High School Football

Tripp the light fantastic: Kennewick senior opened eyes with play at defensive end in 2007

Kamiakin coach Craig Beverlin knew just what he was going to do last season when his team played Kennewick. On one side of the Lions defense lined up all-league end Danny Engel. On the other side was first-year starter Dakota Tripp.

"Our whole game plan was we figured (Tripp) would be the weaker kid, so we'd run right at him," Beverlin said.

Engel had a big night with a game-high 13 tackles. But it was that Tripp kid who impressed Beverlin.

"After the second quarter, we knew we'd made a mistake," Beverlin said. "We've got (all-leaguers) Kyle Sutphin and Jon Murbach, and they couldn't move him."

Plenty of other coaches in the CBL made the same mistake last year - and like Beverlin lived to regret it.

Lions coach Bill Templeton related a play from last year's game against Walla Walla.

"They run the spread option, and they run his way, and Dakota whacks the ball out of the back's hands, picks it up and scores," Templeton said.

Tripp blossomed into an all-league terror as a junior, leading the team with eight tackles for loss and second to Engel with six sacks among his 40 tackles.

And by season's end, Tripp noticed teams weren't picking on him anymore.

"I liked them doing it," he said. "I got a lot more action. But when they started running to the other side, it was kind of an accomplishment. It meant I was doing my job right."

Now, it's college coaches who are noticing the 6-foot-5, 215-pound Tripp. Washington State and Portland State are the two schools showing the most interest.

"Dakota could definitely be recruited by some of the big boys," Beverlin said.

Tripp didn't start playing football until sixth grade. Baseball was his sport growing up - at least until his father, Tuan, laid out Dakota's future.

"He pretty much said, 'I played high school football, and you'd better get used to it because everyone plays football,' " Tripp said, smiling. "There was quite a bit of peer pressure."

He was a running back and linebacker in Grid Kids and middle school. It wasn't until his sophomore season that he moved to wide receiver and the defensive line, but he played mostly JV ball.

Then came his breakout season, and Tripp not only opened opposing coaches' eyes, but also his own.

"When I got all-conference and started getting some letters from colleges, that's what drew me away from baseball," he said. "I had a free period sixth hour, so I started doing conditioning work then before going to my job (at Lampson International). My life became pretty much football, lifting and conditioning."

The work has paid off. He's added 30 pounds and an inch to his frame, and Templeton predicts big things for Tripp this season.

"His reach is so long, and he's very explosive. He gets off the ball really well," Templeton said. "He can do some things that a kid that big usually isn't able to. And while he's a nice kid, he's got a bit of an edge to him."

Tripp also will have added responsibilities on offense this fall. He started at tight end but was at best a third or fourth option, catching just five passes.

Not this year. "He's a big target, and he has very good hands. We're going to use him in short yardage, both running to his side and throwing to him," Templeton said.

"He'll make plays. People are going to have to know where Dakota is on every play."