The first step in overcoming a problem is admitting you have one, and when the Kamiakin Braves take the field against Shadle Park this afternoon at Lampson Stadium, they will be lining up across from one of the most prolific passers in state history, one who most likely will own nearly every passing record when he is through.
“He’s a really good quarterback, and it’s a real challenge,” Kamiakin coach Scott Biglin said Friday evening.
A challenge that pits the defense of the Braves (9-2) against the vaunted offense of the Highlanders (10-1) in a Class 3A state quarterfinal with a 2 p.m. kickoff.
Rypien is having the kind of season you have to see to believe, and even then it is unbelievable. With nearly 3,800 yards and 52 touchdowns through the air, Shadle has topped 40 points in seven games.
There is no one or two receivers to take away, with five different pass catchers with at least 40 receptions and 478 yards. Tanner Pauly leads the pack with 56 catches for 1,034 yards and 176 points scored (he also kicks extra points), and Nick Kiourkas has 58 catches for 807 yards.
“They got a lot of ways,” Biglin said of SP’s passing options, noting that Rypien makes it tough to get any pressure on him.
“He makes some really, really good decisions, and they’re quick,” Biglin said. “It’s not like he stands back there three, four seconds. It’s about 21⁄2 seconds and it’s gone.”
By contrast, Kamiakin’s top receiver numbers-wise is Austin Gutierrez with 32 catches for 656 yards and seven TDs, and the Braves have an outstanding passing game behind senior quarterback Kylle Robertson.
“If you put Kylle in a spread offense, he might have 3,500 yards as well,” Biglin said of his QB, who has thrown for 2,191 yards and 23 TDs.
“We know that in order for us to make a run, we need to be balanced.”
That has been the key to the Braves’ success: Robertson having time in the pocket mixed in with a healthy dose of running back Umid Ramizov.
Not only has the big senior back churned out 1,598 yards and 21 scores, but he also gives the Braves a chance to control the clock, which will be key today.
Ramizov is coming off a terrific performance in the first-round win over Columbia River, with 197 yards and a TD on offense and 31⁄2 sacks from his defensive end spot.
“In the last few weeks, we’ve thrown a lot (of offensive looks) out there,” Biglin said. “Against Columbia River, we ran a two tight end package, and they never adjusted to it.”
Shadle Park’s one loss this season came early to Ferris, when the Saxsons rushed three and dropped eight into coverage and still got pressure on Rypien.
Whether Kamiakin can duplicate that particular strategy remains to be seen, but Biglin and his coaching staff have imparted a key message to the players throughout the week.
“Play the next play,” Biglin said. “They’re going to hit some plays on you. They’re going to score points on us. What (the players) have to do is look forward, look ahead.”