They’ve been largely unheralded because the kid throwing to them seemingly breaks another record every week.
Shadle Park junior quarterback Brett Rypien isn’t gathering national recruiting interest by himself. He’s the first to admit it.
Rypien wouldn’t be piling up such mind-boggling statistics without his receivers – namely seniors Tanner Pauly, Nick Kiourkas, Skyler Kelley and Alvin Welch.
Rypien has thrown for 1,726 yards through five games, including 25 touchdowns and 133 completions. The foursome accounts for 1,405 yards, 20 TDs and 102 receptions.
“They’re a hard-working group of guys,” Rypien said. “They’re so dedicated. And they’re great leaders.”
Rypien said his receivers dedicated themselves to becoming the best they could be after the Highlanders followed a 0-9 season two years ago with a 4-6 record and postseason berth last year.
He and the receivers met on their own numerous times last spring and summer, determined to memorize plays. The receivers wore lists of plays strapped to their arms last year, and the desire was to push the tempo this year and not be slowed down by having to glance at a play band.
Some of the receivers had one-on-one sessions with Rypien. Kiourkas, who attends Northwest Christian, often met Rypien at Shadle at 6 a.m. to run routes and catch balls. Then he’d shower and drive to Colbert for school.
“This summer we got so advanced that I know where they’re going to be at all times,” Rypien said. “They also became very dedicated in the film room. My Uncle Mark taught me how to watch film and they’ve learned how to watch film. The week of a game, we’ll go over to my house and watch film for an hour and a half just to get some final thoughts together. We enjoy watching film together.”
Pauly and Kiourkas were first-team all-Greater Spokane League selections last year. Kelley was a second-team pick.
The four finished ranked among the top five in catches a year ago. Pauly led the league with 64 receptions for 1,110 yards. Kelley was second (58, 712), Kiourkas was third (43, 605) and Welch, who missed two games with a concussion, was fifth (39, 294).
Pauly and Kiourkas have been three-year starters. With 10 catches last week in Shadle’s 63-42 win over Mt. Spokane, Pauly eclipsed 100 for his career (102). He’ll finish ranked as Shadle’s all-time best receiver in catches and yards and among the best in the league in a handful of statistics.
“I don’t care if I touch the ball one time or 20 times in a game as long as we win,” Pauly said.
Pauly has added all the kicking duties this year. He’s 31 of 31 on point-after tries.
Shadle rebounded from its lone loss three weeks ago to Ferris with convincing victories over Gonzaga Prep and Mt. Spokane. The Highlanders aren’t satisfied.
“You might say we’re at the top of our game, but for us we’re just getting started,” Pauly said. “We’re not even close to what we can achieve. We know we can be better.”
The Monday following the Highlanders’ season-ending loss last year to Kennewick, the returning players got together to start talking about this season and setting goals.
Kelley said the reason for the receivers’ success is simple.
“We have so many who can catch the ball,” Kelley said. “None of us care who catches the ball.”
Welch, who transferred to Shadle from Springdale as a sophomore, is the shortest of the receivers at 5-foot-6. But he’s also the fastest. For any other team, he’d probably start at tailback.
Shadle coach Alan Stanfield uses Welch in the backfield and on the perimeter.
“I remember we pledged to ourselves after last season that we were going to get better, and we knew it was going to take a lot of work,” Welch said.
He’s content with his role in Shadle’s offense.
“Truthfully, I am tailback, but I like getting the ball in the slot – in space where I can make plays,” Welch said.
At 6-3 and 210 pounds, Kiourkas is receiving recruiting interest. He’s a flex receiver – a tight end who splits out away from the linemen. For other teams, he would most likely be a tight end next to a tackle.
Kiourkas worked tirelessly in the offseason, doing as much as he could to increase his speed. He ran a 40-yard dash in a little more than 5 seconds two years ago. He was recently timed at 4.6.
“I wasn’t much faster than a bowling ball two years ago,” Kiourkas said. “I know I can get faster. All of my offseason work, day in and day out, has prepared me for this year.”
If he receives an offer from an NCAA Division I school, he probably won’t play basketball at NWC, where he’s started the last two years.
Kiourkas leads the GSL in receptions with 32 for 486 yards and seven TDs.
“Our offense isn’t super complex,” Stanfield said. “We run five simple pass concepts, but within those concepts we have the ability to tag one guy with a different route.”
It doesn’t matter if the defense knows where Rypien is going to pass.
“Our mindset is if we execute, we should have a positive play every time,” Rypien said.
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