Friday Knight Lights: Players of the Year have Royal as top seed in 1A playoffs

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  • Casey McCarthy/Sun Tribune Cooper Christensen (13), Caleb Christensen (18), Michael Perez (64) wait on the sideline before the start of the season opener against Ellensburg.

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    Casey McCarthy/Sun Tribune Caleb Christensen looks to make the pass in a scrimmage before the beginning of the season against Quincy.

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    Casey McCarthy/The Sun Tribune Michael Perez chases down the Othello rusher in the Knights' win over the Huskies early in the season.

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    Casey McCarthy/Sun Tribune Royal head coach Wiley Allred talks with senior Michael Perez before the opening game of the regular season against Ellensburg.

  • Casey McCarthy/Sun Tribune Cooper Christensen (13), Caleb Christensen (18), Michael Perez (64) wait on the sideline before the start of the season opener against Ellensburg.

  • 1

    Casey McCarthy/Sun Tribune Caleb Christensen looks to make the pass in a scrimmage before the beginning of the season against Quincy.

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    Casey McCarthy/The Sun Tribune Michael Perez chases down the Othello rusher in the Knights' win over the Huskies early in the season.

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    Casey McCarthy/Sun Tribune Royal head coach Wiley Allred talks with senior Michael Perez before the opening game of the regular season against Ellensburg.

ROYAL CITY — Another regular season in the books for 1A football and, again, the Royal Knights have been dominant. Undefeated in the regular season, the Knights hold the number one offense and defense in their class as the coaches and players prepare for the chance to add more hardware to their trophy case this postseason as the number one seed.

The Knights finished the season 10-0, with a 6-0 league record. Royal scored the most points in 1A this season, while also surrendering the least points on defense. The Knights have scored less than 49 points just twice all season, with three-straight games over 60 coming into the postseason. On defense, Royal has given up more than seven just once all season, while shutting out their opponent in six of their ten matchups.

Knights filled up the list of the South Central Athletic Conference-East all-league teams on both sides of the ball. Seven of the 15 first-team players on offense and six of the 12 defensive spots belong to Royal. Five others received second-team or honorable mention. Head coach Wiley Allred was named Coach of the Year for the sixth time since 2012.

Quarterback Caleb Christensen was named SCAC-East offensive player of the year in his first season as the starter under center. Senior defensive lineman Michael Perez was named SCAC-East defensive player of the year.

Christensen said, growing up, he started watching the Knights in second and third grade, analyzing, and knowing he wanted to be in their shoes one day.

“It’s pretty cool, this is kind of what I’ve dreamed of my whole life,” Christensen said. “I’ve always wanted to play football for Royal. There’s been a lot of pretty good quarterbacks before me, so it’s been a really good experience.”

The junior quarterback said learning the system really begins in middle school.

“You learn all the plays, you learn all the footwork and from there, (Wiley)’s instilled it really well and he’s been a great coach,” Christensen said.

Michael Perez compared the program to a big family, as the senior said the coaches have helped him since he was in middle school.

“They helped me as a person, they helped me in school, they helped me with jobs,” Perez said. “They’re always there for the extra little support.”

As a senior, Perez said he can see how much stronger his teammates have gotten in their tenure with the program, culminating in the success this season. As an upperclassmen, Perez said he looks for ways to help the younger guys when he can.

“I try to help them a lot because I was once that one freshman that no one paid attention to,” Perez said. “Seeing me grow as a person and as a player is good to help them do the same.”

The Knights began the season on the road against a 2A opponent in Ellensburg, Royal’s closest game of the season in a 21-16 win over the Bulldogs. It would be two more weeks before anyone scored on the Knights again.

Perez said this team has improved drastically from where they were to begin the year.

“The team that we were when we played Ellensburg is way different that where we are now because we learned from all those little mistakes and built as a team,” Perez said.

Christensen growing more comfortable as a group and cleaning up those mistakes has helped them to build as the season has moved forward.

“We’ve been able to learn from our mistakes and learn from certain thins and just get better every week, and we’ve done that every week and you can see that in the numbers,” Christensen said. “It’s been really fun to see how everyone has grown through the season.”

Christensen gave a lot of credit to his teammates on offense for the success they’ve had on that side of the ball all year, playing behind a line the junior said is always working hard, and always protecting.

“We’re really strong up front, a lot of playmakers, a lot of guys we can go and get the ball out to and let them do the work,” Christensen said. “And we play under great coaches.”

Winning in dominant fashion for much of the regular season, Christensen said conditioning and playing hard in practice will hopefully help them prepare for the quality of teams they’ll face in the playoffs.

“Now it’s all lose-out so it doesn’t matter what seed you are, you play to the best of your abilities,” Christensen said. “Every team’s good now, every team you go against. It’s the state tournament so every team’s capable of winning. It’s going to be really tough and really fun.”

The junior said he’s just looking to take it one game at a time, while trying to come in with a playoff mentality.

Last season, the Knights entered the postseason in similar fashion, holding a perfect record and the top seed. Royal’s run was cut short, however, as a 31-28 defeat to eventual State champion Colville sent them home in the semifinals.

Playing in that game, Perez said he took the loss hard. Both Perez and Christensen said the loss has helped the group grow, pushing them in the offseason to get back to that spot this year.

In his last year with the Knights, Perez said he’ll miss the game that has helped shape him into the person he’s become, physically and mentally. The senior hopes to maybe give a little back before he’s gone.

“I played in that game that we lost, it’s just that little motivation to win a state championship for them because we owe it to them,” Perez said.

Christensen said simply a championship would be “awesome.”

“It is any year,” Christensen said. “We’ve got a couple games to go and we’ve gotta take it one game at a time.”

After a 64-7 over Charles Wright to begin their playoff run, the Knights get set to face Omak on Saturday afternoon at Royal High School for a spot in the 1A State semifinals.

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