Tuesday wasn’t unlike most of Lake City High’s first football practices. The Timberwolves gathered for the first of two 2-hour sessions at 7 a.m. with coach Van Troxel and went through offensive and defensive drills with helmets and no pads.
But the day was different in one way: The Timberwolves are coming off a State 5A championship and 12-0 season for the first time in school history.
While graduation gutted the starting lineup, there was no mistaking a distinct excitement in the players and coaches.
LC must replace seven starters on offense and 10 on defense. But to listen to Troxel, there’s no hint of panic or concern.
“With what we do every year, we’re always going to be looking at graduating that many seniors and starters,” Troxel said.
So the T-Wolves began their first 2007 practice with the same goal as last season.
“With where we’re at with our program, that’s going to be our goal every year now,” Troxel said. “We want nothing less than a state championship again. It’s been that way for the last six years.”
In that span, LC has played in four state finals and won two (2002 and last year).
The road to repeat will be loaded with obstacles.
“Post Falls is better, Lewiston is better and Coeur d’Alene is as good or better,” Troxel said of the Inland Empire League. “Nobody has gone backward. That has a lot to do with what we’ve done. You have to work hard to compete, and they’re all working hard. It’s going to be hard for us to be better, but that’s our goal. We know getting there through our conference isn’t going to be easy.”
What will make part of the reloading job easier for LC, however, is that the top player in the state last year, defensive end/offensive tackle Byron Hout, returns. A 6-foot, 225-pound senior, Hout has already given Boise State an oral commitment.
Hout, the lone returning defensive starter, is changing positions. He will be the team’s middle linebacker. Joining him on defense is a nucleus of athletes which saw considerable time in backup roles last year.
On offense, LC must replace quarterback Garren Hammons, a two-year starter, and will likely do so by playing two seniors – Zach Clanton and Tommy Anderson. They will have a handful of speedy receivers and running backs to get the ball to.
“We have more speed this year than we did last year,” Troxel said.
With LC’s spread offense predicated on taking advantage of speed, opponents could have their hands full.
LC opens its season Aug. 24 at home against Timberline of Boise. Coeur d’Alene, which began practicing Monday, plays on the same night at Sandpoint.