Brandon Casey, OL/DL, 12
Jackson Prior, OL/DL 12
Jake Suhr, OL/DL, 12
Christian Niemela, WR/DB/RS, 12
Jaxon Pettit, QB, 12
Marcus Anderson, OL/DL, 11
Tag Benefield, MLB, 11
Connor Hutchings, OL/DL, 12
Elijah Larson, WR/DB, 11
Tyler Lehman, TE/LB, 12
Jake Ryan DB, 12
Keith Jensen, OL/DL, 11
Returning Players with Honors
Tag Benefield, 4A IEL Defensive Player of the Year
Christian Niemela, All-League
Connor Hutchings, All-League
Brandon Casey, All-League
Tyler Lehman, All-League
Key Players lost from last year
Alex Stockton, TE/OLB, Team Co-MVP and All-League
Dillon Mitton, RB, Team Co-MVP and All-League
Cole Ducken, OL, All-League
Payton Cox, LB, All-League
Riley Anderson, DB, All-League
Incoming impact players
Braden Kappen, RB/DB, 11
Garrit Cox, RB/LB, 10
Elek Christoferson, DB, 11
Sam Puckett, LB, 12 (back from injury)
Issac Webb, LB, 11
Max Thielbahr, WR, 11
Walker Herrman, DB, 12
Payten Ennis, WR, 10
Photo By Richard Friess - #12 Jaxon Pettit
Written By: Sven Alskog
Offense has been the focal point this offseason for the Sandpoint football program, which welcomes in new offensive coordinator Jeremy Thielbahr from Eastside Catholic in Washington, where he served as the head coach for three state championship winning teams in the last four years.
Thielbahr is not the only coaching addition for the Bulldogs, as former head coach George Yarno Jr. takes over as the offensive line coach. Yarno Jr. played for Idaho State University at the college level and his re-addition should continue to help with the development of the players in the program.
“Our offense in general has been a main emphasis. Having a new coordinator, we had to get the reps. Our camps and 7-on-7’s have helped a lot. It will still take time to mature,” said head coach Ryan Knowles. “We have a returning quarterback and enough skill to put around him. Our offensive line is a very hard-working group. We have a couple of running backs [Braden Kappen and Garrit Cox] that are exciting players.”
Senior quarterback Jaxon Pettit is back to lead the way on offense, with All-League offensive linemen Brandon Casey and Connor Hutchings pivotal pieces up front.
Christian Niemela and Elijah Larson are a couple of pass-catching weapons to watch from the receiver position, with tight end Tyler Lehman another option. Previous tight end Alex Stockton was a big target and a security blanket for Pettit, and if the Bulldogs can groom Lehman into filling his shoes, they will be in good shape offensively.
After an offseason of hard work and a full season in the books for Knowles as the head coach, he is excited to see what the next step has in store.
“This was my first full offseason with this team. I have a much better understanding of who we have and what they are capable of. Our core group of players has been in the weight room consistently all summer.”
Jake Suhr is one of those players who the coach says has had a great offseason in the weight room. Suhr will be a key member on both the offensive and defensive lines.
On the defensive side of things, Sandpoint has a key nucleus of returners back, highlighted by League Defensive Player of the Year Tag Benefield, a junior middle linebacker.
“We have a lot returning on defense. We need to eliminate the big play and create more pass rush. We are deep at linebacker with experience. Benefield is in the middle and will make a lot of plays, and our back end runs well,” added Knowles.
There have been some notable areas of focus in the offseason on defense.
“We have emphasized pass rush and our lack of it last year. Tackling is an ongoing process. Turnovers on both sides of the ball have [also] been a key coaching point,” said Knowles.
Sandpoint has a big challenge right out of the chutes in week one with a road game at Post Falls on the schedule.