Amid uncertain circumstances, the 2020 football season for North Idaho high schools kicks off Friday night with nine games in the region. Whether the season will finish while the pandemic rages on is still anyone’s guess.
School districts have developed policies for attendance, limiting tickets and providing distanced seating restricted to family units, and concession stands will be limited to prepackaged items.
Despite players slamming bodies against each other for three hours, postgame handshakes are strictly prohibited.
With that as a background for competition to start, here’s a look at the teams that will take the field this fall, hoping to avoid outbreaks and a chance to compete for a playoff spot down the road.
Recently, the Inland Empire League title has gone though Coeur d’Alene, and this year probably won’t be any different. The Vikings (9-3 overall, 3-0 in league last season) were voted No. 1 in 5A in the Idaho state media preseason poll.
CdA returns four all-state players, including quarterback Jack Prka, from last year’s state runner-up squad, and a host of all-league players in support.
Coach Shawn Amos, in his 24th season with CdA, will lean on the strong-armed Prka to lead his up-tempo offense.
“Prka will always have a big impact in our offense,” Amos said. “For us to be successful on the offense side of the ball this year, we will need some players to fill the shoes of some talented seniors lost to graduation. We do have a number of talented skill players as well as lineman that are returning.”
One of the returning linemen is Jackson Kohal, an all-state pick last season who is destined to play at the next level. He’ll be joined by two other all-league selections, Carter Weibusch and Seth Hagel. Last year’s leading rusher and all-league pick Gunner Giulio, also a state champion wrestler, is back.
The defense, which returns seven starters, will be led by IEL defensive MVP and all-state linebacker/safety Luke McLaughlin, who will also be one of the receivers on offense. Jack Dohm (all-state), Trent Elstad (All-IEL) and Mason Cummings (All-IEL) join McLaughlin to form a formidable corps.
The Vikings get an extra week of practice to start their season as their season opener against Anchorage (Alaska) was canceled due to the pandemic.
Lake City (4-6, 1-2): School career reception leader Logan Jeanselme has graduated, so three-year returning all-league QB Chris Irvin will have to work to find a new favorite target. Coach Brain Fulp is in his third season trying to rebuild the Timberwolves program. “We have expectations in place,” Fulp said. “We tried to provide as much structure as possible dealing with the pandemic.”
Post Falls (6-4, 2-1): Dynamic playmaker Tommy Houser returns for fifth-year coach Blaine Bennett’s offense, but the Trojans’ success will be predicated on finding someone to get him the ball, as All-IEL pick Derek Pearse graduated. Post Falls hasn’t posted a losing record since 2015 and has qualified for state the past three seasons.
Lewiston (3-6, 0-3): Dual-threat QB Kash Lang and leading rusher Cruz Hepburn return for fourth-year coach Matt Pancheri.
Sandpoint (6-4, 1-1): Former college coach Ryan Knowles enters his third season with the Bulldogs. Not often does a school have two returning former defensive players of year. Linebacker Tag Benefield earned the honor as a sophomore, and DB Elijah Larson won the award last year. They’re joined by all-league lineman Keith Jensen and OLB Isaac Webb.
Lakeland (2-7, 0-2): Senior all-league TE/DE Ammon Munyer and lineman Sam Feuser will be leaders for coach Tim Kiefer, entering his 17th season for the Hawks. “I think culturally we are in a great place right now and our players are working hard and embracing the process of turning the corner and getting us back on top,” Kiefer said.
Moscow (5-4, 2-0): The Bears hoped for a return trip to the state tourney, but the school board decided to opt to play intramurals instead of competitive sports due to complications of the pandemic. But Thursday the school board announced it was reconsidering the decision. If they play, eighth-year coach Phil Helbring has a deep, talented squad led by league offensive MVP QB Chad Redinger, TE/OLB Johan Elliss and sophomore lineman Micha Elliss, both potential Division I players like their father Luther (Utah) and big brother Kaden (Idaho, New Orleans Saints).
Timberlake (9-1, 3-0 Intermountain League): After the past seven seasons as an assistant, Kelly Amos takes over as head coach for the Tigers this season and inherits a state semifinal squad from last year. Two-way senior returners Luke and Carter Fortin will lead, and lineman Ryder Paslay was a first-team all-league selection.
Bonners Ferry (1-7, 1-2): Coach Travis Hinthorn had a young squad last season, with 24 freshmen, but brings back several all-league picks, including second-team QB Teigan Banning and WRs Evan Barajas and Conner Callahan.
Kellogg (3-6, 2-1): Dan Davidian enters his first season with the Wildcats and will make changes on both sides of the ball, especially on offense. Kellogg scored fewer than eight points in all six of its losses. Davidian will switch from a wishbone to a spread offense.
Priest River (0-8, 0-3): Jared Hughes, in his second year of his second stint with the Spartans, will have a younger squad than last year and will start several underclassmen on both sides of the ball. Second-team all-league picks Coby Rogers and Kameron Salesky return.
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