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Freeman’s experienced quarterback Preston Hoppman returns for his final season and will be working behind a quality offensive line. (Tyler Tjomsland)

State champs loaded

Freeman has pieces in place for another run

Freeman has caught the attention of local and statewide football fans.

Now the Scotties are gaining prominence on a national scale.

CBS MaxPreps has ranked Freeman at No. 25 in its preseason football poll of schools of 1,000 students or fewer.

Trinity Christian Academy of Jacksonville, Florida, is ranked No. 1. Three-time defending State 2A champion Lynden is the highest-ranked Washington school at No. 3.

Freeman won the State 1A title last season, capping a 14-0 season with a 31-13 victory over Mt. Baker.

The Scotties return seven starters, including senior quarterback Preston Hoppman and senior running back/safety Markus Goldbach. Their offensive line may be their crowning glory with seniors Teigan Glidewell and Connor McVay, and juniors Payton Smetana and Ian Johnston.

“Freeman’s O-line (is) as good as I have seen at our level,” Lakeside coach Brian Dunn said.

Freeman coach Jim Wood lists his team’s strengths as an athletic line, experience at quarterback and running back, and above-average team speed and size. He’s concerned about replacing key defensive starters, especially at linebacker.

“We should contend for the title,” Wood said. “(There are) question marks on key positions stepping up to the next level.”

“Just look at Freeman’s roster and pick returning players from last year’s state championship team,” Chewelah coach Jim Fisk said. “All of his returning starters are impact players in our league.”

Strong newcomers

The NEA has undergone a transformation from seven teams to eight. Kettle Falls exited the NEA, dropping to the 2B level, while Colville and Deer Park joined the league, moving down from the 2A Great Northern League.

Colville and Deer Park are expected to push Freeman for league supremacy. Freeman’s closest game last year was a 14-7 nonleague victory over Colville to open the season.

“The league is awful tough with the addition of Colville and Deer Park, and the fact that Freeman, Riverside and Medical Lake are also loaded,” Lakeside’s Dunn said.

Obert anchors Stags

Deer Park returns versatile senior Aaron Obert, a first-team, All-GNL offensive lineman and punter and second-team defensive lineman. Obert also placed third in the discus (167 feet, 1 inch) and sixth in the shot put (51-1) at last spring’s State 2A track and field meet.

Collins powers Riverside

Riverside was the league’s other representative in the playoffs last year, losing to Royal in the first round. The Rams finished 5-1 in league and 8-3 overall and return first-team, All-NEA running back Jacob Collins, a senior.

1. Freeman5. Lakeside
2. Colville6. Medical Lake
3. Deer Park7. Newport
4. Riverside8. Chewelah