FINLEY, Wash. — At the end of a long, hot day of practice, Ruvim Tyutyunnik's teammates were dragging a bit.
The River View High football team was wrapping up its perimeter runs, circling the practice field in full pads and helmets.
One player, who got caught walking, was forced to do a third lap. As he hit the home stretch, a voice shouted out, "Come on guys. Let's go run it with him."
Tyutyunnik may only be a sophomore at the Finley school. He may only be 15 years old. And he may have only played quarterback for three months, but he is already a natural leader.
More than half of the team responded to his cry, and they ran down and helped the player sprint to the finish line.
"It doesn't matter his age. It doesn't matter who is around him. That is just his personality," said River View coach Brett Jay. "It is all authentic. All real. And players recognize that. It is no show there. It is what it is. He is burning inside to win and people rally behind him."
Jay and his coaching staff first noticed those leadership abilities long before Tyutyunnik, who's known by friends as 'The Russian' because his parents moved here from Russia 18 years ago, showed up at the high school.
So when Jay thrust Tyutyunnik into the starting quarterback job on the second day of spring ball, despite the youngster having no experience under center, the coach figured at worst the kid could lead the team.
"That is just his mentality," said Jay, whose team plays at 7 p.m. today at Union Gap's La Salle High. "He is going to take it head on. He doesn't want any baby steps. He just wants us to tell him what to do, and he'll lead the way."
At spring camp, Jay had a decision to make. The Panthers returned starting quarterback Austin Weatherby, a senior, and last year's backup, Terran Brown, a junior. But Weatherby had some health concerns, and the coaching staff wanted to make it a competition.
So, they took a kid they knew was a superb athlete, a starter at tight end as a freshman. A starter on the basketball and baseball teams. A 6-foot-1, 200-pound linebacker, who they'd never seen throw.
"He has great physical skill sets," Jay said. "For a receiver, for a quarterback, it doesn't really matter. He is just a physical football player."
And once they saw his arm, the decision was easy. They made the sophomore the starter at two-a-days this summer, and after the season-opening 53-7 win over Cowiche's Highland High it was easy to see why.
Tyutyunnik was 14-for-15 for 290 yards and three touchdowns. He also rushed for two touchdowns in the victory. Not a shabby first career start.
"I just hoped that I would do well," he said. "I knew if I got my defensive reads and all of us guys worked together, we'd do good. We have the offensive line, we have the receivers."
Learning to read defenses has been the biggest challenge for Tyutyunnik so far, but with the help of the coaching staff, and Weatherby (who is now a starter on the offensive line) and Brown (wide receiver), he has been a fast learner.
"Going into the first game, we wanted Ruvim to just run the offense," Jay said. "We didn't want to skip a beat, no matter who was at quarterback. And I felt he did that. He is a very intelligent kid."
And he is an athlete, who has virtually no limit, according to his coach.
"You feel there isn't a lid, there is no ceiling," Jay said. "He is going to go as far as he wants, and become as good as he wants. We are going to put every coach around him, every opportunity around him, and you know, just let him work for it."
For now, though, the Panthers and their new quarterback are just concentrating on the task at hand -- winning football games.
"My expectations are that I think we'll win more than we lose," Tyutyunnik said.