Tigers Fab five to play for Mesa
Nevada Appeal News Service
Douglas High School might as well have just gift-wrapped the 2005 freshman football class in orange and black for Mesa College in Arizona.
Five Tiger seniors, all first-team All-Sierra Leaguers and four of them first-team All-Northern Region selections during the 2004 football season, are planning to play for the Thunderbirds next season.
Tyson Estes, Spike Agosta, Keenan Copp, Bryan Brady and Datin Whatcott have all committed to play for the Thunderbirds, marking a major heist in talent for the school.
“I think they will be very pleased,” Douglas head football coach Mike Rippee said. “You can’t beat the kind of individuals that these guys are.”
Put the five Thunderbirds with Cory Hartzell, who will be playing for Feather River next year, and it makes for Douglas’ largest senior class to go on to play at the next level during Rippee’s 20-year tenure.
“It really shows these guys’ love and commitment to the game of football,” Rippee said. “I kept telling people I wasn’t surprised with the season we had, because we had guys with this kind of talent and heart. These guys going to the next level just goes to prove that.”
The entire process started after football season when Copp, an all-region outside linebacker and fullback for the Tigers, decided he wanted to pursue the junior college route.
“I sent some film to four different junior colleges,” Copp, who will play linebacker for the Thunderbirds, said. “After the season, I wasn’t sure that I was going to continue to play but then I thought, ‘Why not?'”
Rippee said Mesa was immediately interested. Copp knew of the school because former Douglas pitcher/outfielder Bryan Miller is playing for the Thunderbird baseball team this season.
“Their coach called right up and said over the phone that they wanted this guy,” Rippee said. “They sent him a letter of intent and he signed it right away.”
From there is was like a shopping spree for Mesa.
“Keenan kind of orchestrated this whole thing,” Rippee said. “He got his spot on the roster and then he hooked up all these other guys.”
Brady, an all-region defensive back for the Tigers, made his decision about three weeks after completing his senior basketball season.
“I knew Keenan was headed down there, and I talked to the coach down there,” said Brady, who will play either strong safety or cornerback. “They told me they looked at my film, and they called me back and said everything looked good and asked if I’d want to go down.”
Estes, an all-region offensive and defensive tackle and the Sierra League lineman of the year, was the Tigers’ strongest Division I candidate coming out of the season, but received only a passing look from Nevada.
“It didn’t take that much work to get Tyson interested actually,” Copp said with a laugh. “He wasn’t getting that strong of a look from Nevada, which was a travesty. I just said, ‘You should go to Mesa, man,’ and he said all right.”
Agosta and Whatcott, an All-Sierra League first-teamer at center, followed suit.
“We didn’t even know what Spike was going to do,” Brady said. “It’s awesome that we’re all going down there. We’ve been friends for so long.”
Agosta, the Sierra League player of the year and all-region running back who became Douglas’ all-time leading single-season rusher with 1,881 yards this season, said it was just a matter of someone giving him the chance to play.
“I don’t think any of us wanted our football careers to end so soon,” he said. “We’re glad to have this opportunity just to play another couple of years.”
Agosta expects to play running back and kicker for the Thunderbirds.
Estes, who will play defensive end for the Thunderbirds, said he will try to pitch for the Mesa baseball team as well and looks forward to playing his college ball just a few minutes from his brother Shawn, who is pitching for the Arizona Diamondbacks this season.
“I think we’ll have a lot of fun down there,” Estes said. “The coaches seemed to be excited about the idea of having us all come down there.”
Mesa competes in the Western States Football League, which includes Arizona Western, Dixie State, Eastern Arizona, Glendale, New Mexico Military, Phoenix, Pima, Scottsdale and Snow. Last season, the Thunderbirds compiled a 6-4 record and had nine players sign with four-year colleges at the end of the year.