It was a night best erased from the memory banks of the Black Hills High School football program.
It was opening night of the 2011 season, and the Wolves, when it was all over, were on the extreme wrong end of a 60-7 loss to Montesano.
That wasn’t the worst of it for then-junior Shayne Robinson. The speedy wide receiver, expected to be a solid contributor for the Wolves, broke his right foot in four places during the game and was lost for the season.
“An injury is the most difficult thing for a player to go through,” Black Hills coach Jack Zilla said. “Shayne has verbalized that every play can be your last. That’s a great lesson in life.”
The Wolves put that first-night debacle behind them and, after a 31-28 nonconference loss to Shelton in Week 2, started out 3-0 in 2A Evergreen Conference play with wins over Centralia, River Ridge and Aberdeen.
Black Hills lost its final three EvCo games before finishing the season on a good note with a 23-7 nonconference victory over Bremerton. The final record was 4-6 overall, 3-3 in EvCo play.
Robinson could only watch. As bad as that was, he turned the ordeal into a learning experience.
“It really made me humble,” he said, “to realize the plays I took off. It made me realize that I need to go as hard as I can every play.”
His Wolves teammates were there for him, he said, and he used the time off to do what he could to make himself a better player.
He strengthened his arms and hands. And he studied – other high school players, and receivers in college and the pros – to see the routes they ran and how to make his own routes more precise.
Now, on the cusp of his final high school football season, his foot has healed. He is the fastest player on the team, and Zilla said no player worked harder in the weight room over the summer than the 6-foot, 180-pound Robinson.
“He’s a solid senior leader,” Zilla said. “He has a great rapport with the other players.”
To get the ball in Robinson’s hands, Zilla has two players working at quarterback to execute his shotgun zone option offense – Miles Smiley, a senior transfer from Germany, and junior Zach Joaquin.
Senior running back Jesse Perkinson, described by Zilla as a “solid technician,” is the leader in the backfield.
“When we need clutch yards,” Zilla said, “Perkinson would be a go-to guy.”
Seniors Marquise Wall and Conrad Nygren should get carries as H-backs, Zilla said.
In Zilla’s perfect world, however, linebackers Wall and Nygren would lead the Black Hills defense and the Wolves would play pure two-platoon football.
Zilla prefers as few two-way players as possible because it keeps his players fresh and “gives us the best chance to win,” he said.
“The game’s not won or lost in the first half or the third quarter,” Zilla said. “Games are won or lost in the end.”
The Wolves have been practicing crisply, the coach said, as they aim for a home non-conference opener against Clover Park on Friday.
Zilla said he doesn’t set numerical goals for his team, in terms of wins or other categories. For example, instead of a player saying he’s shooting for six solo tackles, he’d rather the goal be to make every solo tackle available to him.
“We do everything in our control to give us the best chance,” Zilla said. “Winning is not in our control.”
Robinson’s only stated goal is for his team to be better than last year. As a personal goal, he’d like to go on to play college football.
“I’m hoping this is kind of a breakthrough year for me,” he said.
More than most players, Robinson understands any play, any game, any season of football could be his last.
Home games in CAPS. All games at 7 p.m.
Friday, Aug. 31: CLOVER PARK
Thursday, Sept. 6: North Thurston
Friday, Sept. 14: Bainbridge Island
Friday, Sept. 21: ABERDEEN
Friday, Sept. 28: River Ridge *
Friday, Oct. 5: W.F. WEST *
Friday, Oct. 12: Capital *
Friday, Oct. 19: CENTRALIA *
Friday, Oct. 26: Tumwater * About the Wolves
Coach: Jack Zilla, 15th year
2011 record: 4-6, 4th in league.
Offense: Coordinator (set) - Jack Zilla (shotgun). Returning starters - 4. Top players - OL Zach Grate, 6-0, 200, jr.; WR Jesse Perkinson, 5-8, 180, sr,; WR Shayne Robinson, 6-0, 180, sr.; WR Max Trotter, 5-9, 160, sr.
Defense: Coordinator (set) - Eric Snelson (3-4). Returning starters - 5. Top players - DB Nick Knittle, 5-7, 160, jr.; LB Conrad Nygren, 5-8, 195, sr.; DB Mitch Stone, 5-8, 160, Jr.; LB Marquise Wall, 6-0, 210, sr.
Outlook: One emerging positive sign for the Wolves this summer is the turnout numbers – up to 65 players after ending last season with 50. After a string of seasons with one quarterback, Black Hills will feature a two-quarterback system with senior Miles Smiley (passer) and junior Zach Joaquin (runner). * 2A Evergreen Conference game firstname.lastname@example.org