Ennis the menace
CENTRAL POINT — The first thing Crater senior Tyler Ennis wants you to know is that it takes a collective effort for any of the Comets to have defensive success, there is no one player above another.
The second thing he’d like you to know is that the 5-foot-10, 195-pound linebacker is absolutely having the time of his life these days.
As a pivotal cog in a defensive wheel that has accounted for four straight shutouts entering Saturday’s Class 5A football state semifinals against third-seeded West Albany, Ennis is excited as any about No. 2 Crater’s first Final Four berth in four years.
Kickoff will be 5 p.m. at Autzen Stadium in Eugene.
“It’s kind of like a dream come true,” says Ennis of his final high school season. “It feels great, but we’re not done yet.”
A lot has changed since Ennis assumed a starting role as a sophomore.
Crater went 5-5 that season after allowing 26 points per game. This year, the Midwestern League South champion Comets stand 10-1 and are limiting opponents to 9.5 points and 236 yards per game.
“My sophomore year it was really hard losing all those games because I was pretty used to winning all the time with my teammates,” says Ennis. “We just kept telling each other that when it’s our senior year, it’s going to be the year. We’re going to become the best Crater team that’s ever been through here and we’re going to go to state. All these things that we were dreaming about, we have a chance to make it happen right now.”
Ennis has played no small role in all of that, taking on a more vocal role with the defense this season and giving his all to recently be named the MWL South defensive player of the year.
“He’s dialed in to what we’re trying to do defensively,” says Crater head coach Randy Waite, “and that’s a testament to his ability of getting guys in the right spot to play the kind of defense that we play.”
“We all trust him,” adds the coach. “He’s bought in since we’ve been here as a staff and you don’t have to worry about grades or any extracurricular or off-field stuff with him. He’s pretty much what we want as a football player.”
For someone who has toiled in the shadows for most of his career, having such a positive light shed on him — as with his MWL honor — came as a bit of a shock.
“Trever Davis first told me about it and I looked at him and I was like, are you serious?” recalls Ennis. “I just felt a lot of joy come into me because I’ve really been wanting to get something like that during high school. It meant a lot to me.”
“But then again,” he adds, “you can’t let it get to your head because it doesn’t matter what awards you win if you don’t carry it out through the season and keep trying your best.”
And, as Ennis points out, his award is one that should be shared throughout Crater’s starting defense.
“Pretty much every single spot on our defense has a guy there that’s just as deserving,” he says. “I think every one of our starters could have been the defensive player of the year.”
That’s where Crater carries as unified of a front as any.
Defensively, the Comets have gotten to where they are thanks to all 11 players working as one staunch unit.
Joining Ennis at the second level are seniors Brady Brock and James Ruth and sophomore Caden Lasater, while the front line of senior Jacob Chenoweth, junior William Woitte and sophomore Jimmy Jordahl has been especially helpful in freeing up the linebackers.
“Brady Brock is one of my closest friends on defense and he’s very strong and fast and he also knows what to do,” says Ennis. “(Lasater) is just phenomenal, he’s so good for his age, and James Ruth just does his job every single game. He’s undersized but that doesn’t really stop him from hitting hard.”
“Jimmy’s been really, really good this year just holding down the D-line and keeping the quarterbacks and running backs contained, funneling it into us and getting his own sacks as well,” adds the 17-year-old. “I feel really confident with Woitte up in front of me making sure that I don’t get any down blockers, and then Chenoweth just does his thing, too.”
The secondary has also been instrumental in slowing passing and running attacks with seniors Gavin Acrey and Bruce Cwiklinski at cornerback, senior Robert Amoson at safety and junior twins Brady and Blake Eaton also at safety.
“It’s been very helpful having the guys around me that I do because you can always count on them to do what’s right when the moment calls for it,” says Ennis. “We always push each other every single day, every single practice. We get at each other and we expect certain things from each other, and we try not to fail as much as possible.”
Those efforts have resulted in six shutouts overall, a current streak of 17 straight scoreless quarters and the lowest point total scored by unbeaten No. 1 Thurston (31-20 on Sept. 20), the reigning 5A state champion.
“I definitely wasn’t thinking that we were going to get as many shutouts as we’ve gotten this season,” says Ennis, “but if you work hard, you get out of it what you put in.”
“Ever since we were kids,” he adds, “we’ve all been on the same team and we wouldn’t let people score on us basically for entire years. I think since all of us are still playing together now, we’re just carrying that on.”
Ennis downplays his own role by suggesting that he would consider himself more dependable than anything else, someone who keeps his wits about him at all times and tries to give confidence to those around him.
For Waite, the senior is all that and more.
“He definitely has a nose for the football,” says the coach. “He flies to the ball, he stops the run and he’s really good at getting rid of guard blockers and things like that fitting his gap where he needs to be and trusting his other guys that they’re going to be where they need to be.”
“That’s really the cornerstone of our defense,” adds Waite. “It’s not go see the football and go make a play, it’s do your job and trust that your other guys are going do their job and then we’ll run to the football, and Tyler does that better than most. He’s just a great kid.”
Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, email@example.com, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry