Through five weeks of the football season, Carson High linebacker Austin Shaffer sits atop the Division I tackling stats with 52.
Whether he holds that spot remains to be seen, but Shaffer likes being first in anything he attempts on the athletic field.
"Ever since I can remember, whether it was basketball or football season, I hated to be anything other than first," said Shaffer before a recent practice in preparation for tonight's (7:30 p.m.) Sierra League opener at Damonte Ranch. "If we were running sprints, I wanted to be first.
"There are lots of opportunities for me to make plays at my position. I like to make the plays."
It's that desire to be better and the tireless work ethic that has propelled the CHS junior into a starting role in his first varsity season.
"My goal was to get stronger in the weightroom and go hard every play," Shaffer said. "I don't like to go soft, and I think the work paid off.
"Every play and everything you do in the weightroom really does matter. It matters physically and mentally."
Blair Roman, Carson High head coach, saw those traits in Shaffer early on. In fact, in some ways Shaffer reminds Roman of Chance Quilling.
"He's been really steady," Roman said. "He's just a tough kid. Even though he didn't have any prior varsity experience, we knew he could play for us. His athleticism and tackling ability stand out. He has good instincts and he's very coachable.
"Athletically, Austin isn't as fast as Chance, but he does a lot of things like Chance could do. That position dictates that you have somebody that can play the pass and take on blockers on the run. Chance did that well, and Austin is getting better."
Shaffer's ability to go hard every play is another thing that caught Roman's eyes. He related a story that Roman told the team that had Austin Pacheco coming from the other side of the field to make a big tackle. Had Pacheco taken the play off, he never would have gotten in position to make the stop.
"If you take a play off, the other team is going to find a hole," Roman said. "We're not good enough to take a play off. Austin (Shaffer) bought into that, and it shows every Friday night."
Despite some impressive stats, Shaffer knows he needs to get better, and he wants to get better.
"I feel I have to make my reads a little quicker," Shaffer said. "The reads are coming easier. It's (the game) starting to slow down.
"I like my position because I get to play inside and then I go outside in passing situations."
Shaffer's best two outings stat-wise were against Hug and Reno when he had 14 and 15 tackles, respectively. He had nine versus McQueen and seven in each of the last two games.
"The games that stand out to me are the games we've won," Shaffer said. "I feel I played pretty well against McQueen, but I didn't have that sense of fulfillment because we lost the game. The way we won the game against Reno, I could sense a feeling of brotherhood on the team."