NE 1B North story lines
Surprising Wellpinit reached the State 1B quarterfinals, their first state tournament football appearance in school history. With an experienced team returning, the target is on its back.
But there is optimism in Cusick, a state qualifier three straight years, capped by a finals appearance in 2010.
Don’t count out Cusick
Wellpinit may have supplanted Cusick atop the division, but coach Sonny Finley isn’t conceding a thing. The Panthers lost only three players and will run a more wide-open offense. “We’re probably a faster team than I’ve coached up and down the lineup,” he said.
Speedy Ryan Sample returns at quarterback and Derrick Bluff is back in the backfield. “He’s the most dangerous player in the state with the ball in his hands,” Finley said.
When asked to compare this year with past teams, Finley said with typical humor, “This being my fifth year coaching, this definitely is one of my top five teams.”
After playing an independent schedule recently, Republic returns as a full-fledged member of the Northeast 1B League.
The Tigers have a new coach, Chris Burch, who played football at Central Washington University and previously was Republic’s volleyball coach.
Wellpinit is not only experienced, but sizeable. Returning all-Leaguers are AJ Kieffer, Kyle McCrea, and 260-pound linemen Michael Sijohn and Lance Flamand.
And the team has a 6-foot-5 receiver in junior Brodie Ford. Northport had seven all-leaguers and should remain in the mix. Selkirk, whose Trevor Grant is a player to watch, is “up and coming,” according to Finley.
“And I’m excited to see what Republic will do with a new coach.” That said, the Redskins and Panthers have the upper hand.