Maher has big shoes to fill at tight end

Carson High football coach Blair Roman admits he's been spoiled the last couple of years when it comes to the tight end position.

Roman has had the services of 180-pound Ty Collins at tight end, and Collins was an all-league and all-regional selection as a senior and all-league as a junior.

Collins has moved on to Oregon State to continue his academic career, and 6-4 240-pound Luke Maher has stepped into Collins' position.

Maher is a relative novice to the sport. He didn't start playing until last season on the Senators' JV squad.

"I never was interested in football," Maher said before a recent practice in preparation for tonight's home opener against North Valleys (7:30 p.m.). "I always played baseball. All my friends said I would be good at it (football).

"It's fun. It was hard for me at first. I hated it at first, all the running and hitting especially. I never had to endure that before. I've gotten used to it, though."

Maher is learning on the job, and tight end isn't the easiest position to learn in the Senators' offense. Maher will be used mainly as a blocker, but his 6-4 frame should make for an inviting target for quarterbacks Matt Nolan and Chance Quilling.

"Ty was an incredible technician (blocking)," Roman said. "He knew how to play with low pads. Luke is going to be good. He'll match up well with the bigger linemen and be able to use his strength. Tight end is a key spot in our offense because we like to run off tackle. Having a solid blocker in there is critical.

"We didn't throw to the tight end much the last two years, but when we did Ty made some big plays."

Maher has already shown he can catch the ball. In the scrimmage against McQueen, he caught a ball from Chance Quilling for 13 yards. He had two balls thrown to him in Pocatello, but one was intercepted.

It's not surprising that Maher has good hands, given that he's played some first base working his way up through the youth baseball system. He missed most of last season because of a torn labrum. He says he should be ready to return to baseball in the spring.

Maher admits learning the various "rules" as part of the offensive line has been tough.

"The coaches talk to me about staying on my blocks; finishing my blocks," Maher said. "I'm working on that in practice all the time. They keep telling me to work hard in practice."

That's because it's easy to see Maher's potential. He has ideal size for a college tight end. He could still pack a few more pounds on his 240-pound frame and possibly be an offensive tackle somewhere down the line. For now, Roman likes him exactly where he is."

"It's too early to tell," Roman said. "I've never coached an athlete with his size that is so athletic. I've seen some kids like him at the junior college level."

For now, Maher is trying to take it slow. The junior knows his progress will be measured in baby steps. He's trying not to get down on himself when he makes mistakes.

"Coaches tell me I'm a perfectionist," Maher said. "I don't like to make mistakes; nobody does.

"I think I'll do OK."

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