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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Gonzaga Prep running back Mason Plese rises to top with unselfish style

Not long after the 2014 football season was over, Gonzaga Prep coach Dave McKenna told backup running back Mason Plese he was the Bullpups’ projected starter for 2015.

At G-Prep, they list projected starters in pencil no matter who they are – including the likes of standouts Bishop Sankey and Travis Long, both in the NFL. Starting jobs are earned, not given, at G-Prep.

It was easy to understand that Plese would be the next Bullpup up. After all, all-league starter Jack Bamis was graduating.

McKenna could have gone ahead and used ink for Plese’s name, though. McKenna knew Plese would work as hard as any returner for his position.

“He’s unselfish and that mentality is overlooked in our culture today,” McKenna said. “He works extremely hard in the weight room. He’s more about team and that’s had an impact our team.”

The Bullpups talk a lot about wants and needs. There’s a distinct difference.

“What Mason means to our team is the need for his team to win vs. the wants for himself,” McKenna said.

The 5-foot-9, 170-pound Plese may not be big, but he’s carried quite a punch through four games, rushing for 447 yards.

He’s well on his way to 1,000 yards with at least six games remaining. But that’s not his chief goal.

“I’d rather go far in the season and play less than not go far. It’s a team sport,” Plese said.

The rushing load is shared with quarterback Liam Bell and situational runner Evan Weaver, the Bullpups’ stellar defensive end who has committed to the University of California.

Plese could see fewer carries in games to come as teammate Jacob Tucker returns from an injury.

“I’ll work as if I’ll be there for every play, but it’s all for the betterment of the team,” Plese said. “We have so many weapons. The coaches know what they’re doing. It’s all about G-Prep, not about me.”

Depending on what defenses allow, Plese could be a decoy or a dagger.

Plese bided his time the past two years, starting on special teams and getting an occasional carry in mop-up duty. When he had an extra quarter or so to burn, he’d drop down to the junior varsity and get some carries.

“Why wouldn’t I?” Plese asked. “It’s all about playing and it doesn’t matter where as long as you’re playing.”

It’s no secret why Plese has enjoyed success in football. His competitive mindset carries over from the classroom.

He carries a 4.0 grade-point average and is tied with eight others atop the senior class. At G-Prep, students must average 93 percent or higher to earn an A.

He’s averaging 100 percent in most of his classes this fall, an honors load that includes pre-calculus that uses the same curriculum from a class offered by the University of Washington.

G-Prep athletic director Paul Manfred teaches the pre-calculus class.

“I finished a lecture with seven minutes left in class the other day and Mason immediately is working on his homework,” Manfred said. “He makes good decisions. He goes against the grain for high school kids.”

Organization is crucial, Plese said.

“Time management is huge for me,” he said. “A lot of classes come fairly easily, but I still have to put in the work.

“The best thing to do is stay on top of your homework so you don’t have to play catch-up later. For me, it doesn’t matter the class. I take I try to find an interest in the subject. I don’t learn it to throw it away later. I learn it to better my knowledge.”

One of the electives Plese chose was anatomy and physiology. He’s also taking college-level psychology and politics classes.

“I might as well be learning something,” Plese said. “I want to challenge myself.”

If his class load isn’t enough to occupy most of his time, Plese is co-ASB president with football teammate J.D. Gruber.

“He’s tough, he’s smart, he’s handsome – he’s got it all,” McKenna said. “If he ends up owning his own business, I want to buy stock. If he ends up being a doctor, I want him to do surgery on me. He’s going to be very successful.”

Football and his class load have his focus now.

G-Prep advanced to the quarterfinals last year, losing to eventual state champ Chiawana. The Bullpups want to go further.

“It’s really our choice,” Plese said. “We have fantastic potential. But we’ll have to bring it. It won’t just happen.”

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