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Rivalry in Lake City kicked in high gear

What constitutes a rivalry?

Does it have to be sport centric? Does geography have an impact? Does belonging to the same school district automatically make it a rivalry?

Or perhaps the teams must be competitive year in and year out.

Or how about in Coeur d’Alene’s case, you’re the only school in town dating back to the early 1900s when all of a sudden the town is split in half and Lake City is born.

I’m not suggesting in any way that Coeur d’Alene and Lake City have the corner on rivalries – especially in regard to football – but it has developed into a healthy standoff. There’s the annual battle in Spokane for South Hill bragging rights between Ferris and Lewis and Clark; the Greasy Pig between Central Valley and University, owned the last nine years by the Bears; and the Battle of the Bell featuring Mt. Spokane and Mead.

For the 30th time since Lake City opened in 1994, the teams meet Friday at CdA.

Long before LC was birthed, CdA had established a healthy reputation statewide as a difficult matchup in the state playoffs. The Vikings went 12-0 in 1982 to capture a state championship and then in the only year former West Valley and Pullman coach Jim Clements coached CdA, 1985, the Vikings bounced back from a 1-5 start to win six in a row and claim a state title.

That year a guy by the name of Duane Halliday was the starting quarterback. I was at the state final. He, by the way, is the father of Washington State University quarterback Connor Halliday.

CdA played in back-to-back finals under former coach Larry Schwenke in 1986 and ’87.

LC, after some early growing pains, has become known as a difficult out under coach Van Troxel since the late 1990s. The Timberwolves won their first state title in 2002 and followed up with a 12-0 season in 2006.

Under coach Shawn Amos, the Viks have been the state power in recent years, having won three of the last four titles and played in four straight finals.

LC leads the series 18-11. CdA won the first three and has taken the last six, and the T-Wolves were victorious in 18 of 20 in between, including 11 straight in one stretch.

So what does this history mean come Friday? Nothing.

None of the current players were alive when the series started. Troxel has coached in every game and Amos’ first season was in 1997.

It’s a curious backdrop to what could be one of the more entertaining games the rivalry has seen in recent years.

During CdA’s current run, the Viks have been blessed out the ears with NCAA Division I talent. Consider just last year they were led by Matt James, a two-way lineman redshirting at Washington; Chase Blakley, a tight end sitting out at Boise State; and quarterback Gunnar Amos, who’ll enroll at Idaho in January as a grayshirt.

CdA doesn’t have that sort of depth this year. But the 2014 Viks are highly motivated to make a name for themselves – largely because they’ve been in the shadows of the standouts that have come before them.

Both teams boast 6-1 overall records and won league openers last week, all but assuring they’ll be in the newly expanded playoffs if they take care of business next week.

Lake City has been a balanced team offensively, running and passing the ball efficiently. The speedy tandem of Jerry Louie-McGee and Connor Newby has been front and center, causing opponents fits.

Newby likely won’t play Friday because of an unspecified injury. Troxel said he’d rather have a healthier Newby for the playoffs than risk a season-ending situation this week.

CdA is healthy with speedy Jonny Plum, the Viks’ breakaway threat, back after being nagged since the season opener with a slow-to-heal ankle injury.

The Viks have been a pass-heavy team.

There’s been a measurable gulf between CdA and LC the last four years. Friday offers Troxel an opportunity to see how much the T-Wolves have closed the gap.

CdA isn’t CdA of state titles past, but the Viks are still in the neighborhood.

The coaches have a healthy respect for their opponent.

“When they revved it up with James and Blakley, we didn’t have a guy that could stop them,” Troxel said. “The guys they have are good. They’re truly one of the best teams in the state. We feel like it’s a lot more even physically than the last three years. That’s what we’re counting on.”

“They’re very good,” Amos said of the T-Wolves. “I told our kids Lake City is one of the five or six teams that can win the state title. And we’re one of those teams. When you have playmakers you’re in every game.”

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