Returning all-league picks
A pair of first-team selections on offense and defense return.
On offense, seniors Bishop Sankey of Gonzaga Prep (running back) and Branson Schmidt of Central Valley (offensive line) return. On defense, seniors Charlie Hopkins of G-Prep (end) and Dakota DuBois of Lewis and Clark (secondary) are back.
Second-team returners are Ryan Nungester (wide receiver) and Nick Lawrence (LB) of CV and Jordan Tonani (WR), Dillon Beschel (OL) and Riley Stockton (DB) of Ferris and Seth Montgomery (LB) of Mead.
One new face
Just one coaching change occurred. Alan Stanfield takes over at Shadle Park, replacing Mark Hester. Stanfield, a 1997 Whitworth University graduate, was head coach the past two years at 5A Timberline in Boise. Shadle is his fourth head coaching job and this will be his eighth season overall as a head coach.
Well, all the schedules are the same since each team will play each other this season. But University could make an argument that the start of its schedule could be the most difficult.
U-Hi, which dropped to 3A this year, opens with four consecutive games against 4A teams – Ferris, LC, Gonzaga Prep and Spokane Valley rival CV. Then the Titans meet defending league champ Mt. Spokane in the fifth week in a game that could go far in deciding the league’s lone 3A state playoff berth.
After playing the 3A portion of its schedule, U-Hi finishes with Mead.
Ferris’ final three games are against Mead, LC and G-Prep.
North Central, Rogers and Mt. Spokane play the most Thursday games (three).
U-Hi has the most “home” games (six) because LC chose to play the Titans at U-Hi rather than at Albi.
What the coaches are saying
CV coach Rick Giampietri sees competitive parity, especially among the 4A schools.
“I think five of the six 4A teams can beat anybody on any given night,” Giampietri said.
Mead coach Sean Carty expects a tug-of-war for state playoff berths.
“The league is balanced again this year,” Carty said. “Most of the teams should still be in the hunt all the way to the end.”
LC coach Dave Hughes must replace standouts Levi Taylor (RB) and Austin Ehlo (WR).
“We will be competitive in every game,” Hughes said. “If we can win the close ones, we will be in the hunt for a playoff spot. I like our chances.”
Rogers moves from 3A to 4A this year, and the Pirates will be in tough competition among the bigger schools.
Pirates coach Matt Miethe remains ever optimistic, though.
“This year’s team is as close a group of kids as we have had in recent year,” Miethe said. “The players have come together and hard work has been their priority. With some new talent and a consistent scheme and coaching staff for three straight seasons, we have seen more rapid production in a shorter time.”
U-Hi gets the nod to capture the league’s lone 3A state playoff berth.
“Expecting a great year,” U-Hi coach Bill Diedrick said.
U-Hi returns the most starters (15) and Mt. Spokane returns the fewest (five).
NC figures to challenge for the 3A playoff berth. The Indians return 12 starters.
“We have more seniors out than we have had in a few years,” NC coach Brian Gardner said. “We have some very athletic skill (players) that have the ability to make big plays.”
Our predictions and the coaches’ picks differ.
We asked the coaches to pick the league finish including how they think their team will fare. Seven of the coaches tabbed G-Prep as league champ, while Mead and CV each received a first-place vote. Shadle’s Stanfield didn’t vote because he’s new.
Here’s the order of finish with points in parenthesis (10 was awarded for first, nine for second and so on): G-Prep (88), Mead (72), Ferris (68), CV (68), LC (52), U-Hi (50), Mt. Spokane (41), NC (25), Shadle Park (19), Rogers (12).
|4. Mead||8. North Central|
|1. Gonzaga Prep||5. University||9. Shadle Park|
|2. Central Valley||6. Lewis and Clark||10. Rogers|
|3. Ferris||7. Mt. Spokane|