A youthful Freeman defense put the Northeast A League on notice in 2016.
The Scotties posted four shutouts and yielded just six points per game – save for a 49-42 triple-overtime playoff loss to Zillah.
With the return of seven key starters on that unit, including menacing linebacker Zach Trumble, Freeman believes it has the means to push for a league title.
But so do Colville, Deer Park and Newport, according to 13-year Freeman coach Jim Wood.
“Colville and Deer Park reload. They have the numbers,” Wood said. “Newport is the sleeper with their quarterback (Koa) Pancho. He can take over a game if you don’t contain him.”
Since Colvile and Deer Park dropped down a classification three years ago, they have accounted for the last three league titles. Deer Park went unscathed in NEA play in 2016 before falling to Royal in the state semifinals.
Deer Park has the chore of replacing stalwart quarterback Connor O’Dea and most of its offensive line, but the Stags return a pair of all-NEA running backs in Trayton Bird and Tyson Lim.
“This is a good group of young men working hard to find their own identity,” Deer Park coach Keith Stamps said. “The skills players are good on offense. We lost a lot of starters on defense, but we return an experienced group of guys who do a nice job.”
Typically run-heavy, Colville returns a wealth of talent in the passing game with All-NEA receiver Dawson Flugel and quarterback John Knight.
The Indians return 13 starters.
“Some experience, decent speed, athletic line, great attitude. High expectations every year,” longtime Colville coach Randy Cornwell said.
Knight (992 yards passing, nine TDs), Flugel (27 receptions, 529 yards) and Jakob Larson (602 yards rushing, 11 TDs) return to Colville’s offense looking to earn a third league title in four years.
Flugel, also an all-NEA defensive back, and all-NEA linebacker Tristan Lewis will spearhead the Indians’ defense.
The Indians also got a boost in running back and defensive back Silas Say, a transfer from 3A Shadle Park.
If the senior-loaded Scotties want to earn their first league title since 2013, they need to make up for the void left by 1,400-yard rusher Ben Darcy.
Multiple threat athlete Desmond Parisotto will be looked on to help put points on the board. He’ll be aided by a defense that should give Freeman’s offense plenty of opportunities.
Deer Park Stags
Losing O’Dea is tough, but the Stags will have the 1-2 punch of accomplished running backs Bird and Lim. Lim, who led the league in rushing in 2015, missed last season because of injury.
The Stags return nine starters, including two-way All-NEA talent Mikal Palmer.
Newport has some of the more impressive skills players in the league in Pancho and receiver Danny Bradbury.
Pancho, a first-team all-NEA quarterback, burned teams with his and arm and feet in 2016 and accounted for more than 20 touchdowns.
Lakeside (Nine Mile Falls) Eagles
Eleven starters – six on offense, five on defense -– return for the Eagles, including quarterback Caden Wickwire and trusty wide receiver Drew Shuler.
The Cougars return most of their skills players from last year’s 3-6 campaign, including Elan Krausz, John Larson and Jenson Holloway.
The Rams were shut out five times in 2016 and averaged just more than five points per game.
Head coach Buddy Wood said his team is comprised mostly of underclassmen, but he believes it has the potential to surprise.
Medical Lake Cardinals
After going winless and being outscored 332-13 in NEA play in 2016, the Cardinals hope to improve this fall.
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