Photo By Mike Turner - #22 Tag Benefield
Written by Zack Kellogg
This fall, the goal for the Bulldogs in Sandpoint is going to be to refuel and reset.
Despite losing multiple all-league members on defense, senior Tag Benefield at linebacker is set to make his return after an injury sidelined him for six games in 2019. Benefield was named the league defensive MVP in his sophomore season and appears to be the man to take over for Tyler Lehman, a three-time all-league member.
It also helps that Sandpoint is returning the 2019 league defensive MVP in defensive back Elijah Larson for his senior season, giving the defense two veteran talents on the second and third levels.
With expectations high on the secondary’s performance this season, the game plan laid out for head coach Ryan Knowles’ squad is stopping the run, not allowing big plays and a heavy emphasis on forcing turnovers.
The defensive line, despite losing Brandon Casey, returns talent as well in seniors Keith Jensen and Isaac Webb. Both seniors are fresh off first-team all-league selections.
With a three-man front on defense headlined by Jensen and Webb, the secondary and linebackers will have their eyes locked on the ball until the whistle blows. Don’t be surprised if the Bulldogs end up with more than a few defensive touchdowns this season if everyone does their job correctly.
The offense is where the real questions start to rise.
Not only are there major changes being made to the offensive line, but it’s also time to find a replacement for quarterback, with three-year starter Jaxon Pettit graduating. Knowles did not list a front-runner in the quarterback competition.
Larson and Benefield will also be appearing on the offensive side of the ball to provide support through the air and on the ground, respectfully.
Benefield will be joined by junior Gerrit Cox at running back, with Cox most likely getting the nod to be the premier back in the Bulldog offense after being named all-league as a back and a return specialist in his sophomore year.
Larson will also need help out at receiver at the Bulldogs lost team MVP Christian Niemela to graduation.
Knowles hopes the reconstructed offensive line begins to have consistent results in opening running lanes and making life easier for the new quarterback.
Check back with IdahoSports.com for updated scores and schedules for the Bulldogs throughout the season.