On a field filled with mountainous athletic young men ranging from Jesuit's Travis Spreen and Sprague's Teagan Quitoriano, both of whom are destined for the Division One level, Sunset senior lineman Tyler Ganoung still turns heads.
At 6-foot-4, 310 pounds (and still growing), Ganoung is the sort of physical specimen that doesn't come around Sunset — or any Metro League school for that matter — very often. Blessed with height, girth and strength, Ganoung fits the bill as the kind of offensive and defensive war daddy you want anchoring the trenches.
But once you set aside the measurables and flip on Ganoung's game film, and get a load of just what kind of addition the Apollos are absorbing, it's clear Sunset has a huge asset to work with.
Take the first play of Ganoung's 3-minute, 8-second highlight reel, for example. Lined up at left guard, Ganoung explodes out of his stance at the snap of the ball, pulls to his right of the formation where the right guard once was and absolutely obliterates an unsuspecting linebacker into the turf, creating a hole for his fullback run through for an easy three-yard touchdown. Essentially, Ganoung looks like a freezer chest with light feet, a big dude who's relished contact since he was old enough to play and gets joy from mashing opponents.
The mixtape is crammed with all sorts of oppressive, impactful acts of controlled violence. There's Ganoung getting his hands on a defensive back and physically man-handling him out of the camera's range of view. Or the big man athletically getting to the second level of an opposing defense and plowing some poor linebacker into the terrain, so his quarterback can find the open field.
"There's really no other position where you can drive a dude, put him into the ground and be like 'What's up?' and then come back the next play and do it again," Ganoung said with a smile. "Even when I was playing in elementary school I've always been a lineman. I never tried to play running back. I never wanted to be a receiver. It's way better playing on the offensive line."
On one play, Ganoung locks into his opposing defensive tackle, but peels off and drills an oncoming blitzer, taking out two men in the process and causing a pile up inside as a running back skates away scot free.
Pancake blocks and physical poundings are aplenty with Ganoung who prides himself on setting a punishing tone up front.
"Intimidation is key, but when you hit a guy so hard, you can tell that he's scared of you," Ganoung said. "Then that's it. That's the game. When he's scared, he's done. Off the field, I'm a laid back guy, but on the field when I put that helmet on, it's crazy. It's like a new world."
After two years as a starter at Prairie High School in Vancouver, Wash., Ganoung and his family moved south about six months ago seeking better competition and the chance to show his talents to a larger pool of collegiate coaches in hopes of securing a high major scholarship.
Once Sunset head coach Damien Merrick and his staff received word of Ganoung's transfer, they cued up Hudl — a Nebraska based company providing tools for coaches and athletes to review game footage both for individual highlights and team film review — and got a look of what their talented transplant can bring to the table. In the spring, schools are limited to just eight padded practices, so Merrick and offensive coordinator Dominic Ferraro were allowed just a tiny glimpse Ganoung's capabilities. Still, the eye in the sky doesn't lie.
"His film speaks for itself," Merrick said. "He looks the part. He's a big body, but more importantly, he's got really good feet. He's going to fit in pretty nicely with what we do. He's a smart kid and with our offense, if you can learn one position, it's not that big of a change. The biggest change going from guard to tackle is athletically, but he's capable of playing both."
Ganoung most likely play tackle (either right or left) for Sunset and move back to guard for college ball. Defensively, Ganoung said he'll man the middle for the Apollos at nose guard. Along the offensive line, Sunset is set with talent and depth. Senior center Isaac Lovings was third-team all-Metro a year ago. Junior Hunter Newcomb had a great spring, according to Merrick. Senior right tackle Hayden Bean started all of last year, as did Sam Carlson, who played tackle a season ago but suited up at guard over the spring. Carlson was a particular standout at the MLC, placing first or second on the team in every event that encompassed strength (bench press), agility (shuttle run) and speed (40-yard dash), amongst other competitions. Overall, Carlson placed sixth at the MLC and third in the "lightweight" division. Senior Anthony Pasion played mostly along the defensive line as a junior. Incoming sophomore Ike Nguamo is a "freak of an athlete", Merrick said, who ran the fastest 40 time (5.2) of any of the "heavyweights" at the MLC. Not to mention, Sunset returns seniors Gabe Leonard, Carter Webb and Nick Cizik in the backfield, all of whom possess big-play capabilities. As Merrick pointed out, no starting positions are set in stone yet. However, on paper, it's hard not to project Sunset sporting one of the top, if the not the best offensive line in the league both with the talented incumbents and the addition of the mammoth Ganoung.
"We were missing that one guy and I feel like that can be me," Ganoung said. "I want to make this team better. We have a solid o-line right now and that's where it all starts. When we get those guys driving and creating big holes...we'll make it easy for the running backs. When it comes to pass (protection) we'll lock it down, giving the quarterback five or seconds to throw or escape the pocket."
At Prairie, Ganoung and his offensive mates operated out of the "pistol" formation, where the quarterback lines up four yards behind the center, which is much closer than the seven-yard setback in a traditional shotgun formation. Ferraro's high-tempo, no huddle offense functions almost exclusively out of the traditional shotgun with four or even five pass catcher lined up outside. Rarely do the Apollos line up a tight end next to their tackles for blocking purposes or a fullback in front of their running backs. So if Ganoung does indeed end up at left tackle, protecting presumed starting quarterback Coleman Newsom's blind side, he'll get the opportunity to exhibit his quick feet and violent hands against some of the state's best edge rushers. Sunset's scheme is predicated on its opponent and what the defense gives them. If a team stacks the box, the Apollos pass the ball. Or vice versa, if a foe tries to take away the pass with extra defensive backs, Sunset will hand the ball off and let their offensive line dictate the line of scrimmage.
"The challenge is finding good enough athletes in a spread offense that can pass protect 50 percent of the time, but still have that nasty demeanor that you need to run block," Merrick said. "In our run game you have opportunities to help and double team, but you have to be able to move somebody at the point of attack. You can't be an 185-pound good athlete because you probably won't be able to move somebody across from you who's 275 pounds."
Merrick said he and his staff felt Sunset was excellent on offense last season, but only in spurts from one game to the next. And that inconsistency hurt most when the Apollos marched inside their opponents' 20-yard-line. There, where the money is made and games are won, Sunset couldn't cash in. It could've been a penalty, a dropped pass, or an errant throw, but Merrick said Apollos were too inefficient as a unit in the red zone. That problem, however, could be amended with a renewed emphasis on one-on-one run blocking to take advantage of players like Ganoung who is athletic enough to pull and pave the way to pay dirt for speedsters such as Leonard and Webb.
Sunset's schedule will offer plenty of platforms for Ganoung to shine. The Apollos open on the road with Skyview (WA) and then host Sheldon, likely a preseason top-five team in the state in week two. That's two big showcases before Metro even begins with trenchmen such as Spreen, Southridge's Kade Hustler, Beaverton's Vinny Niosi and Aloha's Sam Telesa waiting in the wings. Plus, Sunset is a perennial playoff team, which opens the door for even more matchups versus high-level athletes around the state.
"I've heard a lot about these guys and I want to see what they're about," Ganoung said. "I want to go up against Westview — our rivals — Jesuit, Tigard, Central (Catholic). I train with all of those guys, so it's going to be awesome."