Gone is Jordan Downing, the all-state, two-way stud. Gone is Miquiyah Zamora, the fleet-footed acrobat. Gone is C.J. Edrington, the steady, two-way star.
Chiawana High may be mourning its football standouts’ departure, but Alex Weber might make everyone forget all of them soon.
The junior linebacker not only is the vocal leader of a Riverhawks team lacking in seniors, but he also has the physical ability to be an NCAA Division I athlete.
“He reminds me of the Vincent boys (Drew, Luke and Doug) that played at Pasco —some of the really good linebackers we had over there,” said Steve Graff, Chiawana head coach.
“He’s a tough kid. Good competitor. Has a good motor.”
He proved as a sophomore that he has the leadership abilities, taking over Chiawana’s defense when Downing went down to injury.
“When he left, I was responsible for the defense,” Weber said. “It was really difficult. Trying to tell the seniors what to do doesn’t work very well, but we got through it and our team was pretty good.”
This season, Weber doesn’t have to try and boss around his elders, as he is one of the oldest players on the team. The Pasco school has three seniors who will see playing time, and one is new to the program.
“It is a lot easier to lead the team,” Weber said. “We’ve pretty much told the team that we have to play like seniors, even though we are juniors.”
Weber played middle linebacker last season, working with Downing and Grady Graff to form a strong corps that helped make the Chiawana defense the stingiest in the CBBN 4A, allowing just 263 yards and 12.3 points per game.
Weber already is getting noticed, as he was invited to a University of Southern California summer camp.
“There were like 3,000 kids there for five or six different camps,” he said. “I was extremely nervous at first, but when I got there, there were only six or seven kids per group for each coach. So it was crazy. It was a good camp.”
Weber started playing football in grade school with Grid Kids, and figured out in seventh or eighth grade that he wanted to play it full time and potentially pursue a college scholarship.
He transferred from Kingspoint Christian School in Pasco to Chiawana before his sophomore year to make playing football for the Riverhawks easier because Kingspoint’s class schedule overlapped with practice.
“He’s a really good kid,” Graff said. “A good leader.”
One thing that has helped Weber is a family friend, Steve Emtman, a former University of Washington star.
“We go up to his house, and we just talk and talk. He is crazy smart,” Weber said of the former NFL player. “He is telling me pointers that are realistic to get me into college ball. Just telling me some things that I need to start doing, and some things I need to stop doing that are hurting my body.”
All of it is adding up to what Weber hopes is a magical junior year.
Last season, the Riverhawks went into the regional playoffs undefeated at 8-0, despite playing without Downing from Week 6 onward. Chiawana, though, struggled in the crossover game, losing to Central Valley 24-0.
It is something that has stuck with Weber and something he hopes to avoid this season.
“We want to do better than last year,” he said. “We thought it was a fluke against CV. We played a bad game. All of us sophomores had never played in that atmosphere, and we kind of panicked, but now we know what to expect when we come into the playoffs.
“We are expecting to do better than that.”