a four-year starter.
“He’s got me beat,” Chris said. “I’m smaller than him. I was 5-8, 175. I couldn’t get over 175. I was a scatback. He has that breakaway speed and able to go the distance.”
Chris and his son moved to Spokane from Dayton, Ohio, when Bishop was in the eighth grade. He finished the year at Cheney Middle School, but dad was scouting for a high school.
He placed Bishop at Gonzaga Prep for the academics and athletics. Interestingly, had Bishop continued to live in Dayton, he would have attended Chaminade Julienne High, a private Catholic school where one of the players he fashions himself after, Javon Ringer, played.
Sankey models his style after Ringer, who is playing for the Tennessee Titans, and C.J. Spiller, who was drafted last spring by the Buffalo Bills.
Back in seventh grade, Sankey was at a Chaminade Julienne practice when Ringer was a senior. After the practice, Ringer was getting into his car when Sankey challenged him to a race.
Ringer kindly obliged.
“It wasn’t close,” Sankey said, smiling.
What impacted Sankey, though, was that Ringer didn’t blow him off.
Sankey’s dream is to make it to the NFL someday.
He’s a humble, quiet young man. But when it comes to talking about his abilities, Sankey’s personality seems to come to life.
“I feel I have the capability to score every time I touch the ball,” he said. “You have to believe in yourself. If you doubt yourself, it’s not going to do any good. You have to play with heart.”
McKenna’s plan going into the season was to feature Sankey in a revised veer attack. Senior quarterback Shane Schmidlkofer was poised to run the option out of a shotgun formation.
Schmidlkofer suffered a separated shoulder in the first half of G-Prep’s opener. With no backup quarterback ready to go – sophomore Zach Bonneau was injured in the Bullpups’ Blue/White scrimmage and last year’s backup transferred to University – Sankey was put in a Wildcat formation where he took a direct snap from center.
G-Prep was still working out some kinks in the Wildcat when it lost to Mt. Spokane 33-19 the second week.
Last week, assistant coach/offensive coordinator Bob Cassano tweaked things, moving senior lineman Charlie Hopkins (6-7, 265) to fullback. That, coupled with improved play by the offensive line, allowed Sankey to get loose for 299.
“He’s an example of what great effort and talent will do when you combine the two,” Cassano said. “He reminds me a lot of Curt Warner (former Seattle Seahawks running back). He’s got great vision. He can change directions and get back to full speed quickly.”
Chris Sankey said his son’s speed comes from his frequent work running hills.
“He goes and runs hills once or twice a week,” Chris said. “He believes that’s what gives him his speed, his power. He works out all the time – either on the base or at school. He’s a pretty disciplined, dedicated kid. Sometimes he works out so much I have to slow him down.”
He was named Bishop Shaquille Sankey at birth. His father got the name Bishop from a movie.
He’s made a name for himself at Gonzaga Prep.
“He’s put up astonishing numbers,” McKenna said. “He’s appreciative of the gifts he’s been given.”
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