Caleb Weber treats opposing ball carriers and books the same way — he hits them hard.
From his middle linebacker spot, the 6-foot-2, 230-pound Weber has sparked a Riverhawks defense giving up an average of 217 yards and just under 13 points per game this season. The stifling defense is a big reason why Chiawana is 9-1 and headed to the state playoffs ranked as the No. 7 Class 4A team in Washington.
The Riverhawks host Skyview (7-3) at 3 p.m. Saturday at Edgar Brown Stadium.
But the hard-hitting senior has a lot more going for him than great tackling form and closing speed on quarterbacks. Since his junior year, he’s gone to school full time at Washington State University Tri-Cities through Running Start, and is on track to be a college junior when he graduates from Chiawana in the spring.
Chiawana coach Steve Graff said Weber’s blend of talent and intelligence makes him a valuable asset for the Riverhawks.
“The smarter a guy is, the easier they are to coach. They figure things out a little bit easier,” Graff said. “He’s a good leader. He’s been a good leader. He’s played for us since he was a sophomore, so he does a good job.
“He’d do well in just about any spot we’d put him, probably.”
Weber plays running back on the offensive side and is often called upon to be a lead blocker for star tailback Andrew Vargas. Weber also takes some snaps at tight end.
Even with the busy schedule of a high school kid taking college classes, Weber finds time throughout the day to pore over game film before the team starts practicing. He said the extra study sessions give him a leg up on Friday nights — and now Saturday afternoons in the playoffs — over opponents and allow him to help teammates get in better position to make plays.
“(Seahawks safety) Earl Thomas said it best: ‘There’s nothing better than when you know what a team is going to do before they do it,’ ” Weber said. “So I can recognize a formation and I know the statistics of what they run — like run or pass out of it — and what the possibility of it is that they’re going to run certain plays. So they’ll line up in a certain formation, and I know that they run 50 percent of the time, and I’ll know that of that 50 percent, they run zone left 20 percent of the time.”
In addition to Thomas, Weber said he looks up to former Baltimore Ravens linebacker and likely Hall of Famer Ray Lewis, who was regarded for his terrier-like attitude toward game preparation during his playing days.
Weber said he wants future generations of Riverhawks to follow his example of putting in the work to get prepared both physically and mentally for opposing teams.
“When I’m sitting in a class next to a dude that’s anywhere from 20 to 40 who knows his stuff, and if I don’t know mine, it just kind of sucks for me. I don’t really have an excuse,” Weber said. “When it comes to the football field, I have that same mentality that I need to put in more extra work than the next guy. So I get out here and try to watch more film than I know anyone else on the team is.”
Weber’s brother Alex graduated in 2014 and was the Mid-Columbia Conference’s Defensive Player of the Year his senior season. He now plays for the University of Pennsylvania and is studying business and Chinese.
Caleb Weber said he may follow in his brother’s footsteps by attending an Ivy League school — he doesn’t want to go to school in Washington. He plans to study economics and get a job on Wall Street.
On Saturday, he’s hoping to get a big return on all that work and time he’s invested.