With Brett Rypien at quarterback and a stable of potent offensive weapons, the easy thing is to overlook those guys on the other side of the ball – the defense.
But, after shutting out Gonzaga Prep in the second half and dominating the line of scrimmage for much of a 42-13 victory at Joe Albi Stadium Friday night, overlooking that defense will be a thing of the past.
Five touchdown passes from Rypien and a stalwart defensive effort led the Highlanders (3-1) to their first win over the Bullpups (3-1) since 1999.
“That’s like 14 years,” Rypien said, dazed and smiling, soaking in the victory with each breath.
And just how did Shadle Park’s defense limit the Bullpups’ rushing attack to just a hair over 4 yards per carry?
“Assignment football,” Highlanders coach Alan Stanfield answered. “That’s the best we’ve ever done it.
“Our D had a great game plan, and the guys executed it. Everybody did their job. We let one big pass play go, but other than that, everybody played their assignment. It was a great win.”
Gonzaga Prep’s first touchdown came from the missed assignment Stanfield mentioned, a 67-yard bomb – on Prep quarterback Kevin Thomas’ first throw of the game – to Tom Davis to cut into Shadle Park’s 14-0 lead. After that, though, Shadle stymied Thomas, forcing Prep’s offense into unfavorable down-and-distance situations with regularity.
After a decent first-half offensively for Rypien – two touchdowns, one interception and 174 yards on 29 pass attempts – he was a model of efficiency in the final 24 minutes of play. He nearly equaled his first-half passing total (173) despite throwing only 11 passes, connecting for three touchdowns with only two incompletions. His final two throws went for 36- and 21-yard scores.
Still, Rypien didn’t want the credit. He deferred to lesser-heralded teammates on the other side of the ball, his senior-led receiving corps, and his offensive line. He talked about how changing the offensive game plan paid dividends.
After a disappointing 38-14 loss to Ferris Sept. 12 in which Rypien was held to 131 passing yards, the junior knew things had to change.
“I feel like that the Ferris week was a big learning week for us, because we knew that we were going to have to do something else,” Rypien said. “We were too one-dimensional as an offense.
“Other teams saw Ferris drop eight into coverage and rush three, and they were really successful at that. But now when we’re starting to change our game plan, it’s making other defenses change their game plan and opening up more things.”
The Highlanders moved the ball efficiently and effectively on the ground, totaling 126 rushing yards on 29 attempts with a 1-yard TD run from Alvin Welch.
Stanfield, Shadle Park’s coach since 2010, had never seen a better effort from his team.
“I just feel like this was the most complete game our team has played since we’ve been here,” he said. “When defense needed to get the momentum back in our favor, they made key stops. When the offense needed to extend the lead and have a good series, they came through with some big plays.
“We really felt like we had our worst game two weeks ago against Ferris, and they were eager to get out here and prove that we belong with the top of this league.”
As Rypien and his teammates ran off the playing field, they met near the Shadle Park student section, singing the school’s fight song and pumping their fluorescent yellow helmets in the air as the students screamed Rypien’s name in an uninhibited ruckus.
“That was the best feeling ever,” he said.
But with Mt. Spokane looming on the schedule, the feeling can’t last forever.
“We have to forget about it here in a couple days and get ready,” he said.