Written by Zack Kellogg
The Lewiston Bengals didn’t have the year they expected in the 2019 season, finishing with a 3-6 record and ending the season with no league wins.
But with new faces and established talent, a bounce-back 2020 campaign could be in store.
One of the bright spots last season was the secondary — a strong core on the defense with a large number of snaps under their belt. But after losing members to graduation, any uncertainty on consistency will be up to the new guys to solve.
“We will miss some of the seniors we lost, especially in the secondary. We lost a lot of experience there,” Head Coach Matt Pancheri said.
Preventing big plays, whether over the top or on the ground, is going to be a top priority this season, Pancheri said, and “that starts with stopping the run.”
Senior defensive end Alec Eckert will be a key player, with the main focus on getting into the backfield, stopping the run at the line and disrupting the passing game with pressure on the quarterback. He’ll have support in the front seven from senior linebacker Joel Brume.
The main defensive scheme will be the 4-2-5 defense, four defensive linemen, two linebackers and five defensive backs. This scheme, which relies on aggressive pursuit and player instincts, will be reliant on Brume’s ability to plug up holes, break down the pocket on blitzes and fall into coverage to watch for shallow routes through the middle.
On the offensive end, a healthy mix of the run and pass is expected, with the major push going to be the offensive line.
Running the ball will be key to our offensive success this year. Our offensive line will really set the tone for our team,” Pancheri said. “Experience and size on the offensive line will be a huge benefit to us.”
Eckert, expected to play on both sides of the line, is joined by seniors Trevor Grim and Carlos Jaques to create the line needed for the ground attack, which will be led by junior running back Cruz Hepburn and senior quarterback Kash Lang.
Lang has the arm to sling the ball and the legs to add another wrinkle to the Bengals’ offense. The ability to have long, methodical drives to wear out defenses, then drop a pass over the top could mean big numbers on the ground and an advantage in time of possession.
But new faces bring questions of who will step up and who might fizzle out on varsity.
“We have so many younger players that we expect to be a big part of both our offense and defense this next year,” Pancheri said. “They include incoming juniors Jace McKarcher, Chase Russell, and Vincent Shriver and a few sophomores that will be big contributors on varsity this year like James White, Elliot Taylor, and Graydon Mader.”
An aggressive defense, dual-threat quarterback, veteran o-line and rebuilt secondary leaves some questions but will have the potential to provide high energy (and entertaining football) every snap.
Check back with IdahoSports.com for updated scores and schedules.