Photo By Chris Melgaard - Derek Pearse
Written By: Will Hoenike
The 2018 version of the Post Falls Trojans finished hot to reach the 5A state playoffs and head coach Blaine Bennett hopes that the strong finish propels the team to a fast start in 2019.
The Trojans started 1-3 last season before winning three of its final four to reach the postseason, defeating Skyview from District 3 in the opening round before being knocked out by Mountain View in the quarterfinal round.
When Post Falls kicks it off on August 30, they’ll be at home against 4A rival Sandpoint. It’ll be the team’s first game on the home lawn since its wild opening-round win over the Hawks last October. In that game, quarterback Derek Pearse threw for nearly 300 yards and four scores, including a toss to Josiah Shields with less than ten seconds to go to secure the 42-37 victory in front of the home fans.
Good news for Post Falls fans, but probably bad news for the rest of the Inland Empire League: Pearse is back. So is Shields. And so is all-league receiver Tommy Hauser, meaning the Trojans have the potential to be potent offensively.
“(We’re) bringing another year of experience from this year’s team,” Bennett said. “Derek has worked extremely hard this offseason, not only in the weight room but in studying film. He is going to be a pivotal leader for the Trojans.”
The Trojans also welcome back all-league running back Eli Gondo. The senior running back ran for double-digit scores as a junior and adds another potent threat to the Post Falls offense. Senior Justin Gies leads the offensive line, opening holes for Gondo and protecting Pearse in the team’s up-tempo offense.
How up-tempo, you ask? In the playoff win over Skyview, Post Falls’ game winning touchdown came with just under seven seconds left to play … after Skyview had taken the lead with 35 seconds left in the game.
Defensively, Post Falls allowed over 30 points per game in 2018, though a pair of lopsided losses skew that average a bit. In the team’s three Inland Empire League games, that number dropped to a respectable 23 points per game.
Shields, who was named the IEL’s Defensive Newcomer of the Year, returns at linebacker for Bennett. Junior Kaden Cripps is also expected to see some time at linebacker for the Trojans, as will Gondo in the team’s 4-2-5 defensive scheme. Gies will anchor the defensive front, much like he does the team’s offensive front.
With just three IEL games, September is reserved for non-league games. And, as usual, it is sprinkled with a big taste of foes from nearby eastern Washington. After opening at home against 4A Sandpoint, the Trojans face three consecutive opponents from Washington, including Mead (who reached the Washington 4A state quarterfinals last fall) and University from the Greater Spokane League, before returning home to host Moses Lake on September 20.
IEL play begins for the Trojans on October 11, when nearby Lake City makes the quick drive to Post Falls.
The 5A playoffs in Idaho have been headlined historically by Highland of Pocatello and Coeur d’Alene with recent strong play from Rocky Mountain and Mountain View out of District 3. Can someone break up that party? Plenty of teams will give it their best shot and Post Falls is certainly among that group. A returning quarterback along with returning all-league performers at receiver and running back indicate the offensive firepower should be there. Health, avoiding turnovers, and avoiding injuries could be the magic elixir for many teams in the 5A classification this fall.
Count the Trojans among them. Coach Bennett’s team can – and should – expect to compete for the IEL title as well as postseason success in November.