By Aaron Swaney Herald Writer
Eds. note: Herald prep editor Aaron Swaney visited Kamiak training camp on Wednesday morning.
What’s new: Good health
Over the past two seasons, Kamiak, once a perennial factor in the Wesco playoff picture, struggled down the stretch and missed the postseason.
Injuries were the main factor.
“Everything comes down to being healthy,” Kamiak head coach Dan Mack said. “We got hit with the injury bug last year and it really affected us.”
Of course it’s early but even Mack marveled at the fact that his team’s health is so good.
“You look around and we don’t have one guy on the sidelines,” Mack said.
If Kamiak wants to compete for a Wesco 4A South title, and looking at their roster that is a definite possibility, health down the stretch will be a big factor.
Returning All-Wesco players
First team—Austin Hall, RB; Riley Briggs-Thomas, DL; Tyler Kunard, LB; Second team—Oleg Avramenko, OL; Jacob Meuse, OL; Jordan Mochmar, DL; Honorable mention—Henderson Belk, TE
Player to watch: Austin Hall, RB
According to Mack it can be hard to pick Austin Hall out of the huddle.
“You wouldn’t know if Austin was the leading rusher for us last year or the paper boy,” Mack said. “He’s humble, hard working, intelligent young man. He’s an absolute joy to coach.”
Just wait until Kamiak reaches the red zone, then it’s easy to spot Hall.
During Kamiak’s first practice on Wednesday, when the Knights ran their red zone drill it was a replay of Hall running the ball over the left side into the end zone over and over and over again. It’s something that Wesco teams can expect to see a lot this fall.
“He’s going to have a monster year. We’re really excited for him,” Mack said.
Something that should really put fear into defenses is the fact Hall is healthy going into this season. Last year Hall was battling a severely sprained ankle going into the season and was slowed down by it. Of course the then-junior went on to run for 1,673 yards and 21 touchdowns.
“Austin is healthy this year. He’s quick and he’s ready to go,” Mack said.
That should scare every defense on Kamiak’s schedule.
In a competitive 4A South, Kamiak will lean on Hall a lot. That’s not something Hall is shying away from.
“Honestly I like that more; it makes the games more competitive, more interesting, more fun,” Hall said. “And it’s not like we’re nervous about it. We know that if we prepare like we always do we’ll be fine. We’re not worried about that at all.”
Fresh face: Tyler Becker, QB
Quarterback at Kamiak is a sacred position.
From Gary Rogers to Mark Iddins, the Knights always seemingly had a new young gunslinger to slide under center and put up huge numbers. Over the past two seasons that’s taken a bit of a hit. Anthony Berg always had the promise to be the next big thing, but he battled injuries and never reached his true potential. Last year Brett Ludeman was good but struggled as teammates fell to injury around him.
This year junior Tyler Becker attempts to re-elevate the position to prominence.
Becker edged out senior Nick Taglialavore for the job, but there’s no animosity between the two. In fact during a recent interview with the two, Taglialavore put his arm around Becker in a friendly embrace at one point as he talked about his teammate.
Mack was impressed with the two players’ friendly battle. “It was a really neat thing to see,” Mack said. “For how narcissistic our society can be today, it’s refreshing to see these kids pulling for each other.”
Becker now moves forward as the starter and has to get his feet under him quickly, having never taken a varsity snap behind center. Mack said he’s confident in his new signal-caller.
“I don’t think the moments too big for him,” Mack said. “These kids are going to go out there and perform like he had snaps last year. And I expect (Tyler) to.”
Both Becker and Taglialavore have gotten the stamp of approval from the guy they’ll be handing off to a lot this season.
“I think both of these guys are two of the best quarterbacks I’ve played with,” Hall said.
The Knights’ motto this year is “We Are A Brotherhood.”
The quarterback competition over the summer exemplifies that perfectly. Becker and Taglialavore vied for the job vacated by Brett Ludeman. The two signal-callers pushed each other, cheered each other on and helped one another throughout the process.
“I’d say it wasn’t even really a battle,” Taglialavore said. “Coach tells us all the time take your eyes off yourself and put them on the team. It came down to I never wanted him not to succeed. We’re buddies, so there’s no need for us to be enemies.”
Becker won the job, meaning Taglialavore will play wide receiver. Guess who is one of Becker’s favorite targets?
“As far as a quarterback-receiver bond we connect the most on the team,” Becker said.
With a number of all-Wesco returners, quarterback was the biggest question going into the season. With that settled Kamiak has high hopes.
All-Area running back Hall, who led all Wesco 4A rushers with 1,673 yards last season, returns bigger, quicker and healthy (Hall suffered an ankle injury prior to last season). He’ll be running behind a line that returns four linemen from last season.
“I’m excited and have high hopes for the season,” Hall said.