No NEA team has reached the first round of the state playoffs the past two seasons, snapping a run of nine straight years. In seven of those nine straight years, the Royal Knights knocked out the league’s representative. In 2008, the South Central Athletic Conference powerhouse knocked Freeman out of the quarterfinals 32-27. In 2007 and 2006, the Knights bounced Lakeside (Nine Mile Falls) in the first round, 60-7 and 32-7, respectively. From 2003 to 2005, Royal stopped Freeman by scores of 25-6, 29-7 and 35-14.
All-league players back
Five All-NEA first-team players return for their senior seasons: Jimmy Day (Lakeside), Jake Wiley (Newport) and Zach Thompson (Colville) return on offense. Don Burns and Alex Pond, a second-team selection on offense, return on defense. Newport offensive lineman/middle linebacker Justin Hause, a two-way All-NEA second-team selection, returns for Lakeside. Newport returns three second-team all-leaguers: Aaron Castle, Brandon Lambert and Travis Martin.
A pair of receivers should have a big impact this season: tight end/wide receiver Wiley of Newport and wide receiver Pond of Colville. Both are big and strong and will be frequent targets for their respective teams.
The consensus preseason pick to win the Northeast A League? None of the above. “I don’t see a clear-cut favorite,” Chewelah coach Jim Fisk said. Lakeside’s Brian Dunn agreed. “Any team can finish first to sixth in the league,” he wrote. “The league is much improved. Every Friday will be entertaining. Since I don’t see any easy games on our schedule, it must be us.”
Fisk likes the look of his neighbors: Riverside and Colville. “Riverside is going to be tough,” the Chewelah coach said. “Colville lost a lot of players from last year, but they should be good. But look at the rest of the league: Freeman is always tough, Newport is much improved and will be good again and Lakeside is always good.
“I hate to say it, but injuries will probably have as much to say about who wins as anything else.”