Lewiston High School
Conference: 5A Inland Empire League
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Head Coach: Matt Pancheri
Years as Head Coach: 1st Season
Previous Experience: Assistant Coach, Madison HS and Bonneville HS
Record Last Year: 9-1
State Titles: 1993 and 1996
DB/WR Troy Hanes (Sr)
OL Nicholas Blume (Sr)
Key Players lost from last year:
Twenty starters, including nine All-IEL performers and Conference MVP QB Colton Richardson
Photo By: Jason Duchow - #22 Troy Hanes
Incoming impact players:
Treyce Bradley (Jr)
Written by: Will Hoenike
The good news for first-year Lewiston head coach Matt Pancheri is that he has a virtually clean canvas to work with this fall.
The not-as-good news is that the canvas from last season was pretty darn impressive.
Pancheri takes over for Shawn Nilsson, who hung up the whistle after five seasons as the Bengals head coach. Pancheri comes to the Lewis Clark Valley from Madison High, where he had been an assistant and, before that, Bonneville High. But now Pancheri is the atop the Bengal program on the heels of a 9-0 regular season in 2016 and an appearance in the 5A state playoffs.
But that team, led by Inland Empire League MVP QB Colton Richardson (now at the University of Idaho), graduated twenty seniors that more or less comprised the Bengals’ starting offense and defense. So Pancheri comes into a program that has had good, recent success … but also a team with a definite lack of varsity-level experience.
“Lewiston had a very dynamic passing game last year,” Pancheri told IdahoSports.com. “All of those athletes graduated and we will be playing a lot of kids with limited varsity experience. We will have a pretty good offensive line and skill kids and we’ll be a big more run-focused this year.”
Key number one for Pancheri and his assistants – replace Richardson, who threw for over 3,100 yards last season with 39 touchdown passes and just three interceptions during the regular season. Opportunity exists for the player who is able to go out and seize it. Same at the running back position, where a committee of ball carriers combined for more than 1,000 yards and 17 scores on the ground despite the pass-heavy assault but the leading rusher, in terms of attempts, was Richardson, with 43.
There is a little more “known” on the defensive side of the ball where the Bengals return defensive lineman Nicholas Blume and defensive back Troy Hanes. Blume, a 275-pound senior who can play both offensive and defensive tackle, will be a key piece of the puzzle in the middle of Pancheri’s defense. Hanes – who also saw time on both offense and defense last fall – led the team in interceptions (4) as a junior and will step into a more prominent role in 2017. Pancheri anticipates the team’s secondary to be a strong suit, with Hanes expected to be joined by Tanner Hutchins and Treyce Bradley. Bradley, a dynamic track and field athlete as well as football, while Hutchins qualified for the 2017 state wrestling championships at 138 pounds.
The Bengals open the 2017 season with four straight out-of-state contests, starting with Carson City (NV) on August 26. Lewiston hosts neighbor and rival, Clarkston, in its annual border battle on September 15 before the Bengals finally face an Iaho team, Sandpoint, on September 22.
Because the IEL is so small, teams can’t afford any missteps if they dream of qualifying for the state playoffs. Lewiston’s challenge is that two of its three Inland Empire League games are on the road, including a contest at perennial state power Coeur d’Alene. The lone IEL game in Lewiston this fall will be when Post Falls comes to town on October 13.
Coach Pancheri and his assistants have some holes to fill but he likes his team and the recent successes of the program provide a solid foundation as well. With six weeks of non-conference games before entering IEL play, they have some time to address the lack of varsity experience by building some depth among the younger players. Staying healthy is always a key, of course, but the Bengals will have their own fate in their own hands once conference play kicks off in October.