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East Valley senior receiver and defensive back J.T. Phelan was the offensive co-MVP and a first-team defender last season. (Jesse Tinsley)

GNL story lines: Should be another wide-open league race

All-league returners

Four first-team picks return. J.T. Phelan of East Valley was the co-offensive most valuable player and a first-team selection at defensive back. Marcus Jackson of West Valley was a two-way pick at tight end and linebacker. The other returners are Gage Burland of EV and Keenan Williams of Cheney.

Around the league

Cheney returns six starters, led by senior quarterback Andrew Graham, a second-team all-GNL pick last year. Graham threw for more than 600 yards in six league games. Cheney coach Jason Williams likes his team’s speed but believes the Blackhawks must overcome some inexperience. … Last year four teams finished tied for first with two losses. Two defeats might be difficult to overcome this year. “If you stumble it’s hard to make up that ground,” Williams said. “That’s when you have to hope for help.” … Returning starting experience is also thin at West Valley. The Eagles bring back four starters. They’ll have to rely on speed and defense. “We hope to battle in our nonleague games and get our young players ready for league,” WV coach Craig Whitney said. “Looking at rosters and game film (from last year), a lot of good seniors graduated. A lot of young kids will be stepping up and playing.” … Pullman had 13 seniors last year and the Greyhounds will look to 15 seniors to lead them this fall. … Colville struggled most of the season until upsetting Pullman. The Indians use a tightly bunched running-based scheme. “Colville was very young last year and they have the most amount of kids back,” EV coach Adam Fisher said. “Their style is so unique. They play like they’re in a phone booth. They always present problems for everybody.”

Road to the playoffs

The league receives two playoff berths.

1.East Valley
2.Cheney
3.West Valley
4.Pullman
5.Colville
6.Deer Park
7.Clarkston