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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Gonzaga Prep benefits from Evan Weaver’s improved maturity

Gonzaga Prep football coaches always knew Evan Weaver had the physical abilities to be as good as he wanted to be.

That was evident in the fact that Weaver has started at defensive end the last three years.

The question was whether maturity would intersect with his athletic gifts.

While it doesn’t excuse his outbursts in emotion from time to time – manifested through penalties and the like – Weaver is young for his age. He just turned 17 in August.

He’s physically advanced for being among the youngest in his class. And he’s made strides in the area his coaches have challenged him the most.

Weaver has tempered his brashness and arrogance.

“Aside from his athletic ability, he has made strides as a young man and learning to be humble and the importance of being part of a team,” G-Prep defensive coordinator HT Higgins said.

Higgins saw another glimpse of the growth last week at halftime when G-Prep trailed Woodinville 10-7.

“Evan was pretty outspoken with our kids on defense,” Higgins said. “He told them to trust the process. He said offensively we’ll get some drives going. He was being a leader. I really don’t think those kinds of things are seen. Evan has really matured. Becoming a leader will help him as he continues on his journey.”

His contributions on the field are second to none. He has 106 tackles, 32 for loss, 20.5 sacks, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. And one interception – coming in the final minutes last Saturday for a game-securing touchdown.

Weaver, who has committed to the University of California, didn’t hesitate to point out what moment he’s enjoyed most so far.

“The interception is No. 1 for me because it saved our season and got us to the next game,” Weaver said. “I don’t care how we do it, we just want to win and get to the next game.”

To get to the final game – the State 4A championship game in Tacoma – fourth-ranked G-Prep (12-0) must beat the team it defeated in its season opener. The Bullpups take on sixth-ranked Richland (11-1) Saturday at Edgar Brown Stadium in Pasco. Kickoff is at 1 p.m.

Weaver has also proven invaluable on offense. He accounted for G-Prep’s three other touchdowns in the 28-18 win over Woodinville when he rushed for 188 yards.

Going into the season, head coach Dave McKenna said Weaver would be used in the right circumstances on offense, most likely in short-yardage downs. At 6-foot-3, 245 pounds, Weaver is a load for defenders to bring down. But he’s also displayed breakaway speed and the ability to cut and accelerate after getting through holes.

When starting running back Mason Plese had to miss three games after an emergency appendectomy, Weaver took over the majority of the carries.

After Plese returned, Weaver’s carries decreased. But his offensive role expanded the last two weeks, and against a physical Richland defense he’ll like see similar rushing duties.

He’s had nearly 700 yards rushing and scored 13 touchdowns – statistics that put him in the conversation as the team’s offensive most valuable player.

“That argument could probably be made,” G-Prep offensive coordinator Bob Cassano said. “He gives us a physical runner that can break tackles with his size and speed.”

“I don’t really care if I’m out there or (my teammates) are out there running the ball as long as we get the job done,” Weaver said.

Weaver believes the offense will do its job Saturday. He said defense will decide matters.

“Our offense has improved a lot. We struggled a lot the first couple of weeks, but we figured it out,” he said. “We’ve given up some yards the last couple of weeks. As a defensive line, we realize that and we need to buckle down. Our pad level has been too high and we need to keep it lower. “

Winning can hide mistakes. Weaver said the Bullpups know they can clean up some things.

“We have yet to play our best football,” Weaver said. “We know how good we can be.”

That statement shows Higgins the type of leader Weaver has become.

“We’ve told Evan that his legacy at a tradition-rich school like Gonzaga Prep is the success of his team,” Higgins said. “That’s the difference in being a good athlete and a great athlete that leads a team. He understands that.”