There’s no doubt that the White Star League road goes through Kendrick this year.
The Tigers, a 2015 state playoff qualifier, return every player from a year ago.
“Kendrick was all juniors last year,” Clark Fork coach Brian Arthun said. “Kendrick can overtake Deary.”
Deary romped to the league title, advancing to the State 1A Division II championship game. Despite some losses to graduation, the Mustangs are picked to take the league’s other eight-man state playoff berth.
That leaves Clark Fork, Lakeside and Kootenai playing for third and middle-of-the-pack finishes.
Clark Fork has its biggest turnout (22) in a decade. The Wampus Cats return five starters led by three-year starting quarterback Wade Stevens, a second-team all-league pick last year.
“I see us being in the middle of the pack,” Arthun said. “Fortunately, we play (Kendrick and Deary) later in the year. We need to progress steadily to compete with them.”
Lakeside must overcome a road-heavy early schedule. The Knights play five of their first six games on the road.
Coach Chris Dohrman will lean heavily on returning first team all-league quarterback Bryar Sanchez. Also returning in the backfield are running backs Jordan Davidson and Bishop Fischer.
“So far what I’ve noticed is I have a lot of kids who know what we’re doing from the last couple of years,” Dohrman said. “So we want to build on the last two seasons.”
Lakeside must rebuild its offensive and defensive lines.
“If we get those guys to come along we should do pretty well this season,” Dohrman said. “I think we can be right there with Kendrick and Deary. We played Kendrick tough for a half last season.”
Dohrman said the key for his team is simple.
“We need to take care of the things we can take care of – tackle, make stops, limit mistakes, limit our negative plays,” he said. “If we do those things we’ll give ourselves a chance to win.”
Kootenai must replace two starters. Most of the Warriors’ experience is on the offensive and defensive lines.
Tanner Anderson, a three-year starter at fullback, returns. Senior Hunter Whipple is moving to quarterback. He was an all-league selection at linebacker last year.
“Things are looking good right now,” Kootenai coach Doug Napierala said. “Our lack of depth is going to hurt but we’ve got some good kids. It boils down to execution, alignment and assignments.”
Mullan had to drop out of the league for a second straight year because it doesn’t have enough players. But the Tigers, with seven at practice so far, plan to play nonleague six-man games with six White Star teams.
Coach Stetson Spooner said two other players had to quit because of religious reasons. Of Mullan’s seven players, four are freshmen.
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