Cusick’s season ended with a humbling 80-28 loss to Neah Bay in the state quarterfinals, but they’ll get a chance at redemption when the Panthers open this season on Sept. 5 with the same Neah Bay.
Cusick Coach Sonny Finley said the early schedule will be an good test for his team as he tries to unseat Republic as the champion of the Northeast 1B North in eight-man football.
“We are getting there,” Finely said. “We’ve got a talented team this year.”
Cusick actually had the league’s best overall record last year at 8-3, but the Panthers lost early to Republic. The Tigers then finished with a perfect league mark at 6-0, and they went 7-4 overall.
“I imagine they are going to be tough this year,” Finely said of the Republic Tigers. “They return a lot of players and they are coached very well. Chris Burch does a great job with those boys.”
Call the Bluff
Cusick returns Alec Bluff, a jack-of-all-offensive trades who missed last year because of injury. Finely said he will also return seniors Eli Peterson and Chad Browneagle. Also returning are juniors Spirit White and returning starting quarterback Tyson Shanholtzer.
“I would say Republic would be the favorite,” Finley said. “But if we can avoid the injury bug, we should make a pretty deep run in the playoffs.”
Finley said Curlew had a young roster last year and should improve on its fifth-place league finish. “I know their offensive line will probably be one of the biggest in the league,” Finley said of Curlew. “I imagine they will be a playoff-caliber team.”
Republic coach Chris Burch agreed, saying Curlew could surprise some teams.
As for the Tigers, they only lost one senior who was a starter. They return quarterback Aaron Fritts, twin brothers Angelo and Alex Rivera, Blake Phillips and Garrett Weller. He also has a new player, Lucas Rittel, who Burch said he’s excited to see play.
“Nobody has seen (Rittel) play, and he is an animal,” Burch said. “Our final game is at Cusick. If everythign goes to plan, I’m sure it will be for all the marbles.”
Selkirk baker’s dozen
Selkirk coach Kelly Cain returns 13 lettermen to a team that finished third in the league at 4-2 and 6-5 overall.
“That’s my neighbor,” Finley said of Cain. “We always treat our neighbors well. (Curlew tries) try to play a wide-open style offense. But, they just don’t’ have the speed for it.”
Cain agreed with Finley, saying his team weakness is a “lack of speed.”
He returns his son, senior Dominic Cain, at quarterback, who is a four-year starter. The younger Cain is among 11 returning juniors and seniors who return for the Rangers, located in Ione.
Inchelium back to roots
New Hornets coach Tim Hoffman said he’s excited to have Inchelium return to its roots. He played for the 2000 state championship team that also won it all in 2001.
“We don’t have the crowds and the town support like we used to,” Hoffman said. “We just want to get back to the green and yellow.”
Hoffman has four returning seniors, including quarterback/running back Quentin Holford, linemen Roger Finley and Tristan Seymour, and receiver/defensive back Edward Stensgar.
“We have a bunch of sophomores and a couple freshmen,” he said. One sophomores is the coach’s little brother, Levi Hoffman.
“I’m more nervous than excited,” Tim Hoffman said. “We’ll see how it works out in a couple weeks.”
Northport to play
Northport athletic director Erik Stark said he was unsure that coach Shane Fox would have enough players to field a team for the squad that went 0-10 last year.
But Fox said he’s sure he’ll have enough. Twice last year the Mustangs fielded only nine healthy and eligible players for games.
Returning are juniors Dillon Owing, a running back/linebacker, and Scott Baird, who plays on the line.
“We are pretty much juniors and a few underclassmen,” Fox said. “We didn’t win a game, but we never had to forfeit.”
|1. Republic||4. Curlew|
|2. Cusick||5. Inchelium|
|3. Selkirk||6. Northport|
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