With Nirvana blasting “Come As You Are” over the loudspeakers at a recent Hanford Falcons football practice, head coach Brett Jay watched as senior quarterback Garrett Horner fired a pass into double coverage.
That pass was picked off by a Hanford linebacker in the end zone during the team’s live scrimmage near the goal line, the ball run back as the Falcons defense celebrated a rare mistake by Horner.
Suddenly Horner, running back Jared DeVine, and the other members of the offensive unit dropped to the ground and counted off 10 push-ups each.
Jay joined them. And why not? Jay is excited about his team this season, which includes the Mid-Columbia Conference’s top returning quarterback in Horner, and last year’s leading rusher in the MCC in DeVine. And both are three-year starters.
Horner had a pass efficiency rating of 135.9, tossing 22 touchdown passes. He was honorable mention All-MCC. DeVine was a first-team All-MCC selection at running back last season, rushing for 1,027 yards. He also led the conference in all-purpose yardage with 1,294 yards.
For Jay, it’s a blessing to have these two for another season.
“These guys are workers,” Jay said. “It shows you that hard work pays off. We have 39 lifts (weightlifting sessions) in the summer. They lead by example well. They came in to lift after their spring sports. They have done all of that for four straight years. We’ve had a lot of guys come in and do that since then.”
There is a sense of urgency for Horner and DeVine.
“It’s our last chance,” Horner said. “We’ve got a whole different attitude this season. We want at least eight wins. But our main goal is to take down the Big 3 (Richland, Chiawana and Kamiakin).”
The two have been childhood pals. “We’re best friends,” DeVine said.
Ironically, it wasn’t football that brought them together.
“We grew up playing basketball on a team that Jared’s dad coached when we were in fourth and fifth grade,” Horner said.
“We still hang out at school a lot,” DeVine said. “There is a core of us who also play basketball. Me, Garrett, Blake VanderTop, Luke Sutey and Conner Milliken.
“A late start to basketball season would be great.”
That worked well for Richland last season. It meant the football team played for the state title in December. To get there this season, the Falcons will need the 1-2 punch of Horner and DeVine to perform well again.
“Jared is an all-around back,” Jay said. “He can squeeze the football, but he can block well too. He’s in great shape. He’s been running up Carmichael Hill a lot.”
Not just that hill. DeVine says he’s been hitting Badger Mountain some too this offseason.
“This year, we want to use him more,” Jay said. “Last year, he shared backfield duties. His workload will go up.”
And it starts with the snap to Horner, who works closely with Jay — in addition to being head coach, he’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.
“We spend Sundays together watching game film,” Jay said of Horner. “He’s grasped our offense.”
And Horner is allowed leeway out on the field. “Our offense allows audibles for me if I see something,” Horner said. “I’ve had that the last few years, but we really didn’t implement it. This year, I know if I do it, Coach has got my back.”
Jay agrees. “I support what decision he makes,” he said. “You get to a certain relationship with a guy that you start to know what he’s thinking, and he knows what you’re thinking. He knows exactly what I want to do. Next Friday will be Garrett’s 21st start on varsity at quarterback. Actually, he’s the first quarterback I’ve coached for three straight years.”
Don’t just think it’s going to be all pass and no run for the Falcons this season. Not when Jay and Horner have a running back like DeVine to use.
“We always go into the season wanting to be 50 percent pass and 50 percent run,” Jay said. “Last year we were actually 55-45 run. People always look at our system and think we’re more passing than running. But we believe in balance.”
JAY’S RESUME: Jay graduated from River View in Finley in 2002. He came back to coach the Panthers, and led them to the Class 1A state semifinals in 2012. He turned a Class 4A Monroe program around in 2014 with a 7-4 record, but then came back to the Tri-Cities to take over the Hanford program. SENIORS GALORE: Jay says he has a solid core of 30 seniors out for the team. This will be the group that carries the squad. Besides Horner and DeVine, guys like VanderTop (WR/LB), Sutey (DE) and Milliken (OL-DL) will also be leaders. Milliken can bench press more than 350 pounds. … DB Chris Gray is back. Last year, he had four interceptions for the Falcons. … LB Gunnar Beyer is expected to be one of the Falcons’ better defensive players. WRESTLING STAR: Lineman Jonathan Burt went 1-2 at the Class 4A state wrestling tournament in February at 220 pounds, providing the Falcons with another talented interior lineman this season. SCHEDULE: Hanford has a good home schedule. The Falcons host Kamiakin on Sept. 14, Chiawana on Sept. 28, Hermiston on Oct. 19, and they’re the home team for their game against Richland on Oct. 26. Hanford also has a tough nonleaguer Oct. 5 at Sunnyside.