As long as they remain healthy, the Republic Tigers expect to be at the top of the standings this season.
“Barring injury, we should be really competitive,” head coach Chuck Wilson said.
The Tigers will have several starters returning this year to its 30-man roster, a large turnout in the eight-man league that is accustomed to much smaller numbers. Among the returners are all-league quarterback Dan Phillips and offensive lineman and all-league center Justin Riggs.
“He’s a stud on both sides of the football,” Northport head coach Kevin Dionas said of Riggs.
The Panthers are poised to win the league this season despite having a small roster of 13 players. Although small in number, Cusick returns a quality defense that has been difficult to break through.
Among returners are cornerback Dillon Hendershot and defensive lineman Caleb Ziesmer.
“He’s (Ziesmer) one of those kids who will wreck an offensive game plan,” Dionas said.
With only one win in two seasons and going 0-10 last year, the Mustangs are optimistic that this season will return stronger results.
“We’re young, we will be for a while,” said Dionas, who led a team of mostly freshmen in his second season as head coach last year. “But we’re very optimistic.”
Of the 22 players who turned out for the team this season, 18 of them are underclassmen. Dionas will have 10 total sophomores this season.
Third-year senior Kade Middlesworth will return at quarterback and offer some needed experience in the backfield.
“He’s really grown,” Dionas said. “He’s a great passer. In my opinion, (he’s) the best quarterback in the league this year.”
Inchelium went undefeated (5-0) in league last season, but Wilson and Dionas said they don’t expect the Hornets, who lost most of their starting roster to graduation last year, to be as big of threat this season.
“They lost their whole team pretty much,” Dionas said. “They’re going to be rebuilding.”
Inchelium could also be down in numbers this season because some of its starters are on notice for grades.
Last year, the Rangers were forced to rebuild after losing 14 seniors from the 2015 season. Their young roster held them down in the standings, with Selkirk’s only win in league being against last-place Northport.
Wilson said the Rangers have grown and will have much more experience this season, setting them up to be Republic’s toughest competition in league, along with Cusick.
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