Coeur d’Alene High football coach Shawn Amos has been through this too many times to count.
Amos has mastered the reloading-not-rebuilding process after losing outstanding quarterbacks and numerous All-Inland Empire League and all-state players. The Vikings keep stacking up IEL titles and competing for 5A State championships after winning three earlier in the decade.
The customary high expectations remain for the Vikings, despite graduating seven all-state players, including quarterback Kale Edwards, who is now at Montana, from a 9-1 squad that reached the state semifinals.
“That’s always a very good thing,” Amos said. “Hopefully, they say that every year: ‘How are you going to replace all those guys?’
“I think it’s about the same (as previous years replacing standout players), but you never know how guys who have been waiting in the program are going to respond until you play a few games.”
The Vikings remain the IEL favorite, but they’ll be challenged by Post Falls, which returns an impressive set of skill-position players. Lewiston could contend if it successfully breaks in a new starting quarterback. Lake City has a returning quarterback and is making up ground in coach Brian Fulp’s second season.
“They’re the favorite until they lose,” Fulp said of the Vikings. “Our league sent three to the (state) playoffs. We were the only ones that didn’t go. It’s going to be a tough league. Post Falls returns a lot of guys and they won a playoff game. We played them close until the end last year.”
Here’s a look at the IEL in predicted order of finish.
CdA cupboard well-stocked: Coeur d’Alene has plenty of weapons around junior quarterback Jack Prka, who piloted the junior varsity team last year. Senior Colbey Nosworthy leads another deep crew of receivers. “He’s certainly a college-level kid,” Amos said.
Senior Brennan Crawford, junior Trent Elstad and sophomore Gunner Giulio provide three options to replace workhorse Shilo Morgan at running back. All three could see time on defense.
Jackson Kohal, All-IEL last year as a sophomore, anchors the line.
“Prka can really spin the ball,” Amos said. “For being a first-year starter and a junior, he has an excellent grasp of what we’re doing and understands the system. The guys we have around him, he just has to do his part and get the ball to guys that can run fast.”
A large number of the running backs, linemen and receivers will see time on defense. Amos calls those players “1.25 or 1.5 guys” because they can line up on both sides of the ball. Everyone on the roster is listed as a two-way player except Prka, whose dad, Tony, is an assistant coach.
Elstad was an All-IEL linebacker last season. Cornerback/receiver Jake Brown, receiver/safety Ty Pottenger and defensive end/tight end Brady Bybee are names to watch.
Nosworthy “might be a 1.75,” Amos said of the wide receiver/safety. “He’ll probably play the most football for us.”
Trojans boast experience: Post Falls returns quarterback Derek Pearse, running back Eli Gondo, receiver Tommy Hauser and tight end Josiah Shields, an All-IEL linebacker.
Offensive lineman Justin Gies earned All-IEL honors last year as a junior and he’s joined up front by seniors Hunter Richens, Tobiasen Fisher and Cameron Sessions.
The offense could keep the scoreboard operator busy.
“The thing I’ve noticed with Derek is his maturity and football knowledge,” coach Blaine Bennett said. “We’ve been able to take it a step further and lean on him more with his decision-making and communicating what other people are supposed to do.”
The speedy Hauser is a big-play threat who will also be used in punt and kick return. “He’s a guy that needs to have the ball in his hands 10-12 times,” Bennett said.
The secondary could be young, but there’s experience at linebacker with Shields and Kaden Cripps and up front with end Tristan Sanchez and Gies, who will see some snaps at defensive tackle.
Bengals eye return to playoffs: Pass-happy Lewiston could have a different look this fall.
“We have a lot of experienced kids at all the positions that matter, other than we’re training a new quarterback,” coach Matt Pancheri said. “We will run a lot more than normal.”
Michael Bramlett is a talented running back and the offensive line and receivers, led by Isaiah Walker, are solid. The big question is who takes over at quarterback for Tyson Wallace, now playing baseball for Lewis-Clark State College. Sophomore Cruz Hepburn and junior Kash Lang are competing for the job.
“Kash is a year older, probably understands the offense a little more. Cruz is an athletic guy that can make something out of nothing,” Pancheri said. “If we can throw, that’s a big if, we’re going to be a tough out.”
Timberwolves build foundation: Lake City took some lumps in a 3-6 campaign last season but many of those same players return stronger, faster and with a year of experience.
Quarterback Chris Irvin was thrown into the fire last year as a sophomore.
“He handled it well,” Fulp said. “By the end of the season, he said himself after watching tape that he was a completely different player. He’s had a really good offseason and he’s definitely stepped into a leadership role.”
Irvin’s favorite target was Logan Jeanselme, who had a school-record five touchdown receptions in one game. Four seniors figure to start up front with junior Uriah Chavez the probable starting tailback.
The defensive includes 235-pound middle linebacker Connor Dremann and All-IEL cornerback Jeanselme.
“Having the whole offseason to implement everything we wanted has really helped,” Fulp said.
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