Photo By Patty Theurer - #24 Sam Mahon
Written By: Will Hoenike
Back on November 5, 2016, the Council Lumberjacks went toe-to-toe with Kendrick in a 1A Division 2 State quarterfinal game. Kendrick came out with a close, six-point win and eventually reached the championship game. The Lumberjacks were oh so close.
The program hasn’t tasted victory since. The past two seasons have been awash in low numbers and on-field struggles.
First-year Council head coach Cole Cooper doesn’t hope that changes in 2019 – he fully expects it to change.
“Although this is the same group from last year, there is a different aroma in the air,” Cooper said. “They (the players) are more upbeat, they’re showing up to events, the group seems to enjoy one another and holds each other accountable and the coaches and players are having fun while doing it.”
Council is a program with loads of history, from four state championships to NFL veteran Matt Paradis to current University of Idaho player JT Mahon. The community is used to seeing a strong team on the field. Cooper expects it to return and sees his players working on it every day during the offseason.
“On defense, there has to be an emphasis on being solid, dependable tacklers,” Cooper said. “Also, being fundamentally acute and knowing how to take proper angles on ball carriers and understanding that ‘the cutback’ is the most dangerous play in football. Knowing this, they have learned to not over-pursue and prevent missed tackles.”
The Lumberjacks surrendered over 50 points per game last season but Cooper and his staff like the pieces they have in place for the upcoming season. Senior Chance Hackett and freshman Ethan Byers are expected to man the defensive tackle positions. Seniors Sammy Mahon and Daniel Jordan will also figure into the defensive front at either defensive end or linebacker. Sophomore Trinity Hoxie will also fill a role at linebacker.
Cooper and his defensive coordinator, Eric Pfeifer, like the team’s potential in the secondary because of its size. Miles Stanford and Braden Nichols, both seniors, stand 6-foot-3, while junior Cooper Iverson and freshman Josh Gipe are both 5-foot-10. But the key for Council, as with most teams, comes down to a simple concept.
“Teams might be faster than us every so often,” Cooper said. “But there will be no excuse for missed tackles, (missing out on) gang tackling opportunities, and (not) creating turnovers from tackling.”
The Lumberjack offense also expects to see improvement this fall. The group totaled just seven touchdowns over nine games, so Cooper will look to increase the tempo and spread the field in the hopes of creating mismatches, defensive breakdowns, and big-play opportunities for his offense.
Mahon, who missed chunks of last season with injury problems, is back for his senior season at quarterback. Jordan and Hackett will both see time at running back with Stanford, Nichols, and freshman Wyatt Vining splitting out at receiver. Byers, Hoxie, and Dawson Stanford are expected to fill roles along the offensive line.
Cooper wants to move fast. He wants the ball snapped within six seconds after the referee’s “ready” whistle. It will rely on communication, concentration, and conditioning but he says the kids are already making big progress over the summer, giving him and his staff confidence heading into the season.
“The coaches and I preach ‘first quarter’ at all practices to ensure that we tire the opponent so they cannot go into the fourth quarter,” Cooper said of the importance of a good start each week. ‘Lofty goals for a squad that has not won a game in over two years but, with the work ethic that I’ve seen in the newly-renovated weight room, the offensive concept meetings, and the nightly conditioning drills, this team has massive potential. They just need steered in the right direction on toughness and work ethic.”
The 1A Division 2 Long Pin Conference has been a tough fight the past few years and this year appears no different. Garden Valley and Horseshoe Bend both have good rosters coming back and, despite some change at Salmon River and Tri-Valley, both of those programs are used to winning games. The Lumberjacks will face tough Division 1 foes Notus, Clearwater Valley, and Idaho City before entering conference play at home against Tri-Valley on October 4.
“The coaches and I talk about how this group can be like the foundation of a home that can be built on in the future,” Cooper concluded. “It can give something back to the Council community and make Lumberjack territory proud once again of the possibilities soon coming to this historically football-rich town.”