Ridgeline football coach David Myers has an enviable – but challenging – opportunity to build a program and culture from the beginning. They’ll be tested every week as the Falcons enter play in the Greater Spokane League 4A/3A ranks.
The process started several years ago with the announcement of the new Central Valley School District facility, and will carry up to opening day on Sept. 3 and beyond.
“I’ve been impressed with our kids, have been really pleased with our coaches,” Myers said. “Our administration’s been super-supportive. Working with other coaches and other programs has been great.”
Myers is excited to see his team in action on opening night, when his young Falcons host Lewis and Clark on the school’s brand-new turf field.
“We’ve got kind of what we thought we had – some really talented young kids. I’m impressed with what they’ve been able to take on and what we’ve been able to get done with them. We’ve got really good coaches that have done a great job. So, for having a bunch of kids – mostly having never played varsity football – I think we’re in pretty good shape.”
The Falcons this season will be comprised mostly of sophomores, with a “handful” of juniors and one or two ninth-graders. Very few have varsity experience, and some have never played high school football at all.
Myers was part of the team of teachers and administrators that helped with the design of the school.
“I was really lucky,” he said. “I was on the core team of teachers that helped give input for the design and facilities and so forth. I had a pretty good idea of what things were going to be where.”
Myers did run into a few curveballs, which should be expected opening a new school and football program.
“There’s a lot of the challenges that you plan for. And then there’s just some that creep up on you,” he said.
“Did we order enough hangers for the equipment room? Are the shelves spaced far enough for us to fit helmets in there? Just little things like that.”
When Myers issued gear in the spring the players didn’t have lockers yet to store their equipment.
“It’s a little different when you’re moving into your facility and trying to put all your stuff in your storage room and at the same time check out lockers. You know, our weight room wasn’t put together and just got finished (earlier this week).”
Nobody had a “normal” season last year due to the pandemic, but that caused even more stress on the start of a new program.
“There wasn’t a fall season last year, so even our kids that are sophomores didn’t go through a full season and didn’t have practice in the summer and didn’t have two-a-days days and didn’t have Saturday practices.
“The fact that we started in August was new to them, and the fact that we play over Labor Day weekend was new to some people. Those things that we kind of take for granted.”
Most football coaches fill out their staffs over the winter. But with the 2020 season pushed back until February 2021 due to the pandemic, Myers had to wait until the sports seasons wrapped up.
“All our hiring was late,” he said. “There was just a lot going on.”
“(The coaches) chose to come here to Ridgeline and be a part of something new and different, knowing that this is a building process. I’m really lucky that they were willing to sign up for that because not everyone’s up to that.”
The new school is anxious to show off its brand-new facilities.
“We’re really lucky and I think that, you know, architects, construction workers, people that gave input, everyone did a great job. It’s top-tier here,” Myers said. “There’s a lot of things that just make sense here.”
Ridgeline’s turf field adds to the collection of impressive field surfaces across the GSL. In addition to the opening of Union Stadium, CV and U-Hi both put in new playing surfaces last season.
“I’m looking forward to go into Union Stadium and seeing that. I haven’t seen it in person yet,” Myers said. “(Gonzaga) Prep’s got a great facility, have been there a couple times when I was coaching with CV.”
Myers is excited about the prospects of a downtown stadium for the city’s schools.
“I think that’s a smart decision,” he said. “It will be wonderful to take our kids downtown. I think it’ll be really cool for parents and families to be able to go downtown and catch a game and then do whatever. I think it’s really cool for the Spokane schools they got sort of a central place.”
On the field
Myers thinks his young team is ready to start competing.
“I think we’re ahead of where I thought we’d be,” he said. “You know, we are young but I am really impressed with the group of kids we’ve got. We don’t have very many juniors but the ones we have are really invested and they’ve worked hard. We have a pretty good-sized sophomore class that’s going to be the bulk of our varsity team and they’re probably one of the most talented single classes I’ve seen.
“There’s a bunch of them that would be playing varsity football no matter where they were this year.”
Myers’ players have earned his respect with their work ethic and discipline through summer lifting and fall practice.
“They’re smart football players, they work hard, they have a real businesslike mentality towards getting things done,” he said. “They don’t present as sophomores. They seem pretty mature as football players to me. Sometimes I need to remind myself we are dealing with a couple of juniors and mainly sophomores.”
Myers knows the reality of 15- and 16-year-olds going against 17- and 18-year-olds on a weekly basis and has plans to try to keep kids healthy throughout the season.
“We’re not banging four days a week. We’re mindful of how much wear and tear we’re putting on the kids in practices. We can get a lot of things done without having to go full-speed or collide all the time and keeping kids healthy and ready to play on Friday nights.”
Myers doesn’t expect motivation will be a factor for the Falcons, regardless of the score.
“They understand what they signed up for,” he said. “Taking loses is part of the process, you know, whether you’re a brand-new school or whether you’ve been around for 100 years. So everyone’s going through growth.”
Myers envisions the pay-off.
“These sophomores, by the time they are seniors, they’ll have played two years of varsity football – and not just being on the team watching on the sidelines – they’ll be on the field, they’ll be depended on, they will have played against 18-year-olds. And then when they’re 17-18 themselves the game’s gonna be a lot slower for them, and they’ll have been doing this for a long time.”
Myers was ebullient with praise for some individual players to be on the lookout for this season with the Falcons. It started with a pair of players he said will contribute heavily on offense and defense.
Nico Pena and Kole LeGrant, both sophomores, are expected to be a 1-2 punch in the offensive backfield and leaders on defense in linebacker spots. Pena brings size to the position (5-foot-9, 195) and LeGrant breakaway speed.
“Nico’s one of the strongest kids on our team and he’s incredibly fast for his size,” Myers said. “He’s agile, he’s a really smart football player. We’ve looked at putting him in a couple different linebacker positions based on what we have available to us. He’s just got a great football instinct.”
“Kole is the smaller and quicker of the two,” Myers continued. “He is the fastest kid on our team. He’s gonna be really exciting to watch.”
They’ll take the ball from quarterback Tanner Smith, who will occasionally play some defensive end.
“Tanner is a really good athlete,” Myers said. “Another strong kid, smart football player, really good athlete. These kids have all been in the weight room all summer, so it shows.
“He’s used to being physical. He’s tough. And he’s really dependable, consistent.”
Myers described ninth-grade receiver Brayden Allen as a “special talent.”
“I’m really excited to see how he develops,” Myers said. “He’s really intuitive, he picks up things real quick, he’s fast, agile, he’s got great feet. He’s very coachable. He asks questions. He wants to get better at it. He improves quickly, because he gets that feedback, and we’re expecting a fair amount from him despite being a freshman.”
Junior Jaden Long and sophomore Deakon Sell will also play receiver and defensive back, and Myers is high on both.
“We’re pretty pleased with what we’ve got in terms of the skill positions, and up-front we’re big – we’re just young,” he added.
Myers cited his two tackles, Nate Fitzpatrick (6-2, 240) and Luke Ferguson (6-3, 255) as being anchors on both sides of the ball.
“No one over 300 pounds, but that’s okay – we want athletic, we want quick, smart,” Myers said. “You don’t have to be a 300-pounder in high school football to be an effective offensive lineman.”
Myers relishes the idea of building a team from the beginning instead of inheriting someone else’s traditions – or shortcomings.
“Building our culture from the get-go,” Myers said. “It’s really cool that we get to set those expectations and we’ve got a great group of kids that have latched right onto it. I think they came here because they wanted to compete right away. There’s no waiting your turn at this school. If you can play, you’ll play.”
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