Usually on any football team, there are a handful of players considered indispensable.
But as far as Prosser coach Benji Sonnichsen is concerned, there isn’t a wide receiver on his team that he’d trade out. Nor would quarterback Ryan Fassler, who has been the fortunate beneficiary of six capable and dependable targets this season.
Even if the scouting report told you to watch out for just one.
“They’re really, really good,” Fassler said. “It makes being the quarterback really easy. They run great routes and catch everything.”
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Sterling Clark, Trino Flores, Harley Hall, Ethan Hibbs, Danny Raap and Mason Schutt comprise the Mustangs’ receiving corps. They can’t all be on the field at once, but each has something different to bring to the table.
Raap was a shooting star last year, earning a spot on the Class 2A All-State team. But after catching 47 passes for 11 touchdowns in 2011, he sees double coverage on almost every play. That has opened things up for Clark and the rest of the group in the Mustangs’ spread offense.
Even for the ones not catching as many passes.
“We take pride in helping each other,” said Hall, a 5-foot-10 senior who has developed a reputation for his fearless routes over the middle and willingness to take a tough hit for needed yardage.
“I work hard to make my teammates look good,” Hall said. “By doing those routes, it opens things up for the other guys.”
Ask Clark, a senior whose stock has risen among college recruits this season after putting in a year of grueling work. The 5-11 speedster emerged from being a role player last season to the leading pass-catcher on the team in 2012 with 61 (16 of them for touchdowns).
“He’s a perfectionist. He wants to do every single detail right,” Sonnichsen said. “We’ll see in (the Othello game), there’s some plays he’s going to make because he pays attention to details.”
Raap, a 6-1 senior, hasn’t fallen off the map. Despite the extra attention from defensive backs, he’s increased his production, totaling 54 catches and 14 touchdowns through 11 games.
There’s some friendly competition between the Clark and Raap for who gets the most looks, but in the end Prosser is the big winner.
“It seems like we get the ball pretty evenly,” Clark said.
The group wasn’t just thrown together at the beginning of the season. Since their days in middle school, coaches have used the same offensive system to groom wide receivers.
“It’s about knowing the system,” Fassler said. “Everybody buys into the program, and you just build on it every year.”
That can mean as much as six years of repetition to get players ready for the moment they might be called upon in a big game.
“We have so many plays. The reason we have so many plays is we have guys who can make plays,” Sonnichsen said. “Then you start getting all those talented players who have been in the system who have earned the right to get the ball.”
Each receiver has their own role within the offense, and they’re all counted on to provide in key moments during games.
“Everybody knows about Danny. He’s strong, fast and explosive. He can make a big play out of nothing,” Fassler said. “Sterling is the fastest player we have. He always matches up against the fastest player on the field. Mason is 6-4. He’s always a mismatch problem. If you put it up for him, he’s going to come down with it.”
Sonnichsen will graduate Clark, Hall and Raap, but he’s got some potential star power coming back in Flores, Hibbs and Schutt.
“(Flores) is going to be our guy next year. He’s the same kid who kicked the game-winning field goal against Ellensburg in 2010 with no time on the clock to give us the league championship. He’s got that composure,” Sonnichsen said. “Hibbs is another burner, a deep threat like Sterling. He can catch it and score from a long ways.”
Sonnichsen is a big fan of Hall, too.
“(Hall) is our unsung hero,” Sonnichsen said. “The guy knows every single receiving spot, because he’s the one who has to play if Danny goes out. He’s the one who wants all the tough routes. He wants to go over the middle. He wants to make the catch and take the hit.
“He’s got 30 catches as our No. 3 receiver.”
But they’re all No. 1 in Mustangs’ fans hearts.