With three fewer people per side on the football field in eight-man football, speed is what separates the contenders from the pretenders.
Almira/Coulee-Hartline, which went 11-1 last season, losing only to Cusick in the State 1B semifinals, has a pair of speedy players again this year including quarterback and multi-faceted athlete Derek Isaak.
“Derek may be the fastest guy on our level in the state,” said coach Brandon Walsh, who has had his share of success in more than a decade at ACH. “We have the luxury of a fast runningback, too.”
With both Isaak and junior Colin Deyarmin in the backfield the option attack is particularly dangerous with a lot of open field and the problem of who to key on.
Last year, said Isaak, ACH relied on quickness, which proved a disadvantage in the snowy semis against bullish Cusick.
“No excuses, they deserved to go all the way,” Isaak said. “But (school officials) canceled every other game in the snow. We were the only ones to play.”
Where did Isaak’s speed come from?
“I’d say I was decently quick naturally,” said the senior, who as well led the ACH to third place in State 1B basketball, a sport he’d like to play collegiately. “But I’ve definitely worked on it a lot.”
Weight lifting and plyometrics have been vital. His growth from a 145-pound sophomore to a 170-pound six-footer factored in as well.
“Definitely it’s a mix of both,” Isaak said. “As you get older, obviously the body starts to develop. But I’d say a lot of work you do in the off-season helped.”
He got his football start playing 11-man Grid Kids in Ephrata. The switch to eight-man has made for a more wide-open game.
“If you have speed in eight-man that’s good because there’s so much open field,” Isaak said. “If you have a fast running back and quarterback and have tough receivers, you’re hard to stop.”