The Coeur d’Alene Vikings hear the whispers loud and clear.
The murmur goes something like this: The Vikings, state champions three of the last four years, are down, they’re vulnerable.
“People are kind of saying Coeur d’Alene has slipped and this is our chance to get them,” Vikings coach Shawn Amos said. “All that stuff is just talk, it all comes down to when you line up. We’ve averaged almost 100 kids a day all summer (conditioning program).
“There are usually 6-8 teams that have the talent to win a state championship and I think we’ll be one of those teams.”
Some of the Vikings’ rivals are thinking the same thing. Lake City, which saw its string of 16 consecutive state playoff appearances end last year when the IEL had just one berth, and Post Falls are primary challengers.
The 5A playoffs are expanding to 12 teams so the IEL returns to having two berths and there’s a chance for a third.
Viks back for more
CdA returns All-IEL performers Drew Berger, a linebacker/running back who has committed to Boise State, defensive back/receiver Ryan Walde and DB/WR Jonny Plum.
“This might sound a little cocky but I don’t think we have any competition at all,” Berger said. “I think we’re going to be fine. Lake City and Post Falls are going to be great teams but we’re going to have a great team as well.”
Junior Austin Lee steps in as the starting quarterback. He played a big part in the team’s 2013 state title, filling in for the injured Gunnar Amos and scoring the winning touchdown with 47 seconds left.
“I was pretty nervous,” Lee said. “The whole last drive was in slow motion but I think I did pretty good.”
Lee was one of those 100 players at “summer army,” the daily conditioning/lifting program.
Plum and Walde lead a deep group of receivers. How deep? Amos expects nine receivers to play in the opener.
Amos called the linebackers and secondary “as good as we’ve had.” Gibson Green, who will see time at running back, joins Berger, Myles Flanagan, Kyle Schneider and Colton Johnson in a seven- to eight-man rotation. Walde, Plum, Myles Mahaffy, Alec Sibold and Cole Williams anchor the secondary.
The biggest question mark is the offensive and defensive fronts, but Amos anticipates rotating as many as nine players on each line.
Lake City returns Jerry Louie-McGee, a game-changer at receiver, running back and returning kicks. He won the 400 meters at state track last spring.
“He can really run and he’s up to 170, 175 pounds,” coach Van Troxel said. “We’re going to find ways to isolate him.”
Said Lewiston coach Shawn Nilsson: “He’s going to be a pain in the butt to prepare for.”
Senior Michael Goggin and junior Colin Hunter are competing at quarterback. Both are quality athletes and the runner-up will probably end up at receiver.
Other LC mainstays will be RB/S Connor Newby, S/TE Drew Shipley, RB/DB Kirk McKenzie, CB/RB Corey Cook and linemen Jacob Ramey and Zion Dixon.
Post Falls, aiming for its first playoff berth since 2004, will rely on senior quarterback Dalton Thompson, solid offensive and defensive lines and linebackers Thomas Roman, Gunner Sciortino and Richie Hauser. Senior OL/DL Justin Farnsworth is a three-year starter.
“We’re pretty good up front,” coach Jeff Hinz said.
Standout RB/DE Seth McLeod is sidelined by injuries sustained from wrestling.
“We’re really hungry,” Thompson said. “Our group of seniors has never played in the state tournament and that’s so much motivation.”
|1. Coeur d’Alene||3. Post Falls|
|2. Lake City||4. Lewiston|