Athletic directors at the Class 5A level have proven to be the most invested in controlling their own playoff destiny since a switch to the...
Being in the trenches seems only fitting for Cascade Christian senior Trenton Greisen.
It's an area where only the strong can survive, those with the will and determination to fight for every inch of territory and come back and do it all again without blinking.
It's a perfect area for Greisen, who has had to claw his way into the Challengers' starting lineup on both sides of the football after biding his time on the sidelines.
"He's had a great attitude this year as far as really owning up," says Cascade Christian head coach Jon Gettman. "There was a time when we weren't sure if he was a both ways guy and he got ticked off with us about that. That's what I appreciate most about him, he's had that toughness that you need and a little bit of a chippy attitude. It's controlled but still the kind of chippy that you need to play on the line because it is such a grind-it-out kind of game."
Reminded of a preseason that saw his ability to play tackle on offense and defense come into question, Greisen kind of laughs it all off these days.
"Yeah, they wanted to take it easy on me and started putting other guys in and pulling me out, and I wasn't having any of that," says the 6-foot-1, 215-pounder.
Greisen became more invested in his workouts, more invested in practice with the Challengers and more invested in wrapping up his high school career the right way.
All appears to have paid off, with Greisen recently earning first-team all-Southern Cascade Hybrid honors as a left tackle and as a defensive tackle. He has played an integral role for an offense that's averaging 288 yards rushing and 370 overall. On defense, Greisen's main role is to occupy blockers and free up others but he still has made 18 tackles and two sacks for a unit that's allowing only 177 yards per game.
"I think he's really developed into a great offensive lineman as far as the kind of game we're looking for," says Gettman. "He's taking guys on one-on-one and driving them downfield. He really takes pride in how far he gets downfield and he should because he's getting 15 to 20 yards downfield on a given play. He's making that initial block and then working his way out to make other blocks and that's what you need to run the ball like we want."
Greisen says being able to work alongside the likes of Daniel Grissom, Dane Scott, Aaron Cesaro and TJ Alvarez has made life a little easier on the offensive line. Throw in the chance at some pancake blocks as runners like seniors Brandon Williams and Levi Girardot scoot through the hole for big gains and it's been a fun season as a first-time starter for Greisen.
"It's pretty amazing when they can take a 3-foot hole and turn it into 70 yards," says Greisen, 17. "Brandon's a phenomenal running back and a phenomenal player. So many things he does is almost superhuman sometimes. They are two different running backs, Levi and Brandon, but it's fun blocking for each of them. With Levi, if you need a yard, guaranteed he'll get it. It's awesome when you get a block and they turn to you and say, 'Great block,' after you've just flat-backed a kid."
That said, there's something special about the challenge he takes on with Grissom as the starting defensive tackles. Both use their unusual quickness at the position to their benefit, with Greisen's size helping him occupy blockers so that linebackers Scott and Dante Olson can swoop in for the glory.
"A couple times he's made the tackles but mostly he penetrates and creates a lot of problems in the backfield," says Gettman. "That's huge for us to be able to do that. Trenton and Grissom have really controlled a lot of offensive lines with their ability to move down there."
Greisen's greatest challenge of the season, beyond fitting in football and schoolwork between his shifts as a courtesy clerk at Food 4 Less, stands to come Saturday when the Challengers (12-0) square off against Scio in the Class 3A state semifinals. The Loggers (11-1) sport a double tight double wing offensive system that's been racking up 430 yards rushing per game.
In Saturday's other 3A semifinal, Dayton (10-0) and Santiam Christian (10-2) square off at 7 p.m. at Willamette University.
"They don't really do anything fancy, it's just kind of our double wing on steroids," says Greisen. "We've just got to play fast, play hard and really stay low and take out as many blockers as we can because they basically double-team every lineman on the line."
While the challenge stands to be great, it's exactly why Greisen enjoys being out on the field.
"I actually like being double-teamed and having that constant pressure," he says. "It's a challenge. It's not like a traditional game where people are pulling and pass blocking, they maybe pass two or three times per game, it's much more than that. It's about who wants it more."
Considering how hard Greisen has already worked to get on the field, that last factor seems to be a given.