Photo By Patty Theurer - #34 Nathan Miller
Written by Will Hoenike
When Ryan Ball took the helm of the Potlatch football program in the summer of 2018, there were questions about whether or not there were enough players to field a team that season.
Compared to then, this season looks like a breeze.
“We graduated 10 seniors off of last year’s team,” Ball said. “So it will be very difficult to replace all of that maturity and experience from that class.”
And it’s not just 10 seniors. Several were All-White Pine honorees. Kenon Brown was a first-team performer on both offense and defense, so now the mission for Ball and his assistants is to cultivate the players who remain, including a talented junior class, to gear up for the next run.
The team won seven games last season, reaching the 1A Division 1 quarterfinals, meaning newcomers got a taste of success last fall. To grow on it, though, those players will need to accept larger roles.
Two players who could be vital to the process are juniors Tyler Howard and Izack McNeal. Both have experience as linebackers, which is crucial in the eight-man game.
“We have some players playing new positions this season, so making sure they understand what they are supposed to do in game situations is very important,” Ball said. “This year, we will have to be a bit more aggressive with our calls to make up for some of our lack of experience in some of our positions.”
Junior Tyson Tucker looks to be the man to take over the role of quarterback for the Loggers this season, replacing the explosive and versatile Justin Nicholson. Ball isn’t likely to ask Tucker to do the same things as Nicholson did right away, which makes the running abilities of Howard all the more valuable on offense. Expect a heavy dose of ground attack early as the new players find their footing in the competitive White Pine League. As Tucker and the others settle into their roles, the playbook will begin to expand.
“Our offensive line, they need to progress quickly,” Ball said. “They have the ability to be very successful, it’s a matter of making sure we learn how to be consistent every game.”
Junior Odin McDonald figures prominently on both sides of the line, likely at guard on offense and nose guard on defense.
The quarterfinal appearance last fall was Potlatch’s first trip to the state playoffs since 2011.
The White Pine looks wide open – defending state champion Prairie looks to be the class of the league once again, but several other teams are in position to vie for post-season berths.
In recent years, a pre-seeded, eight-team tournament bracket let teams know exactly where they needed to be to qualify. Now, the league champion is the only team with a guaranteed berth in the 12-team field. However, there are seven at-large berths available, regardless of which league or district the team comes from, which could open doors for teams that would not have qualified under the previous eight-team bracket.
Check back with IdahoSports.com for updated Potlatch scores and schedules throughout the season.