For the better part of Randy Cornwell’s 21 years as Colville’s head football coach, the tradition-rich Indians have employed the yard-churning, clock-eating double-wing offense.
Four years ago, however, Cornwell began to open the playbook for quarterback Ben Knight, who often went to the air while leading Colville to the Class A state title game.
Knight’s now a junior at NAIA Eastern Oregon, but his younger brother, John Knight, has been throwing it all over the field for the Indians, who return 14 starters from last season’s Northeast A League championship team.
“We’ve diversified a bit,” joked Cornwell, whose team is the prohibitive preseason NEA favorite. “(John) Knight can really throw it, though. He throws a nice ball.”
The younger Knight, a 6-foot-2, 190-pound senior and state champion wrestler, passed for 1,500 yards and 15 touchdowns last season for run-first Colville, which outscored its league opponents 245-39 during the 2017 regular season.
Jakob Larson, another one of the league’s top playmakers, returns at running back after rushing for nearly nearly, 1,000 yards last fall. Fellow all-NEA selections Michael Fitzsimmons (OL/LB), Chase Kanamu (WR/DB), Jacob Newsom (OL/DL) and Lucas Michaelson (K) also return for Colville.
The Indians (9-2, 7-0 in 2017) may have cruised during the regular season but fell to league rival Newport 21-7 in the state quarterfinals. Colville won the regular season game 28-14.
“It fueled our offseason workouts,” Cornwell said of the loss. “This is a hungry, driven group that works for everything they get.”
Deer Park (6-4, 3-4): The Stags return five starters on both sides of the ball from a team that finished 5-4 last season, including two-way all-NEA lineman Aiden Shroyer and quarterback Lucas Keller.
“We’ll be a young football team that has seniors at some key positions to lead us,” said Keith Stamps, Deer Park’s 14-year head coach. “In order to be competitive in this league, the returning starters and new players need to develop in all three phases.”
Freeman (7-4, 5-2): Longtime head coach Jim Wood stepped down last winter. Former Rogers High head coach Ben Cochran steps in, inheriting a program that returns just four starters.
Seniors Dakota Steiger (OL/DL) and Jackson Whitaker (DB/TE) will be looked to help carry the young Scotties, who made the playoffs last season.
“The team unity this year and football intelligence is our strength and our weakness is youth,” Cochran said.
Lakeside (6-3, 4-3): The Eagles lost the majority of their lettermen from last year’s 6-3 squad, but they do return a dangerous duo.
All-NEA quarterback and linebacker Kasen Hunsaker and all-league receiver and state 100-meter spring champion Micah Holmes will look to keep Lakeside’s offense moving.
“We will have a very talented senior group with the majority of them being skill players,” Lakeside coach Devin Bauer said. “We will have a young line that will need to find its identity and learn quickly. This group is very hungry and is setting its goals high.”
Medical Lake (0-9, 0-7): First-year coach Jeremy Bahr takes over a struggling Medical Lake program that went winless again last season. He reports growing numbers, enthusiasm and athleticism.
“Our offense will be guided by either Aiden Lyrla or Carter Pivonka at QB. Both players are unique in their skill set; it will be fun to see their development,” Bahr said.
Newport (10-2, 6-1): The Grizzlies made their deepest run in program history by advancing to the state semifinals, knocking off league champ Colville in the process.
Now Newport must overcome the graduation of 12 seniors, including the league’s most electrifying player, quarterback Kao Pancho.
The Grizzlies return 10 starters, including standout running back Danny Bradbury, receiver Tug Smith and two-way lineman Jacob Tanner.
“Our strength is a lack of depth, so to be successful it will require us to be mentally tough,” Newport coach Dave Pomante said. “We look forward to this challenge and maximizing our ability.”
Riverside (5-5, 2-5): Third-year head coach Buddy Wood returns 12 starters from a Rams team that finished 5-5 in 2017.
Quarterback and all-NEA defensive back TJ Trepanier will be looked to spearhead Riverside, along with Sammy DesRoches, an all-NEA linebacker.
“We are a young team with a lot of enthusiasm,” Wood said. “We only have six seniors, but they are strong leaders on and off the field.”