Timberlake has captured 12 straight outright or shared Intermountain League championships in coach Roy Albertson’s 13 seasons.
While the Tigers are favored to claim a 13th consecutive crown and advance to the state playoffs for a 14th straight year under Albertson, this is the first season in some time that Timberlake should be challenged.
The IML, woefully down in recent years, should be competitive in 2016. In the last six years, Timberlake has outscored IML opponents 988-209. That’s a 43-point average margin of victory.
That margin should be considerably tighter this fall.
“I’d like to have a league where we can play our varsity the whole game,” Albertson said. “If you win by 43 points, you’re only going to play a half-game for three weeks, and how do you get better for the playoffs. That’s hurt us for the playoffs.”
The IML most valuable player is back in senior quarterback Brandon Hausladen. He’ll also start in the Tigers secondary.
“We have a special bunch of skill kids starting with our quarterback,” Albertson said. “He is talented and has made great strides throwing this summer.”
Ryan Starr, the starting quarterback going into the 2015 season, broke his ankle against Pullman and was lost for the rest of the year.
Hausladen stepped in and did an admirable job running Timberalake’s classic Wing-T offense. The Tigers want the 6-foot-2, 190-pound Hausladen to throw more this fall.
For Timberlake to make a deep run come playoff time, it must stay healthy. The Tigers have razor-thin depth. They’ll carry 22 players on varsity – 16 seniors and six juniors.
As many as eight will start both ways.
The Tigers have one returning starter on the offensive line in Clayton Rundgren. But he’s recovering from an injury and won’t return until late September.
So the first five weeks will be a growing time for a new line.
“The kids are working hard, we’re trying to correct a lot of mistakes but that’s what training camp is all about,” Albertson said.
“Lack of depth really isn’t anything new. That’s always a problem at our level. If we stay healthy we’re going to be a good team when league starts.”
The Badgers finished 4-5 last year, qualifying for the playoffs.
They believe this is the year they catch Timberlake.
Leading the way is returning all-league quarterback Kaleb Stockton, who may play some at wide receiver. Two other standouts, running back Nick Sabin and wide receiver Caleb Harrington, return.
Coach Cory Kramer wants to get the ball to his playmakers.
The Badgers must survive a difficult nonleague schedule that features games against Lakeland, Lakeside of Nine Mile Falls, Freeman, Sandpoint and St. Maries before opening league at Timberlake. And they only play three games at home including one of three IML games.
The Spartans return 11 starters off a 1-7 team.
They, too, believe they can close the gap on Timberlake. But it will be much more difficult.
Quarterback Anthony Storro and tailback Tommy Anselmo will lead Priest River.
“We have a good group of players,” Spartans coach Shane Douglas said. “We could put together a good run if we stay healthy.”
It was a rough season in coach Tim Kimberling’s first season back in a second go-round as coach. The Wildcats finished 1-7.
Kellogg expects to make an improvement but it likely won’t be enough to challenge for a playoff berth. Two-way senior linemen Kaleb Johnson and Damien Spencer will be in the middle of Kellogg’s attack. A kind early season schedule may help Kellogg build some momentum.
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