PROSSER -- Being a coach's son isn't easy.
Nor is playing quarterback -- especially at Prosser High School, home of current Heisman Trophy candidate Kellen Moore.
If you happen to be both, that's just asking for trouble.
In fact, it was Kellen's dad -- legendary Mustangs coach Tom Moore -- who used to say, 'If you're going to be a quarterback, you'd better be pretty good if you're the coach's kid.' "
Fortunately, Ryan Fassler is handling himself just fine in the role, leading No. 3 Prosser into the 2A state quarterfinals for the fifth time in the last six seasons. The Mustangs (10-1) will face Ellensburg (9-3) at noon Saturday at Tomlinson Stadium at Central Washington University in a CWAC grudge match.
The 5-foot-11 junior, whose father, Doug, serves as Prosser's defensive coordinator, isn't oblivious to the pressures of the position, but he relishes the challenge.
"There's a lot of pressure involved. If you make a mistake on defense, not a lot of people notice. If you screw up at quarterback, everybody sees it," Fassler said. "I like that I get to touch the ball on every play."
After serving as a backup to TJ Finn last season, Fassler took over in Week 1 in a 41-12 loss to Kamiakin. Even though the Mustangs didn't win, Fassler gave his coach, Benji Sonnichsen -- a former Prosser signal-caller himself -- enough confidence to put him in charge of the offense.
"We talk a lot about FBI -- football intelligence -- and he showed it on the first play of the year. He called a play, got to the line of scrimmage and saw that it didn't look good, so he checked to something else," Sonnichsen said. "At practice, I'll go through the script and ask him, 'Where are your eyes at?' and he can tell me. That's what sets him apart.
"Plus, you usually don't see a 70 percent completion rate as a junior."
Fassler got an early start at quarterback, playing for a run-heavy Grid Kids program in fourth grade and competing with many of his current teammates.
"Grid Kids quarterback is not that glorious," Fassler said. "We had some great running backs on that team. I wasn't that great."
Still, he dreamed about playing quarterback for Prosser.
"You grow up watching those guys. As a kid, you dream of the chance to one day step into their shoes. It's been a dream come true," said Fassler, who quickly has become one of the most prolific passers in Mustangs history.
In 10 starts this season, Fassler has averaged 225 passing yards a game, putting him behind only Moore's 257 per game. Fassler also has cracked several of Prosser's top-10 career passing lists, including total yardage (ninth, 2,415), completions (ninth, 163) and touchdowns (ninth, 27).
Fassler gives plenty of credit to the people around him: The offensive line that protects him, the talented receivers to whom he delivers the ball and the coaching staff that directs him.
But plenty of that guidance also comes from his father. Even though they work on different sides of the ball, Ryan benefits from his dad's knowledge and experience when it comes to handling a defense.
"We have a lot of fun with the offense-defense stuff," Doug said. "He'll tell me to keep (opponents) under 30 points, and I'll tell him if he can squeak out a field goal, that would be great."
But underneath the joking lies an honest admiration for his son's ability to conduct himself in the pocket and lead an offense.
"He's very accurate. That's his strength. And I've never really seen him get rattled. He's an even-keel kind of guy," said Doug, who admits to sometimes sneaking a peek at the offense while his defense waits for instruction on the sidelines.
Ryan is comfortable enough to make his own decisions in the pocket, but he doesn't hesitate to ask his dad for advice. After all, there's a defense designed to stop every kind of offense.
"He's the one who introduced me to football. If I have trouble reading a defense, he's always there to help me," he said. "I'll ask him what defenses are doing and how we can attack them."
Asked if his dad would let him play defense, Ryan delivers an emphatic no.
"I played one down on defense last year on JV, and I gave up a touchdown," he said. "The guy was running a slant right at me. I was trying to decide whether to pick it off or tackle him, and I decided to do neither. He just ran right by me."
One thing about Fassler that endears him to teammates is his desire to improve. Two summers ago, he attended the Manning Passing Academy in Thibodaux, La., where he rubbed elbows with NFL rookies Andy Dalton and Christian Ponder as well as current college standouts Jordan Jefferson and Kellen Moore.
The camp helped him refine his leadership abilities, but teammates will tell you his talent has been there from the beginning.
"Against Quincy, we connected on a 91-yard touchdown. He threw it perfectly between two defensive backs. One guy was playing four yards in front of me, and another was on my top shoulder six yards in front. I don't know how he threw it, but he got it in the only place I was able to get to it," said junior Danny Raap, the Mustangs' leading receiver this season (46 catches, 802 yards, 12 TDs).
"That's one thing you notice about Ryan. He always wants to get better."
Every day, he gets that much closer.
* Jack Millikin; 509-582-1406; firstname.lastname@example.org