An outright league champion couldn’t be decided on the football field in the Great Northern League last year, resulting in a four-way tie for first in the seven-team league.
Then a controversial tiebreaking criterion determined the league’s two playoff berths.
Coaches have been assured that a tiebreaking protocol has been better defined. And that’s a good thing because if anything is for sure in the GNL it’s that something wacky will occur each season.
East Valley coach Adam Fisher says the GNL, top to bottom, is the second-toughest 2A league in the state. And that competitive theme will continue this fall.
Fisher’s Knights are given a slight nod as favorite. Interestingly, Colville, which finished last in its first year back in the GNL, is picked to finish first by one coach and last by another. Not even the coaches can come to agreement on which team is a clear-cut favorite.
“It seems like the league’s been elevating every year and it’s due to the coaches doing a great job with their programs,” Cheney coach Jason Williams said. “You have to be ready to go each week.”
EV returns eight starters, led by senior wide receiver/defensive backs Gage Burland and J.T. Phelan. Both are nice targets at 6-foot-1. Phelan was the league’s co-offensive most valuable player last season and Burland, who has given an oral commitment to play baseball at Gonzaga University, was a first-team pick.
Burland led EV with 26 receptions for 460 yards in six league games.
“This is my 14th year at East Valley and Gage and J.T. are the best receivers we’ve ever had,” Fisher said. “They’d start for anybody in the Greater Spokane League. We’re going to spread the ball and let them go get the football.”
Junior Connor Ramm will throw early and often to Burland and Phelan.
Perhaps the surprise team last year was Pullman under first-year coach Dan Lucier. The Greyhounds graduated some key players but the cupboard isn’t bare.
Pullman returns six starters on defense and five on offense.
“We had a tremendous offseason,” Lucier said. “We got bigger, faster and stronger.”
The Greyhounds’ quarterback has a familiar last name. Mason Petrino, son of new University of Idaho head football coach Paul Petrino, has earned the starting job as a sophomore.
Petrino will be protected by an offensive line that returns four starters.