Given a different set of circumstances, Greg Belzer would be alone in the handsome photo at right.
Greg Rainer might still be in Colville, where he lived until seventh grade.
Jeremy Rogers, a resident of nearby Valley, might have selected Springdale for his high school days rather than Chewelah.
But the fickle wheels of fortune conspired to point Belzer, Rainer and Rogers in the same direction.
Throw in the kind nor’easter that brought Roy Albertson into town, and it appears that the winds of destiny have favored Chewelah.
Powered by Belzer, Rogers and Rainer - and guided by first-year coach Albertson - Chewelah is in position to reach its first football championship game in 18 years.
The third-ranked Cougars (11-0) meet second-ranked Cascade (Leavenworth) at 1 p.m. Saturday at Moses Lake’s Frontier Junior High in the State A semifinals. The winner earns a ticket to the first Gridiron Classic (formerly the Kingbowl), Dec. 2 at the Tacoma Dome.
The strong seniors (Belzer is 6-foot-1, 225 pounds; Rainer 6-5, 215; and Rogers 6-3, 205) have been the main leaders as the Cougars charged through the Northeast A and outscored Cle Elum and Royal 56-13 in the playoffs.
All were first-team, all-league selections on both sides of the ball - Belzer at fullback and linebacker, Rogers at tight end and defensive end, and Rainer at tackle and defensive line.
Yet it took some outside factors to bring them together.
Belzer is the native. He was inserted into the starting lineup as a freshman and has never wavered in his love for the game. A fair sampling of Big Sky Conference schools are in contact with the quiet, confident Belzer.
“Football is my best sport,” said Belzer, who has rushed for 825 yards and 18 touchdowns while leading the Cougars in tackles. “It’s fun to score touchdowns, but it’s fun to bang heads, too.”
Rainer arrived in town by way of Colville when his mother married a Chewelah man. He, too, joined the Cougars’ starting lineup as a freshman, but not until midseason.
Rainer, who has relatives in the 6-11 and 7-4 height range, prefers track and field to football. His specialties are discus and javelin.
“I enjoy football, and it’s been easier to enjoy this year,” said the sometimes terse, more often humorous Rainer.
Rogers, the free spirit in the bunch, attended classes at Valley in grades 1-8. He knew Belzer and Rainer through AAU basketball, which made it easier to select Chewelah for his next level of education.
Rogers prefers defense to offense, but not because the Cougars rarely throw the ball. He just gets a kick out of the explosive action.
“I felt from the beginning we’d have a good chance of making it this far and maybe all the way,” said the frank Rogers.
All three players were distraught when the district fired their coach for the previous three years, Sam Giampietri. All adopted wait-and-see attitudes when Chewelah hired Albertson, a 17-year assistant from Kennewick.
But Albertson had studied with one of the masters, Ed Troxel, and his ways grew on the players. Giampietri, in a classy move, offered Albertson advice about common strategies among NEA rivals.
“I have a very good group of seniors,” Albertson said. “They spent a considerable amount of time getting ready for the season.
“They’re very, very positive. Belzer is the quiet one, Rogers is the goofy one - in a great way - and Rainer has a little of both. These kids are the leaders.”
Senior center Jarrod Lindquist might also have been all-league both ways, but missed three games at defensive tackle with a hip injury.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: CHEWELAH, CASCADE PLAN ON RUNFEST Three things are expected to run at full force during Saturday’s State A semifinal between Chewelah and Cascade (Leavenworth). The first two are the teams themselves. Second-ranked Cascade and third-ranked Chewelah - both 11-0 - feature stacked backfields, with the perfect complements between brutish fullbacks and shifty tailbacks. Also running at full throttle in Moses Lake should be the game clock. During Chewelah’s 28-13 win over Royal last Saturday, the Cougars called running plays 90 percent of the time. The Kodiaks, 38-36 quarterfinal winners over Zillah on Saturday, have thrown just eight passes in two playoff games. “We both rely on running and we’ve both been able to score a lot,” said Cascade coach Jack McMillan. Chewelah is in its first semifinal since 1977, when the Cougars won the state title. The Kodiaks have never played in a semifinal, although they took eventual champ Riverside down to the final seconds during a ‘93 quarterfinal. Senior fullback Brian Koch and junior tailback Carl Haberberger rushed for 1,000 yards apiece for Cascade. Senior Ryan Hansen hasn’t had to throw much, but his accuracy is apparent. He has 14 touchdown passes and one interception. “They averaged 50 points per game during the regular season,” said Chewelah coach Roy Albertson. “They like to get in a track meet … so you have to slow them down and keep the ball away from them.”