If you’re only expecting two seniors to start on offense, Jack Van De Brake is a good one to have.
Likewise if you’re only expecting three seniors to start on defense.
West Valley’s do-it-all playmaker rolled up 1,124 all-purpose yards as a junior, led the CBBN in kickoff returns and was an all-league wide receiver for the second year in a row with 46 catches. And all his impressive numbers a year ago were held back a bit by the Rams having only nine games.
This season, as always, Van De Brake is coming off a summer devoted mostly to baseball. But he’s ready for his final year with the pads and helmet and all that’s required of a senior leader.
“As the only guy back with much experience, I expect to catch a lot of balls,” he said. “I’m obviously OK with that, but we’ve got some other receivers who are looking good. I wasn’t able to go to team camp, but I did what I could with 7-on-7s. It’s just a matter of getting us all together.”
What’s going to help West Valley’s young offense is who’s throwing to Van De Brake and the new crop of receivers. In his first varsity season last year, quarterback Issac Madrigal took full-time hold of the job at midseason and led the Rams to a 3-0 finish.
In those final three games, Madrigal threw only one interception and leaned on the sure-handed Van De Brake, who collected 20 passes for 252 yards and scored four touchdowns as the Rams averaged 44 points in league wins over Moses Lake, Davis and Eisenhower.
There’s no doubting what Van De Brake can deliver on offense and special teams, but this season the 5-foot-11, 170-pound senior would like to elevate his game on defense as the Rams implement a new system.
“Last year I was in and out at safety, but this year I’ll probably be at cornerback and I’m excited for that,” he said. “I think I’m a better fit at corner because it gives me more opportunities to cover one-on-one. That gives me the mindset that I can’t allow myself to get beat and that brings out the competitive side of me.”
Coach Dan Eyman believes he has a young team with a lot of upside. The challenge will be surviving a brutal early season schedule, the same one that led to a 1-5 start last year. The Rams open with nonleaguers against Kamiakin, Prosser and Camas and then start CBBN play at Sunnyside followed by Homecoming against defending league champion Eastmont.
Van De Brake managed nearly 700 yards against that schedule last year and is just the steady veteran to lead this new crew.
“We have the parts to be pretty good,” he said. “We’ve got guys who have been playing together forever, it seems like, so I think we’ll have a good year.”