Auburn Mountainview heads east of the mountains tomorrow to face Shadle Park in a first-round state playoff game. We don’t know too much about the Highlanders over here, so I turn to my buddy Neil Stover over at SWX to provide some answers. Stover is the producer of SWX Tonight (also an on-air talent), a local sports highlights show in Spokane and does a great job covering preps.
Stover answers my questions below.
We’ve heard a lot about quarterback Brett Rypien. Does he live up to the hype? What makes him so good?
Does he live up to the hype? In a word, yes. Rypien has been the best quarterback in the state since the day Max Browne first stepped foot on the USC campus. He’s a college level quarterback playing with and against high school level athletes. Now, that doesn’t make him a finished product. He’ll be the first to admit he has plenty to learn and improve when he heads to Boise in January, but compared to the competition at this level, he’s head and shoulders above most.
What makes Rypien so good is that he really has the whole package. He has decent size, a strong, accurate arm, impressive leadership and maturity well beyond his years. There’s a reason so many colleges came calling prior to his commitment to Boise State. He is also a great student of the game, spending hours upon hours watching film of himself, his opponent and other great quarterbacks to finds areas for improvement. There aren’t a lot of high school signal callers in this country who can make reads at the line they way Rypien can.
The Shadle Park offense put up significantly more points last year, what’s been the main difference?
The root of that answer is that Shadle Park underwent a coaching change during the offseason. The Highlanders lost former head coach Alan Stanfield after last season when he left to coach at his alma mater Whitworth University and in his place, they promoted defensive coordinator Jim Mace. Stanfield was something of an offensive guru (which explains his promotion to the college level), and the combination of him and Rypien made for a dynamic, but pass-happy offense. When I talked to Mace before the season started, he made it clear he wanted to bring a more balanced offensive attack this year. Obviously, when you’re putting a heavier emphasis on the run, you’re going to run more time off the clock, which leads to fewer offensive snaps. I think that’s really the biggest reason for the change. Shadle Park’s offense appears to be just as dangerous, if not more so, this year than last year. That said, using the eye test, it seems like Rypien has been under pressure a bit more often this year, and that’s the best way to throw off this offense.
How will freezing temperatures affect the game?
The good news is the game is right in the middle of the afternoon, so temperatures should be right around the freezing mark rather than the low-teen nighttime temperatures we’ve been getting. It’s hard to really quantify any affect the low temperatures may have, but obviously I think it’s more of a detriment to Auburn Mountainview than to Shadle Park. The Highlanders practice in this every day, and most of their players have played plenty of November games throughout their careers. Last year, Shadle Park scored fewer than 27 points in just one of four November games, and that came against Bellevue, so clearly that had more to do with the opponent than the weather. I could see Shadle Park trying to lean more on the run Saturday than they normally do, but it certainly won’t take them out of their offense altogether. Brett Rypien is just too good to take him out of the game plan.
Who leads the Shadle Park defense and how has it looked this year?
What’s interesting about Shadle Park is that unlike most high school teams, the Highlanders don’t use a lot of two-way players. That’s something that started under Alan Stanfield and has continued under first-year head coach Jim Mace. There are pros and cons to that approach: it keeps players fresh and allows them to focus on just one half of the playbook, but it also means you’re not always getting your best athletes on the field.
With that in mind, there are some players who play both offense and defense, and the one I want to highlight is wide receiver/defensive back Cameron Duty. This team as a whole is full of leaders, but Duty seems to bring some heart and passion to that defense. He’s not the biggest guy on the field, but he plays bigger than he is and is a solid defender.
As a whole, the defense has been hit-and-miss this season. They’ve had a few great games this year – they held Kamiakin to just seven points last week – but they’ve also had a few clunkers. They probably aren’t the best defense in the Greater Spokane League’s 3A classification – that distinction goes to Mt. Spokane – but they Highlanders are certainly capable of big games on that side of the ball. I would expect them to bring their ‘A’ game on Saturday and give the offense enough of a chance to get the job done.