SPOKANE, Wash. -- With the sun still hiding below the horizon at 7 a.m., bleary-eyed students started to trickle through the doors of Shadle Park High School.
A few teachers sat in classrooms preparing the day’s lesson plan. The halls were quiet. Most of the chairs in football coach Alan Stanfield’s room were still stacked on the desktops.
Sophomore Brett Rypien pulled one of the chairs off a desk. He sat down and tried to explain what happened just a few hours earlier at Joe Albi Stadium.
The 6-foot-2, 175-pound quarterback looked back on the Highlanders’ 62-55 overtime loss to Spokane Valley (Wash.) Central Valley on Thursday night and called the game “ridiculous.”
In addition to throwing for a single-game, state-record 577 yards, he led three fourth-quarter, come-from-behind drives. It was Rypien’s touchdown pass with 21 seconds to play that put Shadle Park up by three points.
However, before the Highlanders had a chance to celebrate, Central Valley kicker Austin Rehkow hammered a 67-yard field goal that landed him in the national news.
“Offensively, we couldn’t really have played a much better game,” said Rypien. “We mixed the run and the pass in pretty well and our receivers did a great job. At the end of the day, you can’t really do anything. The guy hit a 67-yard field goal. You play a really good game and you lose.”
Rypien was frustrated but not upset. He wanted to win but handled the loss with the same maturity he showed during each late-game touchdown drive. He has thrown for 2,788 yards this season, completing 215 of 357 passes during a record-setting campaign.
Less than two full years into his career he is already surpassing the high school performances of his uncle, former Super Bowl MVP Mark Rypien.
But the teenager remains as humble as he is prolific.
“I had no idea it would come out to be this -- single-game records especially,” Rypien said. “Those are going to be tough to beat as a junior and senior. Those are career nights you’ll maybe have once.”
Despite all of his sophomore success, Rypien actually grew up playing hockey. Then, when he was in about fourth grade, his father, Tim, played a VHS tape of Super Bowl XXVI.
Rypien watched his uncle lead the Washington Redskins past the Buffalo Bills, 37-24.
“That’s what really got me motivated to play football, because I really had no interest in it before then,” Rypien said.
“I just remember him thinking that was the coolest thing ever. That was just his Uncle Mark, and I don’t think he really realized what he had accomplished, sports wise,” Tim added.
In addition to showing his son the Super Bowl tape, Tim played clips from his high school career with his brother at Shadle Park. Tim was a linebacker who went on to play baseball, spending four years in the minor leagues as a catcher.
There is a bit of a linebacker legacy in the Rypien family. Brett's uncles on his mother’s side are Chris and Pete Tormey. Chris is the defensive coordinator at Wyoming, and Pete played at Washington.
Rypien, however, never had any interest in the position. He only wanted to play quarterback. When he was was younger, he lived close enough to Joe Albi Stadium to walk to games. He envisioned what it would be like to one day play on that field.
“It was definitely a dream of mine to be playing down there,” he said.
He started studying film in Pop Warner and through the years has progressed to the point where Stanfield trusts him to run Shadle Park’s up-tempo spread offense, calling audibles when necessary.
“The ultimate goal, my Uncle Mark told me, is to watch as much film as you can, so you’re going to see every single look that you could possibly get,” Rypien said. “You’re not going to be surprised by anything.”
After starting the final five games of Shadle Park’s winless 2011 season, Rypien has helped turn the Highlanders into a playoff team in 2012. He took on a leadership role rarely expected from a sophomore.
“It’s evident he’s a student of the game,” Stanfield said. “He has a good understanding of what we’re trying to do offensively. There’s a willingness to put the ball in places where most high school kids aren’t willing to throw the ball.”
While Rypien is posting big numbers on the football field, he is also a quite capable on a baseball diamond or basketball court, and he has a single-digit handicap on the golf course.
“The kid likes to compete,” said Tim, who is a scratch golfer.
When talking about his son’s athletic accomplishments, Tim likes to tell a story about a trip to the golf course, when father and son were joined by Mark as well as Brett's mother, Julie, at Spokane Country Club.
From the ninth tee, Brett “walks up there with a 9-iron from 155 yards and dunks it, gets a hole-in-one. I still haven’t gotten one to this day,” Tim said.
Rypien seems to find success with all of his athletic endeavors, but his performance as a quarterback this season has caught the attention of Washington State, setting up the possibility he could one day follow in his uncle’s footsteps.
“I don’t want to go too far from home, but definitely want to go somewhere, maybe Pac-12,” he said. “That would be ideal, but anywhere anybody will take me, just to get a chance.”
If he continues to post 500-yard passing performances, coaches will come calling. But Rypien is young. He has plenty of time to focus on his future. Right now, his biggest concern is Shadle Park’s season.
“We’ve done some great things and, building forward, we’re going to do some more great things,” he said. “I think we can make a long run in the playoffs.”