One of the greenest and least experienced Colville High football team in recent memory will get the 2011 high school football season underway Friday night against traditional opening foe Lakeland. Game time in Colville is 7 p.m.
Lakeland (0-1) is coming off a 46-21 loss last Friday night in Coeur d’ Alene to Idaho power Lake City.
Of course, CHS head coach Randy Cornwell, heading into his 15th year at the helm of Colville football, wasn’t sure what to expect last fall either when a group of over-achievers and some talented seniors ran the table during the regular season before losing in the first round of State 1A playoffs to Cashmere, 27-7.
Nobody is expecting the Indians, who have been accustomed to winning for well over a decade now, to replicate that 9-1 season.
There are just too many question marks and too much inexperience.
More than a few challenges and question marks
“We definitely have some challenges that we’ve never had before,” Cornwell conceded last week. “We’ve had to be as creative as we’ve ever been in asking kids to play different positions to try and build some depth.
“We are asking a lot of kids who are not physically mature enough to play. But we have no choice. It’s the way it is.”
The Indians have eight seniors and eight juniors out this season. Of those 16 upper-classmen, 15 will likely play significant roles.
If Colville was thin last season across the board, this group likely redefines that term.
“No, I don’t ever remember as green a team as this one,” Cornwell said. “But that said, this group is working very hard. They are good kids and it’s a pretty tight group…a solid bunch of kids who are all business and are trying very hard to please.”
There are some key players who, like any season, need to stay healthy for the Indians to experience success. One of those key components is 6-5, 220-pound middle linebacker and quarterback, Alex Pond.
The versatile and athletic Pond is a returning All-Northeast A performer (outside linebacker). He’ll move to the middle this fall.
“Alex covers a lot of ground,” Cornwell says. “He’s fun to watch…a real monster.”
Pond will be foundation of defensive coordinator Bill Carpenter’s defensive unit. And Pond will also be moved to quarterback.
He’ll share duties at quarterback with untested senior Scott Sheehan (6-2, 180).
This is the first time that Cornwell can remember not going into a season with an experienced quarterback.
“It’s going to be interesting,” he said.
Sheehan is much improved and is considerably stronger this fall. “He’s a smart kid who knows our system…he has made a huge commitment to the program and will certainly play,” his coach says.
Crash course at QB
Pond is getting a crash course in quarterbacking. He may not remind anybody of graduated NEA Offensive Player of the Year Sawyer Bardwell, but then again, Pond probably won’t have to.
“We are going to have to be a little more creative back there in what we do,” Cornwell conceded. “Alex isn’t a quarterback, but we’ll use him back there because of his athletic skills.”
Look for the Indians to certainly run out of their patented Wing-T sets and run the ball behind a veteran line. But Pond and quick-footed fullback Colton Davis (6-0, 205-pound senior) will likely see some direct snaps out of Colville’s version of the Wildcat formation.
“We’ll put them both in shotgun there and let them run,” Cornwell said.
A strong suit this fall should be Colville’s interior line on both sides of the ball. CHS has some girth and some skills there.
“The line should be a strength,” Cornwell said. “We have some size and some depth there.”
Up front, 6-4, 235-pound senior Eric Lee will be the likely starter at center. Another center candidate is 6-3, 180-pound junior Austin Hegney.
On the left side will be 5-9, 200-pound senior Doug Smith. Veteran 5-9, 200-pound senior Zac Thompson is another quick kid who can get out and pull in Colville’s familiar and frequent sweeps.
Thompson was a first team All-NEA pick last season as a guard.
At tackle will be the team’s fastest lineman and strongest player, junior Cainan Holte (6-3, 230).
“Cainan has got some freakish athleticism,” concedes Cornwell, who would like to see Holte’s internal “motor” run a little more frequently.
Also on the line will be 5-9, 220-pound sophomore Jack Smith and fellow sophomore Colton Thompson, a 6-2, 190-pounder who Cornwell says “has a great motor and is an incredible worker.”
In the offensive backfield will be Davis at fullback and wingback. Davis, who runs a 4.8 40, rushed for 400 yards last season and proved to be tough to tackle. Davis can also catch the ball out of the backfield.
“We’ll bounce him around from spot to spot,” says Cornwell.
At wingback will be speedy Logan Carpenter. Carpenter, a 6-1, 185-pound senior, has been moved into the backfield from the receiver spot he played last season. He’s been nursing a pulled hamstring.
Also in the backfield will be 5-11, 175-pound senior Julio Valencia. Another wingback will be 5-5, 150-pound freshman Colton Vining.
Also at receiver and fullback will be sophomore 5-10, 180-pound Zach Shoemaker and 5-11, 165-pound junior Austin Maddox.
Carpenter’s defense will be led by Pond. His backup in the middle will likely be Shoemaker.
At outside backer will be Valencia, Shoemaker, Maddox and the undersized Vining.
Jack Smith has also been moved in recent days to outside linebacker, a move that could definitely strengthen the position.
In the secondary will be Carpenter at safety. He intercepted four passes last season “and is a natural who covers a lot of ground back there,” Cornwell says.
At the other safety is 5-11, 140-pound junior Kris Griessmann.
The versatile Shoemaker will also play in the secondary.
“He’s one of those kids that’s been asked to play three positions on offense and three on defense,” Cornwell said of Shoemaker.
At the corners will be 5-9, 150-pound sophomore returning starter Josh Hamilton.
Also figuring in the defensive backfield rotation are Seth Forsberg, a 5-8, 140-pound junior and 6-2, 160-pound sophomore Justin Wolfrum.
The punter will be Logan Carpenter. Place kicking duties is still unsettled, but Griessmann and Norwegian foreign exchange student Magnus Johansen have been getting reps there.
One of the obvious strengths of the CHS football program for many years has been the continuity of its coaching staff. Cornwell heads into his 15th season as head coach, along with assistant coaches Carpenter, Tom Bassett and Mike Jutila. Assistants Brad Maddox and John Foulkes have been on staff since 2003 and line coach Bob Gumm since 2005.
Mace joins staff
The Indians have also added former Kettle Falls High standout Greg Mace to the football staff. He most recently coached football (assistant to Curtis Corvino) and headed the Bulldogs’ basketball staff.
“Mace is a great addition,” Cornwell said of a good young coach who can work the football, basketball and baseball programs. “He’ll work with the freshmen and help with the kickers.”
“I’m really lucky to have such a great staff that’s been around this long. It’s pretty amazing and I think our staff gives us an advantage.
“The continuity with this group of coaches really makes it fun. The kids know what to expect…everybody knows their roles…it’s pretty cool.”
While there are more than a few concerns and a steep learning curve this fall, there are a handful of kids who can flat play.
Expect the Indians to be competitive in what figures to be a wide open NEA.
“I expect us to compete really well,” Cornwell said. “Although I think that everyone in the league has improved except for us…we’ll be right in the middle of things.”
Unlike last season, when Colville usually found a way to lead early and stay in the lead, this group could be involved in more than its share of close games. Anybody remember the 2009 season?
“Our ability to manage games will be huge,” Cornwell figured. “Our ability to keep down and distance, field position…and play error free football are all very important. We need to control what we can control.
“I think we have five or six of the best kids in the league, we just have a lot of young inexperience to go with that.”
Lakeland played Lake City tough for the better part of the first half. The Hawks pulled to within 16-14 in the last 3:54 of the half before the Timberwolves took control and dominated the second half.
Lakeland managed only one yard rushing. Second-year quarterback Eric Cooper completed 14 of 21 for 154 yards and a touchdown. The senior had two passes picked off.
Sept. 2—Lakeland at Colville, 7
Sept. 9—At West Valley, 7
Sept. 16—At Newport, 7
Sept. 23—At East Valley, 7
Sept. 30—Lakeside at Colville, 7
Oct. 7—At Riverside, 7
Oct. 14—Freeman at Colville, 7
Oct. 28—Chewelah at Colville, 7
Nov. 4—Crossover with Caribou-Trail