Davenport is no longer the only Gorilla in the area.
Colfax, a dominant member of the Northeast A, joins the Northeast 2B for football and the Bi-County League for all other sports this fall.
Though the Bulldogs have had staggering success since the turn of the century in many sports, not just football, athletic director/football coach Mike Morgan isn’t crowing, or counting chickens before they’re hatched.
“The misnomer is you’re moving down,” said Morgan, who led the Bulldogs to a state title in 2001. “We’ve seen other schools make this mistake, ‘We’re going to dominate.’ This is not the league to say that, this is too tough of a league.”
As his players headed into summer conditioning Morgan made sure they knew that the Northeast 2B and Southeast 2B combined for 10 of the past 11 B-11 state championships, to say nothing of other sports, particularly volleyball and basketball.
“Lind-Ritzville, Davenport, Reardan and DeSales, now throw in Asotin, it’s like going from the frying pan into the fire,” Morgan said. “It will be difficult for us.”
No more difficult than it will be for Colfax opponents, a challenge for which some are grateful.
“Some people hate to see a team of that quality come into league,” Lind-Ritzville football coach Greg Whitmore said. “My opinion is welcome them with open arms. When you get a team like that on the boys side, and the girls side, it forces you to step up. It only strengthens your league.”
Reardan coach/athletic director Eric Nikkola added, “It’s a great addition to us. It makes our league that much tougher. I was one of the folks that really wanted to see a team of Colfax’s caliber come in. They might be a powerhouse but there are going to be years (others) have a shot at them. It just makes this league a lot more competitive.”
That those three coaches are friends with a common background of continuing winning traditions after taking over for legendary coaches only heightens the anticipation.
“When I pick Lind-Ritzville and Reardan to be ahead of us, those are good friends and those are tremendous programs,” said Morgan, who replaced Doug Curtis 11 years ago.
Whitmore, who replaced Mike Lynch four years ago, said “(Colfax) has the same thing going as our kids do, they come from a winning tradition. Sometimes that makes up for a lack of talent. We know they’ll be well coached, the kids know how to win. They’ll be fine. Luckily we’re that way; Reardan’s that way. We all know we have our hands full.”
Morgan said the community isn’t fretting over the new classification.
“This certainly isn’t a surprise,” he said. “We’ve seen a steady decline in enrollment. We’ve had two years for people in the community, the coaches, the school, to get used to it. Twenty years ago they may have squawked but it’s just the nature of things around Whitman County.”
And rather than be intimidated by the newcomer, Whitmore said the Broncos will be ready.
“In 2003 we got bumped up to A and we had to play in the Northeast A for a year,” he said. “Everyone was worried but we actually went in and beat Colfax in our last league game before we lost to Zillah, which finished second in state. It actually helped us. Many people know the top teams in our league can compete with them.”
The interesting thing is all three teams are also rebuilding, or reloading in their opponents’ eyes.
Colfax joins the league with just four seniors among 15 returning lettermen, seven starters, from the team that finished 6-4 after losing to Brewster in a play-in game.
“We’re going to be a good team,” Morgan said. “We’ll be young and thin, but we have good talent.”
Reardan, which won the league but lost to eventual state champion DeSales in the quarterfinals for a 9-2 record, graduated every starter and returns only 10 lettermen.
“We are a talented team, we’re just young with no depth,” said Nikkola, who took over from Dan Graham five years ago. “We’re spending more time with repetitions, repeating things over and over and over to get the basics down. We have to slow things down, we can’t get deep into the playbook.”
Lind-Ritzville, which lost to Asotin in the first round of the playoffs to finish 7-3, returns only three starters and 10 lettermen.
“This is as inexperienced as we’ve been in my 17 years here,” Whitmore said. “We’re not very big but our team speed is OK. It’s all going to depend on how fast we can get young and inexperienced kids up to speed.”
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