We’re back. Better than ever. Or something.
The start of high school football debuts a new chapter in the ongoing saga that is “Pick 6,” brought to you by The Spokesman-Review and SWX. It’s the sixth anniversary of this exercise in futility.
It pits the overworked and underappreciated high school sports editor against the debonair and charming TV sports anchor in the “Battle of the Bald.”
Last season, a couple of bad picks dug me a hole too big to climb out of in the second half. This year, I bought a new shovel.
As always, these predictions are for recreational purposes only. Please don’t bet on high school football.
After little ado, the picks.
Gonzaga Prep at Coeur d’Alene, Friday at 7 p.m.
Dave Nichols: This week’s marquee matchup is one of the biggest all season and is the featured game on SWX. It’s a rematch of that game in 1982, when CdA knocked off G-Prep 23-17, in a battle of eventual state champs.
The Vikings are coming off a wild 29-26 comeback win over Rigby last week on the road. Kale Edwards found Colbey Nosworthy in the corner of the end zone with less than a minute to play to cap a 19-point comeback.
CdA lost a lot of talent, sending more than a dozen players to the college ranks from last year’s state runner-up squad. But Edwards got a good bit of playing time early last season while Colson Yankoff recuperated from knee surgery, and running back Shilo Morgan is a returning starter.
The defense is anchored by all-league linebacker Garrett Hagel and the defensive line returns experience and athleticism.
G-Prep is missing its 6-foot-5, 250-pound security blanket, Devin Culp, who is on the depth chart at tight end for the Washington Huskies. It’s time for all-league quarterback Connor Halonen to make this offense his own.
Halonen returns as the leading rusher at quarterback in the league with nearly 1,000 yards last season. He’ll guide coach Dave McKenna’s multioption offense behind a big, strong offensive line, led by 6-2, 250-pound center Chase Bunker and bookended by a pair of 270-plus tackles.
Jacob Parola, a returning all-league linebacker, is the leader on defense. G-Prep 28-24.
Sam Adams: In the interest of full disclosure, I absolutely dread picking games that I have to call on SWX. Every Friday, I walk through the stadium, and invariably I get a parent, player, coach or fan tell me, “You picked the wrong team this week.” Such is life as a sportscaster/reigning Pick 6 champ.
The Vikings opened the season with an exhilarating win over Rigby. I wish I had a dollar for every time CdA rallied back from an insurmountable lead.
This has been a long-anticipated matchup between two of the top football programs in Washington and Idaho, and one can’t wonder what this matchup could have been like just a year or two ago.
It’s too early to tell if a state title is in the cards for either of these teams in 2018, but I can tell you Friday night is going to feel like a title game for both of these teams. I suspect veteran QB Halonen will bring a heady presence to the field and that should be the difference in a down-to-the-wire finish. G-Prep 33-27.
Lewis and Clark at Lake City, 7 p.m.
Nichols: Lake City had its hat handed to it – at home – by Madison last week, 42-7. New head coach Brian Fulp has some work to do to rebuild the program. Lewis and Clark has six all-league honorable mentions returning, including QB Michael Flaherty and WR Xavier Guillory. Lewis and Clark 45-12.
Adams: Lake City suffered its fourth straight loss in an opener. That’s the price you pay for scheduling tough opponents out of league, but the T-Wolves have been known to make great strides from Week 1 to Week 2. The Tigers, meanwhile, are eager to build some consistency after suffering through losing streaks of three and four games in 2017. The Tigers should come out roaring in their season debut. Lewis and Clark 21-10.
Mead at Post Falls, 7 p.m
Nichols: Panthers DL Nathan Puletasi is worth the price of admission alone. He’s unblockable by one player. Senior QB Ryan Chan has several good resources at his disposal. Post Falls routed lower-division Sandpoint last week 34-7 and features an all-new starting lineup, led by QB Derek Pearse. Mead 24-14.
Adams: This marks the third year in a row that the Panthers and Trojans will square off in an early-season battle. The games have alternated victors, including a 54-40 shootout won by Post Falls last season. The Trojans looked sharp at times during last week’s win over Sandpoint, highlighted by a 28-point eruption in the second quarter. Unless Mead can make a marked improvement on defense from what we’ve seen in the last two years, I’m forecasting another high-scoring affair on the red turf, where we’ve seen more than a few points being scored in the Big Sky. Post Falls 41-35.
Deer Park at East Valley, 7 p.m.
Nichols: EV first-year coach Tom Griggs has 10 returning starters with strong lines play but inexperience at the skill positions. The DP Stags return five starters on both sides of the ball from a 5-4 team last season, including two-way all-NEA lineman Aiden Shroyer and QB Lucas Keller. Deer Park 17-16.
Adams: Griggs gets to make his debut with a home game. This will be anything but a walk in the (Deer) Park on Friday. The Stags have traditionally “played up” in their season opener, and netted wins against higher classification Rogers in each of the past two years. Their last loss in an opener? You guessed it: East Valley. The Knights beat the Stags in back-to-back season openers in 2015 (48-18) and 2014 (27-20). As EV prepares for life without the departed Rodrick Fisher (gone to WSU) and former head coach Adam Fisher (Rodrick’s adoptive dad), there will be a few bumps early in the season. But I expect the Knights to usher in the Tom Griggs Era with a win on Friday night. East Valley 20-14.
Colville at Cheney, Friday at 7 p.m.
Nichols: Colville returns 14 starters from last season’s NEA championship team, including QB John Knight, who has been throwing it all over the field for the Indians. The Blackhawks hope to improve on 0-8 from last season and return all-GNL DE Jacob McGourin, who is getting looks from D-I. Colville 31-27.
Adams: The Blackhawks get to turn the page following a winless season in 2017, including three games decided by six points or less. Meanwhile, the Indians have lost nine games over the course of the last four years. I don’t think loss No. 10 will come Friday, even if it’s on the road in Cheney. Colville 21-14.
Northwest Christian at Reardan, Friday at 7 p.m.
Nichols: The NWC Crusaders have a simple game plan: give it to Silas Perreiah and watch him run. He’s one of the best running backs in the state regardless of classification. Indians all-league RB/LB Tyler Sprecher is one of the most talented players in the NEA. Reardan returns 15 lettermen from a 4-6 team. NWC 35-28.
Adams: Last year marked a rare step backward for the Crusaders. Since booting up its football program in 2013, NWC increased its win total every season, peaking at 10-2 in 2016 before regressing to a 5-5 last year. Look for NWC to return to form Friday with a win against the upset-minded Indians on the home turf in Reardan. NWC 33-21.
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