MOORE: Halliday vs. Heaps for 4A state title

SATURDAY'S 4A STATE high-school championship game features a future WSU Coug against a future BYU Coug when Skyline meets Ferris. If they set a line on prep football games, Skyline would no doubt be a double-digit favorite. The Spartans are two-time defending champions, and everyone knows about them and their five-star recruit Jake Heaps, rated as the top quarterback prospect in the country.

Ferris is playing in its first state title game and is led by Connor Halliday, a three-star recruit and lesser-known commodity mainly because he plays in Spokane.

Most Wazzu fans will be rooting for Ferris because Halliday has verbally committed to Washington State. I spoke to him late Tuesday night following a full day of going to school and taking a bus to and from Moscow, Idaho.

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The Saxons' coach, Jim Sharkey, wanted his team to get acclimated to playing indoors because the championship game will be played in the Tacoma Dome. So he held Tuesday afternoon's practice at the Kibbie Dome.

Halliday was tired and ready for bed but still sounded upbeat when I talked to him. First impressions: You're going to love this kid. He's a great player and a great quote. A lot of high-school kids can be tough interviews, prone to give one- or two-word answers. Not Halliday. He serves up terrific stuff. For reporters, he'll be a go-to guy in the Cougar locker room for years to come.


When he called, Halliday wished I'd taken a little longer to answer the phone. That's because my ring tone is the Cougar fight song.

"Do you know the lyrics?" I asked.

"I know some of them, but not all of them, but I will," he said.

THIS CHAMPIONSHIP GAME is supposed to be about the teams, Ferris and Skyline, but Halliday and Heaps provide the biggest storyline because they're the state's top two quarterbacks.

Everyone has known about Heaps for two years. Nationally recruited, he whittled his choices down to two finalists, Washington and BYU, before wisely choosing to go to Provo.

Halliday's an even smarter kid, opting for Washington State. His name wasn't known around the country. ranks him as the 40th-best QB prospect in the nation, and those who know a hell of a lot more about recruits than I do say that he'd be ranked much higher if he had played in Seattle instead of Spokane.

In many respects, Halliday's numbers are better than Heaps'. He has completed 284 of 433 passes for 3,923 yards and 40 TDs with 11 interceptions, (includes regular season and playoff games including the play-in games against G-Prep and U-Hi).

Heaps, in his regular season and playoff wins this year, has completed 198 of 328 for 2,936 yards and 41 TDs with seven interceptions.

In eight regular-season Greater Spokane League games this year, Halliday threw for 2,260 yards, breaking Mark Rypien's record of 1,975. Rypien starred at Shadle Park and WSU and later became a Super Bowl MVP with the Redskins.

You can argue about Halliday's stats vs. Heaps' and say that, perhaps, Heaps faced tougher competition and he's more polished and better equipped than Halliday, but still… There's enough there to warrant a 40- spot QB difference by

HOW DOES THE 6-5, 190-pound Halliday think he stacks up with Heaps?

"He's a little more mechanically sound, and I'm behind him in consistency," he said. "But I have as strong of an arm, and I don't want to sound arrogant, but I definitely believe I have more of an upside. I don't think I've peaked. He's maybe done as much as his body will do at 6 feet. Once I grow into my frame, I believe I have my best football ahead of me."

Halliday can make all of the throws, and he has enough mobility to scramble when necessary. He feels like he's more patient this year, and that's helped him become a better QB.

EVERYONE ELSE IS doing it and Halliday can't help but compare himself to Heaps too.

"It's kind of a competition thing the way he got nationally recruited," Halliday said. "You always want to kind of one up him. In the game, I'll forget about it, but you always want to play better than him and show him up. I'm excited to have another shot at him."

Ferris played Skyline in the semifinals last year at Joe Albi Stadium and lost 24-21.

"Always in my heart, there will be a little jealousy, thinking I'm just as good as him, why didn't I get recruited like that?" Halliday said. "But it worked out. I'm playing college football where I want to be playing."

LIKE HEAPS, HALLIDAY was also recruited by Washington but not with the same fervor. Last spring UW offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier and linebackers coach Mike Cox came to Ferris to see Halliday during May's evaluation period. They told Halliday that they liked him but were waiting for Heaps to make a decision.

Halliday said Sharkey, who is a WSU alum, was irritated by the snub.

Halliday had still planned to visit Washington but canceled his trip when the Huskies got a verbal commitment from Nick Montana.

"I was pretty much an afterthought," Halliday said. "You should go where you're wanted."

And he was wanted by Washington State, where he built a good relationship with offensive coordinator Todd Sturdy.

"WSU showed me a lot of love, and the U Dub disrespected me," Halliday said.

IT'S STRANGE HOW it worked out. Halliday used to root for the Huskies because his mom's a UW alum. "But now I'm a Cougar through and through," he said.

The fact that Washington State has had two down seasons in a row did not affect his decision. He realizes that the Cougars were down in numbers because of poor recruiting in the past.

"I don't care if you have Urban Meyer as the head coach, you're not gonna win games," Halliday said. "It'll be pretty cool once we get that turned around. I want to be a part of that."

But first, the championship game against Skyline.

"I'm happy to be in it, but the whole goal is to win it," Halliday said. "Everyone talks about Jake Heaps and the great offense, but I'm more impressed with their defense. Usually in high-school football you can go after one or two weak guys, but the Skyline defense, top to bottom, it's the best I've played.

"But we've got some good routes to beat their cover-4 so we should be all right."

Maybe someday he'll be the next Drew Bledsoe – Wenatchee High coach Scott Deveraux made the comparison this season. But next year he'll likely redshirt while Jeff Tuel runs the offense.

"It's what I want to do," Halliday said of redshirting. "Skills-wise I could compete at the Pac-10 level, but I don't know if my body could hold up."

He can't wait to get to Pullman. He loves the town and the campus.

"Have you said ‘Go Cougs' yet?" I asked.

Halliday laughed and said: "Go Cougs, baby!"

Jim Moore is a '78 alum of Washington State and he encourages you to visit his website, He also writes for and can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @cougsgo, and he's on "The Kevin Calabro Show" on 710 ESPN Seattle every Wednesday at 3 p.m.

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