Written by Will Hoenike
The last time the Clearwater Valley Rams played a playoff game on its own home field was November of 1994. One of its star seniors was Allen Hutchens.
The Rams lost a hard-fought, tough game on that day. Now, in 2020, Hutchens is the new head coach and will look to bring postseason football back to Kooskia.
Former head coach Roger Whalen, who retired earlier this year, led the team to the postseason in each of the last two seasons. Each time, a talented Rams team came up short on the road against an opponent that was on its way to the 1A Division I state championship game.
The Rams will be led defensively by junior linebacker Dylan Pickering. As a sophomore, Pickering was a second-team All-White Pine Conference performer for a defense that held its opponents to a total of 44 points in the team’s six wins, including three shutouts.
“We need to be fundamentally sound, know our schemes, and tackle well,” Hutchens said. “We will emphasize being disciplined and knowing our assignments defensively. I do not want to give the opposing offense any free yards.”
Offensively, senior Will Willis is expected to step into a larger role as a running back and senior JJ Probst returns along the team’s offensive line.
“We will be a fairly balanced offense,” Hutchens said. “The key to our offense will be the play of our offensive line. We will have some inexperienced kids playing up front and learning their assignments and sustaining blocks will be crucial.”
That charge will be led by Probst and sophomore Austin Curtis. Hutchens mentioned Curtis, as well as Willis and senior Jesse Knox, as players who have thrived in off-season preparation. They’ll help Hutchens offset the loss of key players Tyce and Tate Pfefferkorn as well as Lane Schilling, who were seniors last season.
“We will be inexperienced in several key positions,” Hutchens said. “As long as we can keep our turnovers at a minimum and limit our mistakes, we will be okay.”
Hutchens has Carlos Martinez and Tyrel Childers on his staff to help push the program forward. Martinez and Hutchens were teammates at Clearwater Valley in the 1990s and now leads the team’s successful wrestling program. Childers won a title as a player at Kamiah High School.
The 1ADI classification has changed its postseason format, expanding from eight teams to 12. Five conference champions get automatic berths and the remainder of the teams are seeded as at-large teams. Under the previous format, the White Pine received three bids to the postseason (Clearwater Valley, Potlatch, and eventual state-champion Prairie represented the conference last fall). With the expansion of teams, that means the White Pine could send more than three teams to the postseason.
Clearwater Valley has a chance to be one of those teams. The Rams only have three home games on the schedule so it will be important to protect the home turf along State Highway 13. If they can, Hutchens has an opportunity to coach the first home playoff game since he was a player at Clearwater Valley.