District I Wants To Be No. 1 Northern Players Want To Get Back On Track
A shutout might be a stretch, but Post Falls quarterback Darick Pope is promising a District I victory in the 11th annual District I-II senior all-star football game on Saturday.
Kickoff at Viking Field is at 3:30 p.m.
“It’s pride,” Pope smiled, reflecting on the Trojans’ oh-so-close state A-1 football and basketball finishes. “We can’t lose to Lewiston again. All the Post Falls players want to win bad.”
That includes wide receiver Tim Roberts, who sat out Tuesday night’s practice to rest an ankle that was operated on after the Trojans’ basketball season.
“I bet he plays,” Pope said. “He’s Tim Roberts. What can you expect?”
District II evened the series at five games apiece after winning the last two, including 35-20 in 1994 and 21-16 in 1993.
“I think, with this team, we’ll get it back,” observes Sandpoint defensive end Brian Smith, the Inland Empire League defensive player of the year.
The key “for defense is quickness off the ball,” Smith added. “We just have to go hard to get to the quarterback - lots of sacks.”
The District I team is loaded offensively and defensively.
Pope, the IEL offensive player of the year, had 2,200 yards of total offense, including 1,949 passing yards. The University of Idaho-bound Pope passed for 19 touchdowns and ran for six.
District I will rotate six receivers headed by Sandpoint’s Dallas Spielman and Roberts, who caught 43 and 42 passes for 827 and 866 yards, respectively.
Pope’s backup is Sandpoint’s Andy Feuling who passed for 1,481 yards.
The District I ground game is equally dangerous, boosted by two of the North’s most hard-nosed runners in Lakeland’s Kole Clauson, a 1,200-yard rusher, and Sandpoint’s Rusty Irish, a 1,300-yard rusher.
“We certainly have some offensive weapons,” District I coach Greg Drake of Coeur d’Alene said. “I think we’re real talented.”
Smith is one of nine Bulldogs on the District I roster. The Sandpoint valedictorian plans to continue his football career at Idaho.
“It’s nice to hit again,” Smith said. “It’s a great experience, we’re the best (in North Idaho). It’s kind of a tribute to your skills.”
Smith dedicated last summer to improving his football skills and added 20 pounds to his 6-foot-4, 225-pound frame via weightlifting.
“It was a different defense. I had to learn a whole new system,” Smith said. “I spent the whole summer concentrating on playing one position.”
By season’s end, Smith topped the Bulldogs’ defensive grading system, including 11 quarterback sacks, 27 hurried passes and nine blocked passes.
Lakeland pads the District I defense with ends John Bierne and Joel Gorham, outside linebacker Erik Martin and cornerback Jim Noble.
Eight-man North Star League representatives Mike Gow of Clark Fork and Dan Usdrowski of Kootenai will play in the defensive secondary at cornerback and free safety, respectively.
The District I roster features 46 players from the five North Idaho counties.
The District II team has 32 players from Moscow and Lewiston, along with neighboring smaller schools, working under Moscow coach Eric Bjorkman.
The quarterback position is a question mark. The Bears’ Rob Strobel, Clearwater Valley’s Alan Hutchens and Kendrick’s Craig Tefft are all taking snaps.
Strobel passed for 892 yards last fall. However, the District II lineup lacks two of its potential top players in tight ends Gil Pierce of Moscow and Jay Wendt of Lewiston.
Brandon Dudley of Moscow at wide receiver and Lewiston running back Nate Reynolds, 610-yard rushers, will help lead the District II offense.
“Defensively, I think we’re going to be very good, especially our linebackers,” Bjorkman said. “Todd Kinnard of Timberline is a very good player. We will be a difficult team to run the ball against.”
Linebackers Sean Campbell and Nate Colbert of Moscow, along with lineman Phil Brown of Kendrick, shore up the District II defense.
“The uniqueness of the game, from our (coach’s) perspective, is our kids that have been bitter rivals now come together for the common cause,” Drake said. “But everybody has their rivals from the other district.”