New challenge for Kettle Falls

Bulldogs move into NEAThere are some new challenges facing the Kettle Falls High football program this fall. Primary among them is the fact that the Bulldogs were moved back into the Class 1A Northeast A League after the most recent WIAA enrollment count. While KFHS will more than likely move back down to the more comfortable (and appropriate) confines of Class 2B in two years, they are going to have to find a way to compete with bigger schools in the NEA in the interim.“We will be the smallest school and the smallest in turnout,” KFHS head coach Curtis Corvino said of his school’s move back into the NEA. Coinciding with Kettle’s return to the NEA is the fact that the turnout is down—upwards of 35 players are on the roster this season.“We feel pretty good about the group we have…the commitment is there,” Corvino added. “It’s just that we have smaller numbers.”AT A GLANCEKettle Falls lost heavily up front in the trenches. Five linemen graduated and three return.Key veterans up front include 5-6, 215-pound junior Kyle Dobson. The returning KFHS center is one of the team’s strongest players “and a real weight room guy,” Corvino said. “He’s a strong kid.”Tyler Vining, a 6-0, 205-pound senior, has started in the line since he was a freshman. He’ll play guard on offense.Also at guard will be Tim Krausse, a 6-0, 175-pound senior up from the junior varsity.At one tackle will be Colin Axtell, a 6-0, 165-pound junior who has been converted from running back. Another key player inside will be 6-0, 185-pound senior Alex Pratt.Kettle Falls’ returns considerable experience in the backfield, starting with 5-10, 165-pound junior quarterback Conner McKern. He’s joined in the backfield by halfback Austin Anderson, a 5-9, 175-pounder who got the bulk of the carries last season.Veteran backfield and receivers key to success of KFHS spread offenseAt slot receiver in the Kettle Falls spread offense will be senior Brandon Thomas, a 5-8, 175-pounder and Chris Boring, a 5-10, 165-pounder. Split ends will be Luke Beardslee, a 5-11, 165-pound senior and 5-11, 150-pound Brandon Hopkins.“All of those receivers saw significant time in the line-up last season,” Corvino said.On defense, the Bulldogs and defensive coordinator Dave Tupek will run a base 3-4. Pratt, Axtell and Kyle Hyde, a 5-9, 160-pounder, will be the mainstays up front.Vining returns in the middle at linebacker. Dobson and Austin Anderson will be the outside backers. Brady Hansen, a 5-11, 165-pound sophomore, will also see time at linebacker.It’s a veteran group in the defensive backfield with Beardslee and Hopkins at the corners and McKern and Brandon Thomas at the safeties.OUTLOOKThe Bulldogs have a solid core group. But KFHS is paper thin, particularly in the line. Given the jump to 1A, KFHS will have trouble replicating last season’s 5-5 mark.“We are pretty thin,” Corvino admitted. “We have to stay healthy and try to bring up some of the younger guys.“The league is definitely tough, but I think we might surprise some teams.”Two-time defending NEA champion Colville was also a victim of the numbers game and moved up to the 2A Great Northern League. The Indians would certainly be in the mix for another league crown if they were still in the NEA. Go with perennial 1A power Freeman as the pre-season favorite. Medical Lake also moves into the NEA—down from the GNL. THIS WEEKKettle Falls will open the season on the road at Priest River Friday night. Game time is 7 p.m.Priest River Lamanna High School was 0-9 last season and suffered through a spate of concussions. At least nine Spartans’ players sustained head injuries during season. SCHEDULEFriday, August 31—At Priest River, 7 p.m.Friday, Sept. 7—Tonasket at Kettle Falls, 7 p.m.Friday, Sept. 14—At Riverside, 7 p.m.Friday, Sept. 21—Lakeside at Kettle Falls, 7 p.m.Friday, Sept. 28—At Chewelah, 7 p.m.Friday, Oct. 5—ByeFriday, Oct. 12—Medical Lake at Kettle Falls, 7 p.m.Friday, Oct. 19—At Freeman, 7 p.m.Friday, Oct. 26—Newport at Kettle Falls, 7 p.m.Friday, Nov. 2—CTL Crossover game