CASHMERE — Getting hurt in the first quarter of the Cashmere football team’s first game wasn’t what Rex Pittsinger had envisioned for the start of his senior season.
Fortunately for Pittsinger and the Bulldogs, his elbow injury wasn’t serious — he missed the rest of the opening game against Cascade Christian and Cashmere’s wins over Goldendale and Omak before returning for the team’s home game against Chelan last Friday.
“Honestly, I was shocked (when I got hurt),” Pittsinger said, “but I chose to keep my head up and pull through because we’re a family out here. (My teammates) have my back and I’ve got theirs. These guys are my family. These guys are my brothers. I’ll do anything for them. To be back out here, I feel at home.”
Against the Goats, Pittsinger, a fullback/linebacker, showed why he’s one of the best all-around players in the Caribou Trail League — he rumbled for 165 yards and two touchdowns, and made seven tackles to help lead the Bulldogs to a thrilling 30-29 comeback win.
Oscar Cantu filled in admirably at the fullback spot in Pittsinger’s absence, but Pittsinger’s performance against Chelan showed how much he’s capable of, and how much Cashmere (3-1, 2-0 CTL) needs him if it wants to achieve its goals this season.
“(His return) is an emotional uplift for sure,” said fellow co-captain Casey Ruether said. “He’s such a talented player. The guy brings so much energy, and he’s such a tremendous teammate… I can’t even begin to explain how lucky I am to play with him. We (feed) off him. He’s our leader. We look to him when we need something.
“He’s deceptive — very, very deceptive. He’s a large guy, but he can get going. He’s so hard to bring down. He’s so strong, but he’s quick. He’s not a typical big, strong running back — he’s got good feet, and he’s very, very athletic.”
“(Rex and Casey) are tremendous leaders,” said Cashmere coach Phil Zukowski. “(Rex) has dedicated himself to being a better fullback. He’s pushed himself like you wouldn’t believe. He can bench press 400 pounds, squat 500. He made himself better, and he already had natural strength. He’s one of the fastest guys on the team as well.”
Pittsinger, who was named as the CTL’s co-most valuable defensive player last season, is relishing his opportunity to be a lead ball-carrier once again. Last season, with the Bulldogs running out of viable options on the offensive line, he volunteered to move to the guard position, where he earned all-league honors as the Bulldogs won another league title. “He proved that he’s an unselfish player,” Zukowski said.
The plan was always to move Pittsinger back to fullback, however; Cashmere’s coaching staff knew he would be a perfect fit to replace Moe Roberts and Devin Knight, the team’s leading ball-carriers from a year ago.
He’s a better runner than ever thanks to his experiences on the offensive line.
“(Playing on the line has) given me a whole different perspective. Now I know where all the holes are,” he said. “I played fullback from grid kids to middle school to (my) sophomore year, and hurt my knee, and it was kind of a good break. I love (being) a fullback — I love running people over. I feel at home out here.
“Individually I’m working to having a good year. I’d love to repeat as MVP on defense, but it’s not really about that. It’s about where the team goes. We plan on winning the league, and who knows from there. We take it play by play, one game at a time.”