Win in the trenches.
It is a phrase that so often is flung around during film study, practice and interviews, but it serves an important purpose for the final score.
The guys who patrol those trenches are part of the underappreciated facet of football.
Offensive lineman prove valuable to passers and runners while the defensive line supports the coverage men and ball stoppers.
At Shadle Park, head coach Jim Mace believes he has the deepest and most talented trench warriors in the 2A Greater Spokane League.
“We’re fortunate because it’s not normally like this here,” Mace said. “But we really feel like we have 10 guys that could play significant offensive line time and we’re not going to really miss a beat. Same thing goes on the defensive line, they’re just big and the key part is they want to be there.”
It starts with Nathaniel Day, or ‘Hawkeye’ as the Highlanders call him, on the offensive line. He was second-team all-league last season. He’s pair with two more seniors on that offensive line — Mat Torrero and Jake Picard.
Torrero was a second-team all-leaguer on defense and Kaden Watts earned an all-league honorable mention.
If the Highlanders can win up front, Mace is confident Shadle could win back-to-back 2A league titles.
One of the players who benefits most from the talented line in front of him is Tryson Town, a senior three-year captain linebacker and running back. He is undersized linebacker, but that didn’t prevent him from being a first-team all-league player.
“He’s just a greedy guy,” Mace said. “And he’s just able to get the job done. I think as a back, he’s pretty tough, you know between the tackles. (As a captain he) does a pretty good job with his teammates.”
A dominant offensive line also allows for Shadle to control the time of possession. The Highlanders want to run it down the throats of their opponents and to dictate the tempo. They will be a run-first offense and they won’t shy away from that definition.
“If we fall behind and we have to start dropping back to pass a lot of times, it’s probably not the ideal world, despite the fact we have some weapons out there,” Mace said. “But I think if we can establish the run game and stuff the run, teams have to defend our pass or pass against us, we’re going to be in pretty good shape.”
Keep an eye on Nathaniel Joosten, a transfer from Fife High School who plays every skill position on the field. Mace would love to see the ball in his hands 10-12 times a game just because of his explosive ability.
“He’s fast. I mean he’s really, really fast,” Mace said. “And so if we’re getting him to the edge or getting him through a hole, he’s a guy that can make one guy miss and could house it.”
West Valley should be the other team vying for the top spot in 2A.
The Eagles – who shared the 2A title with Shadle a season ago – have historically been a tough 2A opponent, so now that Shadle shares the league with them they can go nose-to-nose every season.
“They are just a really quality program in the area, well coached,” Mace said. “And so we kind of look at them and say, ‘We think every year that’s the team that if we beat we can win the league in 2A.’ And not that there are not other quality teams, but I think that they’ve kind of set themselves as the team to beat every year.”
Last season, the two teams were unable to play due to a COVID-19 outbreak.
It would have pitted two 2A GSL behemoths against one another to fight it out for league title rights.
The two were very evenly matched as both teams held opponents to 10.2 points per game. No other 2A GSL team allowed fewer than 16. The Eagles had the better offense at 38.4 points per game compared to Shadle’s 33.2. Othello was the next-closest at 28.9 points per game.
This year, the two will faceoff on Oct. 9 at Whitworth’s Puryear Field at the Pine Bowl.
Shadle Park kicks off its season on Sept. 3 at Timberlake at 7 p.m.
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