Arrow-right Camera

Leagues merge in 8-man

The North Star League is no more. The league’s four 1A Division I eight-man teams have combined with the four teams from the Whitepine League under a two-year agreement. Each league brings one state playoff berth to the table. The top two teams advance to the postseason.

It’s a move that could back fire on the NSL teams. The Whitepine teams traditionally fare well in the playoffs and routinely have beaten NSL teams.

Kootenai coach and athletic director Doug Napierela said the merger made sense. “Pretty much the small schools are getting smaller,” he said. “It makes scheduling easier. We should be competitive with each other.”

NSL teams down

Napierela figures Whitepine powers Deary and Kendrick will be favored to capture the playoff berths. Turnouts are low among the NSL teams. Mullan, for example, is one injury away from seeing its season end. The Tigers have just eight athletes. “We’ll go as long as we can,” Mullan coach Stetson Spooner said. “It is what it is.”

Kootenai has 13 and Clark Fork 14. “We graduated the largest senior class (28) we had since they were in kindergarten,” Napierela said. “That must have been a cold winter.” Kootenai also lost two returning all-league players. One moved and the other decided not to turn out. Of the 28, 10 were football players. Napierela has just one senior this fall. “We’ve always been able to go 8 on 8 in practice,” he said. “But not this year. The dynamics of our school has changed. We’re almost 2 to 1 girls to boys.” Of Mullan’s eight players, half are returning starters led by all-league quarterback T.J. Placencio. Clark Fork and Kootenai will start sophomores at quarterback.

Question marks

Clark Fork coach Brian Arthun said the two leagues merging creates many unknowns. “This is a unique situation,” Arthun said. “In the past you knew what the teams in the league had coming back. Now it’s up in the air. Arthun has an idea how good the Whitepine teams could be. “Deary had a pretty good year last year and Kendrick has a great tradition with multiple state championships,” he said. “Kootenai, which has been our power, graduated a bunch. They’ll be back down to earth with the rest of us.”

By Greg Lee

1. Deary2. Kendrick3. Clark Fork4. Lakeside
5. Kootenai6. Lewis County7. Mullan8. Timberlake