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Kannon Katzer of Mt. Spokane carries the ball during a 3A GSL title game against Shadle Park at Joe Albi Stadium on Nov. 1, 2019. The Mt. Spokane Wildcats bested the Shadle Park Highlanders 42-8. (Libby Kamrowski / The Spokesman-Review)

Mt. Spokane’s offensive line clears way to state 3A playoffs

It was the second week of September and Mt. Spokane had just dismantled Moses Lake 34-13 in its first home game of the season – just a week after opening the season in Kalispell with a 38-35 victory over Glacier High School.

Through those first two games the Wildcats had run, well, wild. Senior do-everything-back Kannon Katzer had run for 471 yards and scored nine touchdowns.

Running backs always grab the headlines, but no back has ever blasted through an opposing defense and scampered into an end zone without having some horses in front of him at the snap of a football.

Coach Terry Cloer was grinning from ear-to-ear with the return of Katzer, his prime offensive weapon after an injury-plagued season. But more than that, he was delighted with the play of his offensive line.

And he placed the reason for that line play at the feet of his new offensive line coach, Tim Trout.

“He’s a great guy and a great coach,” Cloer said. “He’s done a fantastic job with those guys.”

The job looks even more impressive as the Wildcats open the State Class 3A playoffs at Joe Albi Stadium Friday night against Peninsula High from Gig Harbor.

Few things about football thrill Trout more than outstanding line play, but one of them was the 49-20 win over Kamiakin last week that launched Mt. Spokane into the state playoff bracket.

“I’m a Kennewick kid,” Trout laughed. “Beating Kamiakin felt really good to me.”

Trout began his coaching career at Mead in 1992 and moved to Mt. Spokane to be an assistant to Mike McLaughlin when the school opened. In 1998 he was tapped to head coach at West Valley when Steve Kent resigned after back-to-back 2-7 seasons.

He left WV in 2004 to become a vice principal at Shadle Park, but his career eventually moved back to the Mead School District.

A lineman for longtime coach Ed Troxel at Kennewick before playing center at Eastern Washington, Trout was coaching the offensive line for the Mt. Spokane junior varsity when Cloer asked him to come up and work with his varsity squad.

“I think it helps that I worked with all of these guys on junior varsity and they’ve been brought up with the way we play on the offensive line,” Trout said.

The Wildcats start Matt McNitt and Ryan Luders at the tackles, Jaymon Funk and Tyler Dallas at guard and Carter Miethe at center. Brandon Colman and Colton Swanson rotate at tackle, Austin Keele at guard and Ben Dehle at center.

Trout believes any of the nine players in his line rotation can come into a game and get the job done.

Junior center Miethe, wearing the same number his brother Mason wore as the Wildcats’ center, is the linchpin to the team’s line play.

“He works super hard,” Trout said. “He’s an academic out there, and he’s the guy running the show.”

By the time he’s done at Mt. Spokane a Miethe will have started at center for the Wildcats for five straight seasons.

That he takes to the position like a duck takes to water isn’t a surprise. His father is former Rogers head coach Matt Miethe, who left the Pirates for a brief tenure as offensive line coach at Whitworth.

“Carter is easily the most improved player we’ve had over the course of the season,” Trout said. “He just gets it. He’s the one who makes all the line calls out there. He’s taken charge on the field.”

That’s key to the way Mt. Spokane runs its offense. Line calls do not come in from a coach on the sideline. Linemen make those calls at the line of scrimmage.

“We went into CV, and we ran for 400 yards, just not into the end zone like we wanted,” Trout said. “We talked with our linemen before the game and I said ‘Guys, how do you want to run counter tonight?’ They told me how they wanted to run it and then went out and did it. That’s their maturity showing.

“We have a call that allows us to flip a play. If they see the right defensive alignment, they can run the play the other direction. That’s the line’s call.”

It’s something that makes their coach exceptionally proud.

“They’ll come off the field and say ‘hey coach, we flipped that play – did you see that?’” Trout said. “They’re the same when they make a mistake. They come off the field and will say, ‘Hey coach, I blew that play.’ We’ll go back and review the play on tape, and we’ll coach ‘em up and get better.”

Trout is pleased with the way his center grasps the game.

Taller than his brother, Miethe spent the summer in the Mt. Spokane weight room to better handle opposing linemen.

“When you have a bigger defensive lineman across from you, you have to adapt,” he explained. “We had Carter working against a bigger lineman in practice and I just told him he had to ‘physics’ it all out.”

When the junior got a puzzled look on his face, the longtime science teacher gave him a lesson how to deal with objects in motion.

“I explained that if a guy’s momentum is already taking him in one direction, all he really needs to do is help him go in that direction,” Trout laughed. “He got it in one take.”

The strength of the line’s performance lies in its chemistry.

“That’s really a year-to-year thing,” Trout said. “For this group I really think it goes back to that first game. We went over to Kalispell, and we didn’t play all that well, especially in the beginning.

“We had some questionable calls that the players didn’t like – that the coaches didn’t like either, for that matter. We just had to decide how good we were going to be. We’ve continued to get better ever since. I still don’t know just how good we can be.

“Even in the last three games, where we played Rogers, North Central and Shadle Park, we really did practice better. We had better weeks of preparation. I think part of that is that we have a very good senior group that knows that this might be their last high school football game. We’re believing.”