Color the Indians ‘green’ this fall
Two-time defending Northeast A League champion Colville High will get acquainted with their old neighbors in the Great Northern League this fall and in 2013 after WIAA realignment dumped the Indians back into Class 2A.
Given the inexperience predominantly across the board in the CHS football camp this fall, the NEA would have been a nice fit again, but that’s not the way the enrollment numbers rolled this time around.
The Indians, 5-5 last season after starting 0-4, aren’t without talent. It’s just that much of the talent pool is young and mostly untested.
“Football is a game of numbers and attrition,” conceded CHS head coach Randy Cornwell. “If we lose too many kids (to injury), then we are playing a lot of young, inexperienced kids…of course, we’re playing a lot of young, inexperienced kids anyway.”
Despite being the smallest school in the GNL (with Pullman), the Indians greeted more than 60 players when fall camp began back on August 15.
“That’s definitely up,” Cornwell said. “We had no indication that we would have those kinds of numbers. At our Breakaway, we had 48 kids…all of a sudden, after the second or third day of practice, we had 71.
“That’s a pleasant surprise.”
A majority of those numbers come from large freshmen and sophomore classes. The senior class is a small one this fall. Cornwell said that of the 12 seniors on the roster, about half will play.
Colville will open the season on the red turf of Roos Stadium at Eastern Washington University against old NEA foe, Freeman on Saturday. The Scotties are one of the favorites to win the league championship this year now that Colville has been forced to vacate after two seasons (expect the Indians to be back in the NEA at the next WIAA count).
Game time on Saturday is 1 p.m.
Colville is part of a four-game set at Roos on Saturday—part of the annual WIAA Kickoff Classic that has been moved from Seattle to EWU (at least for this season).
Colville edged Freeman 28-27 last season. The Scotties had come into Colville unbeaten and ranked third in the 1A ranks.
Freeman football usually reloads
“I think they (Freeman) will be pretty similar to what we saw the last two seasons,” Cornwell said. “They lost their quarterback and co-MVP running back, but Freeman almost never has a down year.
“I think it should be a really good game on Saturday.”
Following the Freeman game, Colville will host another pre-season NEA favorite, Chewelah, on Sept. 7.
“We will get the best the Northeast A has to offer in Freeman and Chewelah,” Cornwell said. “That will help us get ready for the league schedule.”
AT A GLANCE
Cornwell and his veteran staff say they like their kids.
“They are working hard and have great attitudes. It’s just that we don’t have a physically mature bunch.”
Figure the strength to be on the offensive and defensive lines, where there is both experience and size.
Up front on offense, returning starter Austin Hegney, a 6-3, 212-pound senior, will be at center. Hegney is being challenged by 5-9, 250-pound junior Devin Mitchell.
At guard will be one of the team’s strongest players, 5-11, 240-pound junior Jack Smith. Smith started last season until going down with an ACL injury against Newport.
“He’s healthy and we are excited to have him back,” Cornwell said.
Also coming off an injury (broken foot) is Chad Elkins, a 5-10, 195-pound junior.
At the tackle positions will be veteran Colton Thompson, a 6-3, 205-pound junior and 6-3, 218-pound Cainan Holte.
Holte will be one of the top linemen in the GNL this fall. He’s also the strongest player that Cornwell and his staff have coached. Holte is also the third fastest player in the Colville camp (4.7 40).
“Cainan has turned into quite a specimen,” conceded Cornwell.
In the three combined lifts (squat, power clean and bench), Holte has totaled 1,025 pounds. That’s 325 pounds for the clean, 315 for the bench and 585 pounds for the squat.
“It’s pretty impressive,” Cornwell added. “We have had a special t-shirt made because we have never had anyone that strong (in the program).”
There is depth up front with the likes of junior Trey Powell, a 5-11, 180-pound junior; Jordan Booth, a 6-0, 170-pounder who will play mostly middle linebacker, and Isaac Richman-Zonka, a 5-10, 167-pound junior.
Cornwell said he’s excited about his current line and a group of six or seven sophomores that have both size and potential.
“We have six or seven sophomores who are all good. We are all excited about them…we want to keep them together on the junior varsity this season, if we can, so they can develop as a group.
“They are good, young kids with some size.”
At tight end, returning starter Omar Khater, 6-1, 185-pound senior, is the incumbent. Khater will also play at defensive end.
Kettle Falls transfer Ryan Hartinger, a 6-0, 170-pounder, has “great hands,” according to Cornwell. “Maybe the best on the team.”
Leading the corps of receivers will be a pair of seniors—Josh Hamilton (5-10, 165) and Kris Griessmann (5-11, 150).
Knight has edge
Junior Mike Mayfield (6-0, 160) and sophomore Ben Knight (6-0, 145) have battled it out during pre-season drills. Both played on the junior varsity last season. At this juncture, Cornwell said that Knight has passed Mayfield on the depth chart.
“Mike hurt his knee (bruise) and lost a week of reps,” Cornwell explained. “Ben went by him.”
Cornwell said that the lefty Knight, whose favorite quarterback is another lefty (former Boise State All-America and current Detroit Lions quarterback Kellen Moore of Prosser) “throws a good, catchable ball, is accurate and makes good reads.”
At running back, the Indians, who graduated NEA Most Valuable Offensive Player Colton Davis, may do it by committee this season.
Expected to get snaps there are 5-11, 195-pound junior Zach Shoemaker and 5-7, 165-pound sophomore Colton Vining.
At wingback, first year player Bryan McFetridge, a 5-9, 160-pounder, has the edge.
Cornwell says he likes what he has seen from McFetridge so far.
“He’s a very athletic kid who has speed and natural running back instincts. He cuts well and he’s fearless.”
McFetridge has been hampered of late by shin splints.
Also in the pool at wingback are Seth Forsberg, a 5-8, 145-pound senior, and Journy Young, a 5-9, 160-pounder.
In the battle at fullback are 5-9, 193-pound sophomore Nick Warhus and 5-9, 170-pound senior, Austin Maddox.
Tough up middle
In the trenches on defense, Holte, Smith and Warhus will work at the tackle spots.
Khater and Thompson will be at defensive ends. They are being pushed by Maddox and Powell.
“We will be strong up the middle,” Cornwell said.
At linebacker, Booth has been impressive in pre-season camp. Defensive coordinator Bill Carpenter thinks Booth reads as well as anyone the Indians have had at the position, at least at this juncture of a high school career.
“Jordan reads well and gets there (to the ball) very fast,” Cornwell noted.
At outside backer will be Vining on one side and a trio of players (Young, Hartinger, 5-10, 165-pound sophomore Justin Dragovich and 5-11, 185-pound junior C.J. Watson) on the other side.
“We are very light and inexperienced at linebacker,” Cornwell pointed out.
In the secondary, McFetridge and 5-10, 132-pound sophomore Tyler Ward will be at one corner. The veteran Griessmann holds down the other corner.
Pushing them are 5-9, 145-pound soph Jacob Morris and first year junior Austyn Peterson.
Hamilton, who has started in the defensive backfield since his sophomore season, has been moved to safety. Shoemaker returns on the other side.
Backing the two veteran DB’s up is 5-8, 145-pound freshman William Burton.
Hartinger, Watson or the 5-9, 140-pound Peterson will do the punting. The place-kicker will be 6-1, 142-pound CHS soccer player Pavel Susin (senior) or 5-11, 148-pound junior Josh Hill.
AROUND THE LEAGUE
The Indians have been out of the GNL loop the past two seasons. But when CHS was in the 2A league, they were among the league elite and a dominant force. Returning to the pantheon of the league’s power elite during what will most likely be a two-year 2A cycle is asking a great deal of a largely inexperienced and young Indians’ team.
But the league’s most veteran (and skilled) coaching staff of Cornwell, Carpenter, Tom Bassett, Mike Jutila, Bob Gumm, Brad Maddox, Greg Mace and Danny Martin have a history—that of getting their players better week after week and getting the most out of the talent at hand.
That said, run with the GNL big dogs of East Valley, Cheney and West Valley as early power picks. Deer Park won the GNL crown last season. WV was second and Cheney finished third.
“From the outside looking in, you would think that East Valley, Cheney and West Valley would be the picks,” Cornwell said. “But at the league meeting, coaches tended to think it was going to be a dog fight.”
Saturday, Sept. 1—at Gridiron Classic (EWU) vs. Freeman, 1 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 7—Chewelah at CHS, 7 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 14—Timberlake at CHS, 7 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 21—At West Valley, 7 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 28—East Valley at CHS, 7 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 5—At Lakeland, 7 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 12—At Clarkston, 7 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 19—Deer Park at CHS (Homecoming), 7 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 26—At Cheney, 7 p.m.
Friday, Nov. 2—Pullman at CHS, 7 p.m.