Head Coach: Phil Helbling
Years as Head Coach: 7th Season
Previous Experience: Assistant at Pullman and Moscow
Record Last Year: 2-6
State Titles: 1981 and 1992
Aaron Nickerson, OL/DL, 12
Dimas Barajas, OL/DL, 12
Riley O'Connell, OL/LB, 12
Cameron Stinebaugh, OL/DL, 12
AJ Fahey, OL/DL, 12
Jacob Cardwell, WR/DB, 12
Jacob Gray, WR/DB, 12
Isaiah McElderry, WR/DB, 12
Derek Rauch-Edwards, QB/RB/DB, 12
Peyton Waters, QB/DB, 12
Brekken Mower, WR/DB, 12
AJ Blankenship, WR/DB, 12
Nate Blaker, WR/DB, 12
Kristian Walker, WR/DB, 12
Sam Caisley, RB/LB, 12
Returning Players with Honors:
Derek Rauch-Edwards, 4A IEL Newcomer of the Year
Key Players lost from last year:
Peyton Broenneke, QB
Adam Wallace, OL/DL
Tanner Newton, OL/DL
Brysen Gottschalk, LB
Incoming impact players:
Marsh Bennett, OL/DL, 11
Kaden Kiblen, OL/DL, 10
Preston Bielenberg, OL/DL, 10
Logan Shears, WR/DB, 11
Johan Elliss, WR/DL, 10
Chad Redinger, QB/DB, 10
Written By: Will Hoenike
Phil Helbling and the Moscow Bears lost a big senior class last spring – 16 players, according to the roster – but optimism remains high that 2018 could be a good season for the Bears.
“We don’t have a lot of players, but the ones we have are committed and really enjoy playing football,” Helbling said. “We want to be the best team we can be and be the 2018 4A IEL (Inland Empire League) district champs.”
Helbling and his staff will need to begin at the heart of the offense, where a pair of three-year starters along the offensive line (Adam Wallace and Tanner Newton) were among the seniors, as was a two-year starter at the quarterback position (Peyton Broenneke).
It starts with the offensive line, where the Bears have some pieces and are working to fit them together in the most-efficient manner. Junior Bennet Marsh could claim one of those spots, as could sophomores Kaden Kiblen or Preston Bielenberg. Also competing for a spot are seniors Aaron Nickerson, Dimas Barajas, Riley O’Connell, Cameron Stinebaugh and AJ Fahey. As a group, the line isn’t the biggest you’ll find but should fit Moscow’s “spread” offensive attack.
As for who triggers that attack, sophomore Chad Redinger and senior Peyton Waters are listed as pure quarterbacks on the Moscow roster, but Helbling may opt to deploy versatile Derek Rauch-Edwards at the position as well. Rauch-Edwards was the 2017 Inland Empire League Newcomer of the Year. Lining up largely as a slot receiver last fall, he hauled in over 700 yards’ worth of passes and six scores for the Bears, showing good athleticism, good hands and good elusiveness in the open field.
“We’re a spread offense, going to be youthful up front but have a lot of returning skill players,” Helbling said. “We need to be able to get our playmakers the ball in space.”
Because of the offensive gameplan, expect the Bears to deploy a large number of receivers over the course of the season. Seniors Jacob Cardwell, Jacob Gray and Brekken Mower lead the way, but junior Logan Shears and sophomore Jonah Elliss, among others, should also get their opportunities as well.
Defensively, Moscow allowed over 30 points per game in 2017, but Helbling and his staff believe the 2018 version could be pretty good. The first wave of defense, the defensive line, features Barajas, Stinebaugh, Fahey and Nickerson with O’Connell at linebacker. Cardwell, Gray and Rauch-Edwards will also see time in the Bear secondary this fall.
“We are young but have a lot of guys who like to fly around and be aggressive,” Helbling said of his defense. “(We) need to get off the field on third down and take the ball away from our opponent.”
Two teams from the three-team IEL will qualify for the 4A state playoffs this year so, on one hand, opportunity is big. But margin for error is also slim. There are just two league games and the first team to blink could be in trouble. Moscow will open IEL play on October 5 in Sandpoint against a tough Bulldog team before a bye week and then close the regular season at home on October 19 against Lakeland.
Moscow hasn’t reached the 4A state playoffs since 2012, which is also the last season the Bears won the IEL. Helbling and his players have put it out there – they’d like to end those droughts in 2018.