Photo By Michella Davenport - #23 Eli Gibson
Written By: Will Hoenike
Coming into the season, a couple impressive streaks will be put on the line along the banks of the St. Joe River in northern Idaho. That’s where the 2A St. Maries Lumberjacks will be gunning for their eighth straight playoff appearance. It will also look to extend a 16-game winning streak over teams from the 3A Intermountain League.
The ‘Jacks haven’t missed the playoffs since 2011 and they haven’t lost a game to an IML team since falling to Priest River in 2013. The two don’t necessarily go hand in hand, obviously. St. Maries could go 4-0 against the IML (they have each team in the IML on their non-league schedule) and miss the playoffs. Likewise, they could go 0-4 against the IML and win the 2A state championship. But they’re two interesting storylines coming out of District 1.
Head coach Craig Trefft, entering his ninth season as the team’s head coach, will look to replace starting quarterback Kaden Hammond. One competitor could be Ethan Hill, a senior who played primarily receiver and defensive back last season but did take some snaps at quarterback for the Lumberjacks.
Either way, Tefft says a big key will be the ability to run the football. Seniors Braden Brusseau and Trace Huff, juniors Delbert Lambson and Les Preyer, and sophomore Colby Renner will be charged with opening holes along the offensive front for running backs Cade Truscott, Eli Gibson, Sam Martin, Dylan Larson, and Kyle Siebert.
“Running the football when we have to run the football,” Trefft said of areas to continue to improve in 2019. “We need to be able to hang our hat on running the football.”
Gibson, a junior, ran for over 400 yards last fall. He was also one of the team’s more productive players on defense, averaging five tackles per game and collecting 5.5 sacks along the way. The team’s defense started strong but faded a bit down the stretch. Tefft and his staff feel good about the chance to produce better results this fall.
“We feel pretty good about our front seven and being able to play the run well,” Tefft said. “There is a nice mix of depth and skill sets to move around and be more versatile.”
Tefft has a lot of players vying for playing time at the linebacker position along with Gibson. Truscott will be joined by fellow seniors Shaun Anderson and Cooper Daniel competing for playing time alongside junior Luie Rice, junior Sam Martin, and sophomore Dylan Larsen, which supports Tefft’s feeling of depth at the position.
They’ll line up a defensive front that comprises largely of the players who are vying for playing time along the offensive front, along with sophomore Kyle Seibert, which would also allow the coaching staff to work different players in, to coach to strengths, and to give players rest over the course of a game and a season.
For the two streaks to continue, St. Maries will have to stay healthy, which is a key to any football team. But Tefft, like many coaches, buys into the value of summer work impacting fall results.
“Football camp is always a great way for our upcoming team to start figuring out its identity,” Tefft said. “Based on how football came went this summer, we took 35 kids, I believe we have a good chance of being balanced on offense.”
Couple that with depth and versatility on defense and the Lumberjacks have the look of a team that can extend its playoff streak in the three-team Central Idaho League. Grangeville and Orofino bring formidable challenges to the table as well, so St. Maries won’t be able to coast into November.
As for its quest to extend its winning streak over area 3A rivals, St. Maries opens the season on the road at Kellogg on August 30.