When the Damonte Ranch Mustangs kickoff the season, with the Reed Raiders, Friday night at Damonte, a familiar figure will be playing quarterback for the Mustangs, Ethan Kulpin. Kulpin is a senior and this is his second year as the starting quarterback for the Mustangs. When asked about playing with Kulpin, offensive lineman Ilex Garcia said, “He is a baller, we love playing with him!” Your author had a chance to ask Kulpin a few questions, let’s see what he had to say.
Lynn Ault, “We are a year into the Covid era, how did you fill the time during the quarantine?”
Ethan Kulpin, “The first thing is it’s crazy to think it’s been a year! But through it all hanging out with most of the football team and going to the gym twice a day with some teammates to make sure the time wasn’t wasted at home watching Netflix all the time. It helped get through that time much easier.”
Lynn Ault, “How is the hybrid school schedule working for you and your teammates?”
Ethan Kulpin, “The hybrid schedule works well because even though you’re at school only half the time you get to see those people that you weren’t able to see during lockdown every other day. It also helps seeing the teammates and boys everyday as well in 0 period.”
Lynn Ault, “You play both ways, do you prefer one side over the other?”
Ethan Kulpin, “Playing both sides is a challenge because you’re dissecting the defense at QB one play and hitting the running back the next. I would say my future is on the defensive side of the ball, due to my physicality and ability to play coverage and still come down in run support.”
Lynn Ault, “What is it like starting the season in March, seven months later than normal?”
Ethan Kulpin, “Starting a season in March feels weird, but it’s welcomed. A lot of the time there was uncertainty whether we would have a chance to play or not but we’re glad we’re doing so. It’s great for the seniors to get their senior season and a chance at making a championship run whether it’s March or October.”
Lynn Ault, “What are you hoping to accomplish with your senior season?”
Ethan Kulpin, “With this season, personally, I would like to replicate a lot of what happened last year as a team, and take that final step to win the championship this year. We can do it with the 18 seniors and leadership our team has this season and we’re looking forward to it.”
Lynn Ault, “Where will you be in the Fall, after graduation?”
Ethan Kulpin, “In an ideal world, where there’s no extra year of eligibility for NCAA seniors, I would be playing FBS or FCS football. However that’s not where I will be. I’ll be at Sierra college, working my way up to that, making the most out of the opportunity, and situation I’m presented with.”
Last year, Kulpin threw for 2000 yards and 17 touchdowns while adding six on the ground. Kulpin’s dual-threat abilities make him a nightmare for defenses to account for. Kulpin’s favorite target is fellow senior Nick Vargas. Vargas finished fifth in the state in receptions last season with 46 for 969 yards and 12 touchdowns. If defenses think they can key on Vargas, and shut down the Damonte passing game, senior Ian Williams will make them pay. Williams is coming off a junior season that saw him overcome a lingering back issue, and still record 25 receptions, good for 360 yards and four touchdowns. Kulpin also can look downfield for Ty Polson, Ryan Mandichak, Tyler Clark, Cade Rodahaffer, and Carson Smith.
Smith will be stepping into the starting running back role after the transfer of Ashton Hayes, Hayes and his family relocated to the McQueen area a year ago. Hayes led the state in rushing last season, however, big things can be expected of Smith. Smith and this group of seniors won the state youth football title as eighth grade students, a game that saw Smith dominate a highly touted defense from Las Vegas. Smith’s style is similar to Derrick Knoblock, and like Knoblock, he also plays linebacker. Smith, and the Damonte defense, are coming off a tremendous 2019 campaign which saw them give up a meager six points per league game. Smith finished the 2019 season with 147 tackles, good for third in the state. Kulpin logged 119 tackles from his safety position, and Conner Hogan came through with 95. The Mustangs defense will look to pick up where they left off last season, however, Elijah Tau Tolliver will challenge the Mustangs defense.
Tau Tolliver, the starting running back for the Reed Raiders, finished his junior season with more than 1400 yards and 21 touchdowns. Tau Tolliver and his Raiders squad ended the 2019 season on the Damonte turf, losing 28-12, in a physical second round matchup. The Raiders will have a new coach, Garrett Hughes, replacing the departed Tony Amantia. The Damonte staff should look familiar, under the leadership of Head Coach Shawn Dupris. Dupris is back for his ninth season at Damonte.
If you are unable to get into the stadium to see the Mustangs play this season, their home games will be streamed by the NFHS Network. The monthly fee is $10.99 or you can sign-up for the annual membership which comes with a $69.99 price tag. I can’t vouch for the quality of the coverage provided, but I did use the NFHS stream to watch the Mustangs take on St. Mary’s a couple years ago, and it was better than nothing! Your membership will allow you to watch other Damonte sports as well, not just football.