Predicted order of finish: Pullman, Lakeside-Nine Mile Falls, Chewelah, Riverside, Colville, Deer Park, Medical Lake.
2004 record: 8-2, 6-0, GNL league champions, lost in State 2A playoff first round.
Coach: Bob Wollan
Years coaching, record: 9th, 71-23 (19-5 in two years at Pullman)
Starters, lettermen returning: 13
Base offense, defense: Multiple, 4-3
Players to watch: Ashton Gant, sr., 5-11, 170, WR/DB; Justin Erwin, sr., 5-9, 170, RB/DB; JC Sherritt, sr,. 5-10, 200, RB/LB; Jeff Jones, sr., 6-3, 245, OL/DE; Mike Thomas, sr., 6-1, 210, FB/DE; Jared Druffel, sr., 6-0, 210 OL; J.T. Levenseller, soph., 6-0, 170, QB.
Outlook: State jumps champion Gant devoted himself to football, attending three camps. Jones selflessly has switched from quarterback to line. Two-way All-GNL Sherritt, said Wollan, is the best player he’s coached. Erwin, Thomas and Druffel also were all-league. “I know a lot of people have high expectations for this team, but expectations and reality are two different things,” Wollan said. “But they had a phenomenal off-season (and) their commitment to the weight room was the best I’ve seen in eight years as coach. These are big-play kids waiting to happen.”
Lakeside (Nine Mile Falls)
2004 record: 5-4, 2-4, 5th tie.
Coach: Brian Dunn
Years coaching, record: 15th, 53-77 (9th at Lakeside, 35-42)
Starters, lettermen returning: 16, 24
Base offense, defense: Fly Option, 4-3.
Players to watch: Joel Noland, sr., 6-0, 170, WR/DB; Tony Smith, sr., 6-1, 185, RB/LB; Garrett Perkins, sr., 6-1, 175, DB; John Millard, sr., 6-3, 185, OL/DL; Mark Farmer, sr., 5-11, 165, SB; Jared Lafontaine, sr. 5-10, 225, OL; Tom Cresswell, sr., 6-0, 215, OL/DL; Danny Doyle, sr., 6-5, 200, OL; Cody Cantu, sr., 5-10, 205, LB; Ricky LaBelle,, sr., 5-9, 165, RB/LB.
Outlook: This team may not have the star power of the 2001-2002 playoff teams, but Dunn said this is the deepest group he’s had in a large turnout of football talent. “We’re a pretty experienced bunch and they’ve grown up again,” he said. “Seven or eight kids are (third-year) starters.” Lafontaine, who has started 20 games, is one of six third-year starters. Noland (both teams), Smith (on offense), and Perkins, Cantu and Cresswell (on defense) are returning all-league, either first or second team. “It makes you a better coach when you have those kinds of kids,” said Dunn.
2004 record: 4-5, 3-3, 3rd tie.
Coach: Jim Fisk
Years coaching, record: 3rd, 8-11.
Starters, lettermen returning: 8, 17
Base offense, defense: Pro, split 4-4.
Players to watch: Clayton Becker, sr., 6-2, 195, RB/LB; Devon Benedict, sr., 5-8, 185, FB/LB; Cameron Stroyan, sr., 6-2, 205, QB/LB; Jesse Garner, sr., 6-3, 235, OL/DE; Derrick Proszek, sr., 6-3, 250, OL/DL; Frank Trampush, sr., 6-3, 190, TE/DE; Brian Wallace, sr., 6-1, 240, OL/DL; David Ludwig, sr., 6-1, 215 C/NG.
Outlook: A strong senior class, experienced backs and line make the Cougars a contender. Benedict is returning All-GNL first-team defense, and Stroyan was second-team. Finding receivers is a must. “I think this is a solid group, my most solid to date,” said Fisk. “I know the kids’ goal is to be in a playoff. My expectation is that we’re there also. We came oh-so-close last year.”
2004 record: 6-3, 3-3, tied for third.
Coach: Allen Martin
Years coaching, record: 15th, 62-67
Starters, lettermen returning: 8, 17
Base offense, defense: I, 4-3.
Players to watch: Adam Anderson, sr., 5-10 205, RB/DB; Aaron Anderson, sr., 6-0, 205, DL/RB; Micah Kuntz, jr., QB; Robbie Scott, OL; Zak Davis; OL; Taylor McMahon, LB: Mark Edens, OL; Jason Paul, WR; Caleb Watt, DB; Derek Dolan, DT.
Outlook: This year’s team is rangier and in better shape, said Martin, but must replace four players who were the core of last year’s offense, including Buddy Wood, now at Central Washington. Wood holds Riverside’s receiving yardage and scoring career records. But in the Anderson twins, including all-state defender Aaron, all is not lost. “I think we’re lacking a bit of experience and we’ll play receiver by committee,” said Martin. But he likes his line and if the breaks fall their way, he figures the Rams can contend.
2004 record: 6-4, 3-4, 2nd, lost in State 2A playoff first round
Coach: Randy Cornwell
Years coaching, record: 9th, 31-45 (total of 27 years as head coach in Montana and Washington)
Starters, lettermen returning: 3, 15
Base offense, defense: Double Wing, 4-3
Players to watch: John Roberts, jr., 6-0, 185, RB; Darrell Adams, jr., 5-9, 195, OL; Danny Martin, sr., 6-0, 220, OL/DL; Trevor Bateman, sr., 6-0, 180, QB; Ryan Balis, sr., 5-9, 160, RB/DB; Brandon Sager, jr., 5-8, 175 FB/LB; Logan Goff, jr., 6-0, 190, OL/DL; Derek Morse, jr., 5-9, 195, LB.
Outlook: The Indians, a playoff team last year, don’t have the size or experience, but they do have quickness that can cause people fits. Adams is a returning All-GNL player, Roberts has speed to burn and Bateman will bring a different dimension to quarterback. “Big, strong physical teams might push us around, but they have to catch us, too,” said Cornwell. “We’ve been undefeated at junior varsity for the last two years. We’re unselfish and hard-working, kind of a blue-collar bunch.”
2004 record: 3-7, 2-4, 5th tie.
Coach: Keith Stamps
Years coaching, record: 2nd, 3-7.
Starters, lettermen returning: 8, 24
Base offense, defense: Pro Wing, Multiple
Players to watch: Brian Huffman, sr., QB; Gary Lankford, sr., RB/LB; Jon Rowley, sr., OL; Aaron Rutt, sr., WR/DB.
Outlook: A couple of late-season wins has Stags coaches encouraged. That said, Deer Park graduated a bevy of seniors and three of this year’s seven senior starters didn’t play last year. “I tell people we’re not very young, but very green,” said Stamps. “But I think this group has gotten much better in the last eight months. This team has a better understanding of the system and we as coaches in our second year have a better understanding. We’re much, much farther ahead coming out of the chute.”
2004 record: 2-8, 1-5 seventh.
Coach: Rick Olson
Years coaching, record: 1st, 0-0
Starters, lettermen returning: 3, 6
Base offense, defense: Spread, 3-4
Players to watch: Andy Sammons, sr., 6-1, 200, OL/DL; Jacob Wardell, sr., 5-10, 160 WR/DB; Mason Burgland, sr., 5-8, 165, WR/DB; Chris Hansen, sr., 6-0, 170, RB/LB; Jared Wilkie, jr., 6-0, 185 QB/DB; Shane McDowell, sr., 5-11, 170 FB/DL; Robert Seitz, sr., 6-2, 360, OL/DL; Joe Wilson, soph., 5-7, 150, WR/DB.
Outlook: The Cardinals are mainly juniors and sophomores, with a new coach operating a new offense and defense. But no one counts them out. “I’ve got to believe we’ll take our lumps because we’re young,” said Olson. “We’re just taking on a whole different look. Defense is pretty simple and we’ll be pretty aggressive. We’ll pin our ears back – either make a big play on defense or they’ll make a big play on offense.”
Predicted order of finish: Freeman, Colfax, Newport, Kettle Falls.
2004 record: 8-0, 6-0, league champions, state 1A finalist
Coach: Jim Wood
Years coaching, record: 0, 0-0
Starters, lettermen returning: 5 on offense, 6 on defense, 12
Base offense, defense: I, 4-4
Players to watch: Andrew Dresback, jr., 6-2, 220, QB; Andrew Wilkerson, sr., 6-1, 195, WR, All-NEA; Michael Wittwer, sr., 6-1, 190, RB, All-NEA; Shea Thomas, sr., 5-10, 185, LB; Chandler Edwards, sr., 6-0, 200, OT/DE.
Outlook: The Scotties have a whole lot to replace. Seven all-league performers are gone, including league MVP Kevin Hatch. But they still have talent returning in all-leaguers Michael Wittwer, who moves from fullback to running back, and WR Andrew Wilkerson. Junior quarterback Andrew Dresback should improve after a year of experience under center. The key will be how many people longtime defensive coordinator and first-year head coach Wood can count on to step up. “Consistency is the key. Our biggest goal is to fill in for the kids we lost. Our kids will step up and we hope to be consistent and solid.”
2004 record: 3-6, 3-3, 2nd, tie.
Coach: Mike Morgan
Years coaching, record: 7th, 53-24
Starters, lettermen returning: 8, 24
Base offense, defense: I, 4-3
Players to watch: Ben Aune, jr., 6-1, 170, QB/DB; Tony Starrett, 5-11, 170, sr., RB/LB; Josh Campbell, sr., 5-9, 175 RB/LB, All-NEA; Kyle Morgan, 5-11, 160, sr., TE/LB; Brian Danaher, sr., 6-3, 250, OL/DL, All-NEA; Jacob Heilsberg, sr., 6-5, 200, OL/DL.
Outlook: The Bulldogs, again, lost only three players from last year’s team. But, as Morgan points out, “that’s a good-news, bad-news scenario. We only lost three but from a 3-6 team.” On a team that was young last year, their strength should be a front line that returns all but one starter on both sides of the ball. “We’re returning five starters on the offensive line including the tight end, plus three or four other guys who got tons of playing time. We really do have experienced front line.” The key may be getting through the preseason with a winning record. “We need to come out of preseason 2-1, 3-0 certainly. Last year was 1-2 and that didn’t set us up well.”
2004 record: 4-5, 3-3, 2nd, tie, lost in State 1A playoffs first round
Coach: Tim Jurgens
Years coaching, record: 3rd, 8-12.
Starters, lettermen returning: 5 on offense, 4 on defense, 18
Base offense, defense: Multiple Wing-T, 4-4
Players to watch: Chance Hargrove, sr., 6-1, 180, QB/DB; Justin Emel, sr., 6-1, 170, RB/DB, All-NEA; Josh Tiede, sr., 5-10, 175, RB/LB; Dave McFall, sr., 5-11, 160, TE/LB.; Chad Hunt, sr., 5-9, 160, RB/DB; Ryan Miller, sr,. 6-0, 230, OL/DL; Eric Betz, sr., 6-1, 165, OL/DL; Nick Collison, sr., 5-10, 165, QB/LB; Thomas Garcia, sr., 5-10, 170, RB/LB.
Outlook: The state trip, while brief, should provide invaluable experience for the Grizzlies. “They got to taste it a little and actually believe they could step up and get the job done, that was a big thing,” Jurgens said. That said, like most other teams in the NEA, the key will be how well the offensive and defensive lines gel. Keep an eye on Emal and Tiede, who can make things happen on both sides of the ball.
2004 record: 1-9, 0-5, fourth.
Coach: Don Fox
Years coaching, record: 9th, 41-48
Starters, lettermen returning: 8, 12
Base offense, defense: I, 4-3
Players to watch: Jay Clemens, jr., 6-0, 195, OG, DE/LB; Brandon Hoover, jr., 5-9, 190, OG/DE/LB; Casey McKern, jr. 6-0, 185, LB; Tanner Bircher, sr., 6-0, 170, WR/DB, All-NEA; Luke Daniels, soph., 5-9, 165, QB; Lucas Fox, soph., 5-10, 175, RB.
Outlook: The Bulldogs struggled last year in Fox’s return to coaching after being away since 1992. But there’s optimism heading into this season. “We’re pretty excited about our kids as far as attitude,” Fox said. “We can’t do better in the summer (than we did) coming off a 1-9 season.” There is depth at the skill positions but a thin offensive line needs to stay healthy and perform well to give Daniels and Bircher a chance to make plays. Last year’s QB, Jason Azzarito, will miss some time with family issues in California, but should come back at some point in the season.
Predicted order of finish: Reardan, Lind-Ritzville, Liberty, Selkirk, Odessa, Davenport, Wilbur-Creston, Republic, Springdale.
2003 standings: Lind-Ritzville (13-0, state champions), Reardan (9-2), Liberty (7-3), Republic (7-5), Selkirk (4-5), Davenport (4-5), Odessa (5-5), Wilbur-Creston (3-7), Almira/Coulee-Hartline (1-8), Springdale (1-9).
Look back: In Mike Lynch’s last year as head coach at Lind-Ritzville, the Broncos rallied from a 21-point third-quarter deficit to beat DeSales in the state championship. Republic, the fourth seed out of the NEB-11, ran out of gas against the Irish after a surprising run to the state semifinals.
Outlook: Reardan and Liberty are two of the favorites, and their meeting on the first week of league play (Sept. 9) should indicate whether the Lancers are ready to return to the elite B-11 schools. Lind-Ritzville loses a lot, but if they can protect QB Travis Dewald (1,709 yards, 23 touchdowns) and open holes for 2004 Associated Press player of the year RB/LB Nick Ashley (2,109 yards, 30 TDs), the Broncos will contend for a second straight league title. It will be interesting to see who grabs the fourth berth into state, as Selkirk and Odessa are both primed for breakout seasons.
Predicted order of finish: DeSales, Pomeroy, Asotin, Tekoa-Oakesdale/Rosalia, Dayton, Waitsburg.
2004 standings: DeSales (12-2, state finalists), Asotin (7-2), Pomeroy (4-6), Dayton (2-7), Waitsburg (2-6), Tekoa-Oakesdale/Rosalia (0-8).
Look back: DeSales took a 21-0 lead into the last minute of the third quarter in their second consecutive state finals appearance, but fell to Lind-Ritzville 25-21. Pomeroy lost a 49-48 barnburner to La Salle in the first round of state, while Asotin was blown out by Orcas.
Outlook: The Irish look to be the class of the league once again, as coach Kim Cox returns seven starters and 22 lettermen for his 15th season. DeSales also adds a pair of incoming receivers, Aaron Reinland and Cameron McKinney, who will join senior Zac Ebding as Jack Dickson’s targets in their three-wide attack. Also new to the team is freshman Bryce Hayunga, who is expected to step in at running back behind a line full of seniors. They will be challenged early with non-league games against La Salle (Saturday), Baker (Sept. 9), which made the Oregon State 3A quarterfinals last year, and Colfax (Sept. 23). T-O/R will try to climb out of the league cellar with a talented receiving core led by junior Kris Widman. Four offensive linemen also return to protect junior QB Nathan Bailey.
Predicted order of finish: Columbia (Hunters), Sprague-Harrington, Almira/Coulee-Hartline, Cusick, Inchelium, Curlew. (ACH had a B-11 enrollment as of 2004, but is hoping for a hearing to ask the WIAA for eligibility in this year’s postseason as its 9-12 enrollment has dropped to 93, less than the 100-student B-8 cutoff. Wellpinit has a B-11 enrollment and is ineligible for postseason play.)
2003 standings: Columbia (10-2, state finalist), Sprague-Harrington (9-2), Inchelium (5-5), Cusick (2-7), Curlew (2-7), Mansfield (1-10). Wellpinit went 6-4 as a B-8 independent.
Look back: Columbia jumped out 12-0 against LaCrosse-Washtucna, then lost quarterback Dominic Kegel to an injury and the Tigercats scored 60 straight points to win their third consecutive state title.
Outlook: Columbia brings back four all-leaguers, including RB Miles St. John (358 yards in two playoff wins) and lineman Shawn Hughes, but the element that lifted the Lions into the state championship was an improved passing game. This year, new QB Tyson Dashiell will have to find some new options with 6-4 WR Tyrel Sampson out with an injury until at least October. As it has been the past couple of years, Sprague-Harrington will compete with the Lions for the top spot, returning all-league OL/LB Heath McKinney and junior RB Leigh Talkington, who averaged 12.3 yards a carry in seven games as a backup last year. Cusick (Myles Keogh) and Inchelium (Cody Peone) both bring back tough, all-league-caliber running backs.
Predicted order of finish: LaCrosse-Washtucna, Colton-Pullman Christian, Tri-Cities Prep, St. John-Endicott, Prescott, Jubilee Academy, Touchet. Garfield-Palouse plays in the league but has a B-11 enrollment, is considered an independent and is not eligible for the postseason.
2004 standings: LaCrosse-Washtucna (12-0, state champions), Jubilee Academy (8-3), Colton/Pullman Christian (6-4), Tri-Cities Prep (5-5), Prescott (3-7), St. John-Endicott (3-6), Touchet (3-6). Garfield-Palouse finished 5-4.
Look back: LaCrosse-Washtucna capped a third straight undefeated season with a 60-12 win over Columbia in the state championship game, also setting a Washington State B-8 record with its 35th straight win. Jubilee Academy lost to Columbia in the first round, and Colton-Pullman Christian made its first state appearance since combining.
Outlook: Once again, the race in this league is for second place. LaCrosse-Washtucna is “the biggest, most physical 8-man team I’ve ever seen in my 16 years as a coach,” head coach Jeff Nelson said. The Tigercats will have a new quarterback for the first time during the streak, as junior Jared Ayers-Stamper comes in to replace Justin McKenzie, and senior linemen Jeff Bafus (6-1, 240), Michael Martin (6-0, 245) and Kellen Hays (6-0, 285) will open up holes for all-state tailback Kevin Dainty. Colton-Pullman Christian could emerge as the No. 2 seed, led by senior running backs Joe Smetana and Chili Williams. Their speed should help open up the field for senior quarterback Kyle Kelly and the Wildcats’ spread offense. After its best season in school history, Tri-Cities Prep may be a sleeper in this league. Coach Dan Whitsett called twin brothers Matt (QB/DB) and Joe (RB/LB) Campbell “two of the best B level athletes in the state,” and he plans to use them as much as possible.
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe to the sports newsletter
Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.