Photo By Clayton Bunt - #11 Joe Sparano
Written By: Will Hoenike
Head coach Garett Bretz is seeing quite the wide range in his second season as head coach of the Orofino Maniacs. Last season, he had a veteran team that included multiple all-conference players and an experienced quarterback. The team clawed its way in to the 2A postseason before being nosed out in the opening round by Cole Valley Christian.
Flash forward to 2019. The outcome is yet to be determined, but Bretz and his staff do not have the same level of experience on the field that they had last season.
“We have a very young team this year,” Bretz said. “Our success will come with game experience. We need to find out what it is like to play in a varsity football game.”
One place the Maniacs have some returning experience is along the offensive and defensive lines, something that could help ease transitions for other players in other spots. Seniors Michael Corder, Clay Larsen, and Christian Norman return along the offensive line for Orofino and their duty will be to protect Kai Naranjo, a junior who is expected to take over as the team’s starting quarterback.
Joe Sparano, a junior receiver, is coming off of a strong summer of preparation and should be an important part of the Orofino offense this fall. The Maniacs averaged just under 20 points per game last fall but showed flashes, scoring 42, 26, and 32 points in the team’s three wins.
The same core of players will headline the Orofino defense this fall, with Larsen and Norman along the defensive line, Corder at linebacker, and Naranjo at defensive back, where he played last season while Aureleo Morales took the snaps at quarterback. Like the offense, the team’s defense showed flashes, slowing Kellogg (12 points) and Nampa Christian (14 points) in back-to-back games before limiting Priest River to 20 points in a tough loss two weeks later.
“The team chemistry is very positive. The players understand where we are at this point and know we need to come together as a group for us to improve each week,” Bretz said. “On both sides of the ball, we are focusing on responsibilities and understanding assignments.”
It’s a team that should progress and show growth as the season wears on, which is a good thing with the two-game Central Idaho League schedule coming at the end of the campaign. The Maniacs play at Grangeville on October 18 before hosting St. Maries on October 25.
The non-conference schedule will present some challenges for Orofino. The home fans will see their team battle Asotin (WA), Nampa Christian, and Clarkston (WA) before reaching league play in October.
Coaches often tell you that it is important to be playing your best football at the right time. With experience along the offensive and defensive lines, Bretz may have an opportunity to grow his offense and defense early in the season so they’re playing their best once CIL play rolls around. If that can happen, who knows? Football can be funny that way – stay healthy, get a couple bounces, and put yourself in position to win a big game. There’s no rule that says the Maniacs can’t put themselves into that position in 2019.