2018 Prep Football Preview: Homecoming every week for new Sandpoint coach Ryan Knowles in IEL 4A

New Sandpoint football coach Ryan Knowles was busy after a recent practice placing decals on helmets.

“I’m going to go paint the field when I’m done,” he said.

His new job carries some additional chores that many prep coaches perform on a routine basis. Safe to say he didn’t have to paint the field during his 12 years as an assistant at Colgate.

Knowles doesn’t mind a bit. The chance to return home and become a first-time head coach tipped the scales over continuing as an assistant at a successful FCS program.

“There weren’t many jobs I would have left for,” Knowles said. “I’d been (at Colgate) for 12 years and I just kind of wanted to be a head coach. When they called it was principal Tom Albertson and he was my freshman coach, and we were talking about the job and if I knew anybody. I’ve always been interested in coming home.”

Knowles was all-in after they found common ground on compensation and details important to the job and the program.

“I can fulfill all my (coaching) excitement here,” said Knowles, one of Sandpoint’s most decorated players who went on to start for four seasons at defensive end at Idaho. “I can raise my family where I grew up.”

Knowles’ wife, Megan, is a Ferris High grad. They have two children, daughter Aubrey and son Drew. Knowles’ staff includes his dad, John, who was a longtime Bulldogs assistant, another reason Knowles made the move.

“I dragged him out of retirement,” he said. “He’s coaching the defensive line.”

Knowles takes over a program that went 3-7 last year and won the 4A IEL before falling to Middleton 42-10 in the state playoffs. The Bulldogs appear to be slight favorites over Lakeland and Moscow as the three programs chase two state berths.

Sandpoint’s defensive should be stout up front with 2017 IEL defensive MVP Alex Stockton, All-IEL linebackers Tyler Lehman and Payton Cox, and lineman Karsen Fournier, whom Knowles called a “tremendous leader.”

The offense features with all-league running back Dillan Mitton, quarterback Jaxon Pettit and receivers Hunter Elliott, Declan Plummer and Christian Niemela.

Offensive lineman Brandon Casey also will see time on the defensive front and Stockton will take snaps at tight end.

“I really think we’re a balanced crew,” Knowles said. “We have skill at every position but we’re thin at some. There’ll be some guys playing both ways.”

Lakeland: The Hawks graduated a ton of talent from the 2017 team that finished 3-7 and lost in the opening round of the state playoffs.

“We’ll probably start seven underclassmen offensively,” coach Tim Kiefer said. “We were at camp playing against Flathead and we had 11 juniors on the field on defense. We’re young.”

The Hawks return five All-IEL players in wide receiver Trey McArthur, linebacker Travis Derrick, defensive back Ezra Griggs, kicker Ammon Munyer and punter Collin Bell.

Derrick and Griggs will see time on offense at guard and running back, respectively. Griggs was on JV most of 2017 but made a splash late in the season. Munyer will play on the defensive line but Kiefer wasn’t sure if the sophomore will continue kicking.

Projected starting quarterback Brandon Furey’s targets will include the McArthur brothers, Trey and Isaac.

“How we start out, I don’t know,” Kiefer said. “But I can tell you we’re going to get better each week.”

Moscow: The Bears have an excellent opportunity to return to the state playoffs for the first time since coach Phil Helbling’s initial season in 2012. Moscow’s first string is solid but depth remains a concern.

“Something we’re really working on is handling adversity,” Helbling said. “It’s going to strike so how we handle it is really critical. If we can do that, I feel like we’ll be in good shape. We have good athletes and players. Our numbers (27 on varsity) are about the same (as recent seasons) so it’s keeping guys healthy.”

Bears to watch include running back-safety Derek Rauch-Edwards, WR-DB Jacob Gray, WR-DB Jacob Cardwell, WR-DB Brekken Mower, quarterback Chad Redinger and linemen AJ Fahey, Aaron Nickerson and Dimas Barajas.