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Priest River Lamanna High School

School Info
Conference: 3A Intermountain League
Classification: 3A

Head Coach: Brad Martin Jr.

Years as Head Coach: 1st Season

Previous Experience: 8 Years

Record Last Year: 3-5

Assistant Coaches:
Paul Anselmo
Jesse Hellinger
Rob Dement
Chad Yount

Returning Players:
RB/LB Dausen O’Brien (Sr)
RB/LB Kody Salesky (Sr)
QB/WR/DB Riley Dement (Sr)
OL/DL Aaron Reyes (Jr)
WR Robbie Anselmo (Jr)
RB/LB Caleb Blancher (Sr)
OL/DL Derrick Melton (Sr)

Returning Players with Honors:
Anselmo, Blancher, Melton All-IML recognition

Key Players lost from last year:
OL/DL Joe Huggler
QB/DB Anthony Storro
RB/LB Tommy Anselmo

Incoming impact players:
OL/DL Teryn Hanes (Jr)
OL/DL Cole Thompson (Soph)
WR/DB Ronnie Downs (Sr)
WR/DB Keegan Hegal (Sr)
Team Preview:
Written by: Will Hoenike

The 2016 version of the Priest River Spartans football team made forward strides. Won two of its final three regular-season games. Beat IML rival Bonners Ferry on the road to clinch a spot in the 3A postseason. Came within one point of upending a tough Weiser Wolverine team in the postseason.

Each of those provided building blocks going forward.

Enter first-year head coach Brad Martin, Jr. Martin takes over for 2016 IML Coach of the Year Shane Douglas, who led the Spartans for the previous six seasons. Martin and his staff will look to build on the successes of Douglas and his staff.

The Spartans welcome back three players from last year’s squad that received All-Intermountain League honors – receiver Robbie Anselmo (Jr), lineman Derrick Melton (Sr) and running back Caleb Blancher (Sr). That’s a good start.

Melton (6-1, 265) anchors an offensive and defensive front that will need to replace departed senior Joe Huggler. Melton will be joined by returning starter Aaron Reyes (6-0, 210), a junior, along with newcomers Teryn Hanes (Jr) and Cole Thompson (Soph). They’ll be charged with opening holes on the offensive side for Blancher, who was second-team All-IML as a junior, and fellow backs Dausen O’Brien and Kody Salesky. Martin is hoping to see continued overall improvement from this group running the football.

Martin will have to replace IML Offensive Player of the Year, Anthony Storro, as the team’s quarterback. That spot could fall to Riley Dement, a 5-9 senior who has also seen time at receiver and defensive back during his years at Priest River. When the Spartans put the ball in the air, Anselmo could be the primary target after receiving All-IML honors as a sophomore. But Martin also has senior Ronnie Downs and junior Keegan Hegal ready to stop into larger roles for the Spartans this fall.

Defensively, Priest River will look to replace leading tackler Tommy Anselmo, a second-team All-State honoree as a senior, on a group that had mostly good success last fall. The Spartans held five of their eight opponents to 15 points or less, including a shutout victory over IML rival Kellogg. However, the team was 0-3 when allowing more than 15 points.

Melton and Reyes will lead the charge up front on the defensive line with Blancher, O’Brien and Salesky filling roles at linebacker. That group will have an ‘attack’ mentality, chasing ball carriers and pressuring quarterbacks, in the hopes of having even more success keeping opponents off the scoreboard in 2017.

Downs, Hegal, Dement and Anselmo could all factor in to Martin’s plans for the Spartans’ secondary.

When asked about the ‘X-Factor’ for his team this fall, Martin simply said, “beat Timberlake.” It sees so basic but, the fact is, no one in the Intermountain League has been able to beat the Tigers on the football field for several seasons, so the road to the IML title and the 3A state playoffs runs squarely through Spirit Lake … and everyone in the IML knows it. Priest River travels to Timberlake in the final game of the regular season, on October 20, for a matchup that could potentially determine the IML champion.

The IML gets two teams into the 3A post-season competition … and the difference between being the top seed out of the IML and being the no. 2 seed is big. The top seed will advance automatically to the quarterfinals while the second seed will have to travel to the runner up from District III’s Snake River Valley conference the week before the quarterfinals in the play-in round. The IML has had little success – home or road – against the SRV in the postseason in recent years.

Coach Martin and his team look to have the potential to play postseason football for a second consecutive season in 2017. Staying healthy, protecting the football and tackling well are all the usual keys to a good season. If the Spartans can achieve those keys … who knows? Maybe they can do more than fight for the second spot in the IML league race.

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