Brad Wallace is indisputably The Man for the River Ridge Hawks football team.
Last year, as a junior running back, he rolled up 1,246 rushing yards, another 421 yards receiving and scored 17 touchdowns, including one on a kickoff return. He earned first-team All-2A Evergreen Conference honors on offense, and was also a standout on defense. So which Hawk player, more than any other, talks up the virtues of team play, points out the speed and versatility of his skill-position teammates, and never fails to remember the linemen in front of him?
I like to include everyone, Wallace said. When you play as a team, you work better.
We have a very fast team. We have more than one go-to guy.
River Ridge coach Steve Schultz agrees with his senior leader that the Hawks this year have a number of weapons on offense but none more lethal than Wallace.
Hes a competitor, Schultz said. All he cares about is winning. He couldnt even tell you his stats. All he could tell you is about the games that broke our hearts last year.
In 2011, the Hawks opened with two straight non-league victories, then won just once the rest of the season to finish 3-6, 1-5 in EvCo play.
A cluster of players who gained seasoning last year are back to play big roles this year.
Senior quarterback Colby Schultz returns as the starter after completing 55 percent of his passes in 2011, with a 2-1 touchdown-interception ratio.
Hes still not big 5-foot-7 but his coach, who is also his father, says Colby has increased his arm strength this season.
Hes making great reads and putting the ball in the right spots, Coach Schultz said of QB Schultz.
Senior wide receiver Wesley Coats caught 31 passes for 472 yards and seven touchdowns last season to earn first-team All-EvCo honors.
Wesley Coats is a great route-runner, Schultz said.
At the other wide receiver spot, the Hawks have pure speed in Dejuan Frye, a transfer from Alabama who was a state medalist on the River Ridge 4-by-100 relay team at the state Class 2A track meet last spring.
Its speed again in Chris Leiba, who will run alongside Wallace in the Hawks two-back sets.
Its a good offense for this team, said Wallace, who was succinct in assessing running mate Leiba: Hes good.
And then theres Wallace himself, who might line up as a wide receiver or even tight end. As a freshman in 2009, he caught 42 passes for 742 yards.
Our skill position guys can play with anyone we match up with this season, Schultz said. Were going to be able to put some pressure on some people, side-to-side and end zone-to-end zone.
The Hawks return leadership in senior captain Theo Cobb, a second-team all-EvCo selection on the offensive line last season.
Also returning is 220-pound Rayne Lemaster, an offensive tackle-defensive end whose season-ending injury in last years third game was a major blow, Schultz said.
Wallace has many talents as an offensive player, but the trait Schultz calls his most important in running the football is an ability to see to the next level, beyond the first would-be tacklers to the next wave, and make his cuts accordingly.
Wallace describes it like this: When the first guy turns his hips, the second guy usually turns his hips, too. I just watch their hips.
For Wallace, who in three years of varsity football has amassed 5,690 all-purpose yards and 46 touchdowns, the next level also means the next step up in the football world. Hes generated serious interest from Big Sky Conference schools and has also had cordial overtures from Oregon and Washington State, Schultz said.
Wallace is in no hurry to make a decision.
Im letting it come, he said. He has options: he was Evergreen Conference MVP in basketball in 2011-12, and he stars in baseball, too.
For now, hes ready for whats in front of him and his football teammates. Opponents better be ready, too.
Theyre not going to be able to lock up just one person, he said. Theyre not going to be able to stop everything.
RIVER RIDGE HAWKS SCHEDULE
Home games in CAPS. * denotes Evergreen 2A conference game. All games at 7 p.m.
Friday, Aug. 31: at Timberline
Friday, Sept. 7: SEQUIM
Friday, Sept. 14: RIDGEFIELD
Friday, Sept. 21: at Hockinson
Friday, Sept. 28: BLACK HILLS *
Friday, Oct. 5: at Centralia *
Friday, Oct. 12: at W.F. West *
Thursday, Oct. 18: TUMWATER *
Friday, Oct. 26: at Capital *
ABOUT THE HAWKS
Coach: Steve Schultz, 10th year
2011 record: 3-6, 6th in league.
Offense: Coordinator (set) – Steve Schultz (zone read). Returning starters – 8. Top players – WR Wesley Coats, 6-0, 170, sr.; OL Theo Cobb, 6-0, 200, sr.; OL Rayne Lemaster, 6-3, 220, sr.; QB Colby Schultz, 5-7, 145, sr.; RB/WR Brad Wallace, 6-0, 175, sr.
Defense: Coordinators (set) – Chad Arko, Jerry Madrid (3-5). Returning starters – 7. Top players -DL Vaughn Berg, 5-11, 220, jr.; LB Elijah Camacho, 5-6, 165, jr.; LB Jonathan Lazik, 5-9, 200, jr.; LB Matthew Tucker, 6-0, 205, sr.
Outlook: With a renovated locker room and new helmets and uniforms comes a renewed positive vibe. And Schultz is also discarding his old offense – the spread – and going to something that will create more big plays in the running game. Wallace totaled more than 2,500 all-purpose yards the past two seasons.