Lind-Ritzville/Sprague’s quest for a third consecutive State 2B title ended last November during a windy, bitterly cold semifinal against Okanogan at Moses Lake.
Okanogan, using its potent running game, ended the Broncos’ 38-game winning streak with a 34-0 victory. Okanogan defeated Napavine the following week to take the state crown that LRS claimed in 2012 and ’13.
Despite the graduation of several key players, the Broncos (12-1, 9-0 last season) are clear favorites to repeat as Northeast 2B champs and start another postseason run.
“We will need to count on our experienced offensive and defensive lines to control the line of scrimmage this year,” LRS coach Greg Whitmore said. “We will need to run the ball effectively. We will have a young quarterback who we will need to keep healthy and bring along slowly.”
Whitmore can count on successful veteran lines. LRS returns senior Skyler Oestreich (6-foot-3, 225 pounds), a first-team all-leaguer on both sides; senior Dallas Killian, a second-teamer on both sides; and senior Alexis Guizar (5-9, 265), a second-teamer on defense.
The Broncos also return senior Jacob Saetre (5-8, 150), a first-team selection at defensive back who also shared time at QB.
Colfax (6-4, 6-3), fourth place last year in league, is loaded with all-league returners and considered the top challenge to LRS’ reign.
Senior Keith Gfeller (6-3, 170), a first-teamer at wide receiver and defensive back, will play QB this season.
Senior Tyler Kincaid (5-10, 240) was a first-team linebacker and second-team offensive lineman.
Other second-team selections were senior Cody Fulfs (5-10, 185) at running back and junior Jared Kneale (6-4, 195) at tight end.
“(We have) good size up front and speed in our skill players,” Bulldogs coach Mike Morgan said. “A lot of kids played some important minutes last year.”
Reardan (9-2, 8-1) finished runner-up to LRS last season and is always a threat, even when hit by graduation.
“We only have three seniors this year, so we are going to be young and fairly inexperienced,” Indians coach Eric Nikkola said.
Two of those seniors were all-league, second-team defensive picks last year: lineman Josey Anderson and linebacker Dustyn Rettkowski.
Northwest Christian, in its third season of football, is the league’s team on the rise.
“Northwest Christian is the dark horse to win the title this year,” Colfax’s Morgan said. “This is their first senior class of football players. They return everyone from last year’s team.”
Senior quarterback David Olds (6-2, 180) missed five games last season because of an injury but has thrown for more than 3,000 yards in two seasons.
The Crusaders’ special teams have made a mark. Senior Joey Biel (5-11, 170) is a two-time, all-league place-kicker and senior Nathan Sander (6-1, 195) was a second-team kick returner after returning three for touchdowns last season.
Junior tight end/defensive end Tristian Carolus-Knudson (6-0, 180), described by coach Jim Nendel as an “explosive player,” is eligible after transferring from Shadle Park.
“If we stay healthy, we should be in the hunt for a state playoff berth,” Nendel said.
Around the league
Other returning second-team, all-league players include Davenport senior Ian Hunton (5-10, 180), offensive line; Liberty senior Maxwell Johnson (5-10, 190), offensive line; and Liberty junior Tyler Haas (5-8, 165), linebacker. … Besides Hunton, Davenport’s other three-year lettermen are senior Cruz Placensia and junior Pierce Jeske. … Liberty’s roster is limited to three seniors. The Lancers’ offensive leaders are juniors Austin Colby (RB), Josh Larsen (WR), Chase Burnham (WR), Garrett Rogers (QB) and Patrick Paredes (TE). … Wilbur-Creston senior Dorian Jaeger will move from right tackle to QB. Wildcats senior WR/RB Kyle Bodeau had 850 all-purpose yards and eight TDs last season. … Springdale returns eight starters and 14 lettermen. … Kettle Falls returns eight starters and 18 lettermen. The Bulldogs are heavily junior-oriented.