Before we pass out our annual season-ending honors, there’s some unfinished business.
Actually, we’re jumping ahead a year, but it is related to this fall.
You read it here first. Lewiston will win the Inland Empire League football championship next year.
I’m never - I repeat, never - going to pick against coach Nick Menegas’ Bengals again. If anyone would have told me the Bengals would go undefeated during the regular season I would have doubled over in laughter.
Undefeated? Not a team that would feature the smallest offensive line in Menegas’ 21-year career.
It was Lewiston’s first 9-0 regular season since 1954. The Bengals are in the playoffs for an eighth straight year and the ninth time out of 11 under Menegas.
The final scores - and the list of victims this season - are impressive: Moscow, 40-6; West Valley, 49-21; Pullman, 44-27; Post Falls, 49-6; Clarkston, 39-19; Lake City, 42-13; Coeur d’Alene, 40-13; Sandpoint 34-8; and Cheney, 39-0.
Lewiston is a near lock to advance to its fourth State A-1 Division II championship game in five years. And if the Bengals get there I’d take them to knock off defending state champion Madison of Rexburg, despite reports from eastern Idaho that Madison may be better than last year.
Back to next year. Yes, quarterback Brad Rice and running back/linebacker Laki Ah Hi graduate. But Menegas will return plenty of talent and retool with several players off an 8-1 junior varsity team.
Since the calendar flipped to November last weekend it’s time to pass out honors for football and volleyball teams.
Most of the IEL awards are easy picks. Take most valuable player. Each team had one. But none stood out as much as Lewiston’s Rice.
He passed for touchdowns, ran for touchdowns, caught a couple of TD passes and returned an interception for a score. He did everything but carry Menegas’ briefcase from the locker room to the sideline. And he would have done that, but only Menegas touches the briefcase. It contains all the secrets that separate him from other coaches.
And if you haven’t figured it out, Menegas is the clear-cut choice as Coach of the Year. Had Sandpoint made the playoffs there could have been a tie for the coaching honor. But Sandpoint has yet to post a win over a proven league program. The Bulldogs are 0-7 the past three years against Lewiston and Post Falls.
Running Back of the Year: tie, Sandpoint’s Jeremy Thielbahr and Post Falls’ Josh Mort. Defensive Player of the Year: three-way tie between Ah Hi, Post Falls’ Austin Lee and Sandpoint’s Ryan Knowles.
Rookie of the Year: Tiny but gutty Lake City quarterback Chad Troxel. Best Supporting Player of the Year: Sandpoint’s wide receivers, Carson Jeffres and Caleb Bowman.
Strange is the best word for the Intermountain League. Still, there were some obvious standouts.
MVP: Bonners Ferry’s all-purpose player Adam Hiatt. Running Back of the Year: Moscow’s Russ Cosgrove.
Defensive Player of the Year: With the zany nature of the league we’re not sure there was one. We’ll endorse the coach’s forthcoming all-league selection. Coach of the Year: rookie Ted Reynolds of Bonners Ferry.
Rookie of the Year: St. Maries quarterback Skyler Willard. Best Supporting Player of the Year: tie, wide receivers Jeromy Craner of St. Maries and Larry Johnson of Priest River.
MVP in the North Star League is Lakeside running back Buck Allen. Best Supporting Player of the Year: Lakeside quarterback Ken Pluff.
Quarterback of the Year: Mullan’s Dan Fritz. Rookie of the Year: Clark Fork quarterback Nate Stutzke. Defensive Player of the Year: Is there such a person in eight-man, high-scoring games? Coach of the Year: easy, Lakeside’s Ron Miller.
MVP for all leagues: Coeur d’Alene middle blocker Angie Shirley.
Best Supporting Player of the Year: easy, CdA’s Jessica Janke. Rookie of the Year: Sandpoint freshman Jessica Lippi. Coach of the Year: CdA’s Karla Mitchell.
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