Firestone making an impact on both sides of the ball

It was a different Tyler Firestone that showed up for the first day of summer practice at Dayton High.

He was 28 pounds heavier and bulging with muscles nobody had seen before.

And, even more importantly, he has developed confidence in himself and his abilities.

"I'm a lot more confident than I was," Firestone said, while preparing for tonight's game at Fallon. "Even last year I was nervous before games. I still get nervous, but in a confident sort of way not a scared nervous.

"I'm bigger, stronger and faster. It's helped a lot especially at linebacker. I did a lot in the off-season. My 40 times has gone from 4.9 last year to 4.61 this year. I did a lot of lifting."

The extra strength has come in handy because Firestone is playing regularly both ways for the first time in his high school career. As a sophomore and junior, he played just defense. In the first two games, he's rested once in a while on offense, but played all the defensive snaps.

"He (coach Rob Turner) wanted me on offense and defense," Firestone said. "I love defense. I've always liked defense more. I'm starting to like offense a lot, especially with the offense we're running.

"The extra weight and strength has helped me when I take on blockers and fighting off stuff."

Firestone playing both ways wasn't an option Turner said.

"He's one of our best athletes for sure," Turner said. "We have decent numbers this year, but we need to have our best guys on the field as much as possible. We have pretty good depth in our backfield, so I told coach (Steve) Yeater that he could sub out Tyler on offense, but that I wanted him for every snap on defense.

"He's a very smart player. He knows the ins and outs. He's a mature senior football player. His football IQ is very high."

Through two games, Firestone has been extremely productive on both sides of the ball.

On defense, Firestone leads the team with 30 tackles, including 18 in the season-opening 24-14 win over Lovelock. In last week's loss to Truckee, he had 12 stops, six of them solo. Offensively, he has carried 24 times for 108 yards. He had a great second quarter for Truckee, rushing 12 times for 71 yards.

With 30 stops in two games, Firestone is well on his way to reaching his goal for tackles.

"I wanted to get into the 100s for total tackles," Firestone said. "I also want to make the playoffs for the third year in a row."

"I think he can do it if the coaching staff can keep him healthy," Turner said. "He had 18 tackles against Lovelock. I don't think he's had that many tackles since junior football. He was all over the field."

Firestone's job has been made easier by his teammates up front. The front four is supposed to occupy offensive linemen so that the linebackers can fly around and make plays. It's the type of defense the Pittsburgh Steelers employed back in the era when Jack Lambert and Jack Ham.

"That's exactly the way it's supposed to work," Firestone said.

"The defensive line is doing a good job of holding its own," Turner said.

Firestone makes no bones about the fact that he likes physical contact, and even more so now that he's better equipped to take on bigger players because of his added strength.

He's basically a run support guy, though in certain instances he will drop back into a coverage area.

"We're getting more into blitzing," Firestone said. "I think we should blitz a lot more because it's fun."

That's because Firestone would like nothing better to take some poor quarterback's head off. That's the dream of anybody who rushes the passer.

"Getting a good hit ... you get more pumped up from that than anything else," he said, a smile on his face.

Even on offense, Firestone gets to inflict occasional punishment both as a blocker and runner. The Dust Devils run primarily between the tackles, and Firestone likes that because of the contact. He's more apt to bowl somebody over when he has the ball tucked under his arm than try to evade a tackle attempt.

Even though he hasn't played running back the past two seasons on varsity, Firestone doesn't believe he's behind.

"I played a lot of running back in youth football," he said. "I feel I'm good at it."

It's hard to argue when a back is averaging more than four yards a carry.

DAYTON AT FALLON

When: Today, 7 p.m.

Where: Ed Arciniega Sports Complex

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