No one knew what to expect from Meridian senior running back Nick Dritsas when he arrived in Laurel a little more than two years ago.
That familiarity wasn’t there with many of the kids who grew up playing ball in Whatcom County.
Dritsas had just moved from Gresham High School located just east of Portland, Ore. to live with his 34-year old brother.
The move north offered quite a change for the sometimes introverted standout two-way player.
“My mom wasn’t able to support me, and I had the idea to move in with my brother,” Dritsas said in a phone interview. “It was a big difference going from a 6A school to a 1A school.”
But while Dritsas adapted to the change in scenery, he began establishing himself both a reputation on the football field and a home at Meridian High School.
He is the heart and soul for us on both sides of the ball. He’s just a great kid and a great football player.
Meridian coach Bob Ames
Transitioning from a large school to a more intimate setting has allowed Dritsas to flourish, especially on the gridiron.
“I mean, the biggest change is I know everybody,” he said. “I have been more social and been more involved with people. My freshman year and in middle school, there were people I never saw. I felt like I was in the shadows, but at Meridian I feel like I know everyone and everyone’s story.”
And Dritsas has been central to the success of Meridian’s 2015 somewhat roller coaster saga.
What started with an airing out of grievances leading to a forfeited Week 2 game, has led to the Trojans winning six of their last eight, setting Meridian (6-4) up with a Class 1A State Playoff opening-round game against undefeated Hoquiam (9-0) at 4 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 14, at Stewert Field in Aberdeen.
1,569 Total yards, 887 rushing and 682 receiving, gained by Meridian’s Nick Dritsas this season.
Dritsas, using great vision, quickness and speed, has tormented opposing defense’s this fall lining up in the backfield as well as split outside. He ranks fifth among Northwest Conference running backs with 887 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns on 149 carries, and he ranks fourth among receivers with 682 yards and 10 TDs on 37 receptions.
“He is the heart and soul for us on both sides of the ball,” coach Bob Ames said in a phone interview. “He’s just a great kid and a great football player,”
But Dritsas prefers shielding the limelight.
“I mean, I’d rather think of myself as a leg or an arm or something,” Dritsas said, “not the heart. ... I mean, I’ve had good games and bad games. It takes the whole team, obviously, to get places where we want to be and win games.”
Dritsas has played tremendous all season at safety, too, shutting down teams’ outside run game while dependably patrolling the secondary, but his offensive work is most visible.
He’s improved steadily since his sophomore year, and it was that season he found two inspiring teammates who helped his play and credibility.
When Dritsas was a sophomore, former Meridian standout Letrez Jones was running wild through defenses on his way to a 1,925-yard, 29-TD season. He offered an ideal role model for Dritsas to emulate.
“When I came to Meridian I saw Letrez and how successful he was, and that made me want to be the best that I can be,” Dritsas said. “I think when I hit sophomore year, I focused a lot more on being the teammate that I knew I could be and try to be the best anyone could expect out of me.”
Dritsas also credited fellow senior Marcus McGuinn for guidance he provided.
“I should give a shout out to Marcus for being the first guy to defend me on the football team and getting me started,” Dritsas said. “I was quiet, and he was one of the ones to come up to me and start to put effort into making me feel comfortable, and I appreciated that.”
Now just about everyone knows Dritsas, especially what he can do with a football in his hands.