The Chewelah Independent realizes there are more teams that play locally than just the Cougars. We’re taking trips to many of the local football teams to see how they stack up against the Cougars and the rest of the state.
The team: The Northport Mustangs. I really appreciate the town of Northport not calling themselves “The Fisherman” or the “Navigators” or something implying they’re a port. They are not a port, they are landlocked alongside the Columbia River, so unless we start to send airships up there, there will be very little porting going on.
The town: Northport. No this is not where they filmed “The Postman” that is one county over. It’s named that because it was the northernmost town of the Spokane Falls and Northern Railway. I guess our ancestors building the railroad got that far north and said “Do we REALLY need to go into Canada? There’s just a bunch of guys named Chad up there” and quit. I guess in the 1880s it was actually a port (so my previous paragraph is dumb) for shipbuilding and had steamboat services.
You know what, Northport needs to change its mascot. Instead of the Mustangs they need to be the Steamboat Captains. Everybody gets to wear a captain’s hat and look longingly into the distance pretending they’ve spent years on the Columbia River steamboating.
Last year: 0-10. Fun fact: Up until 2010, Northport had no football program. Now they play 8-man football with kids from a town of 295 people. Northport hadn’t had a football team since the 1950s when they played football with one-bar facemasks. In 2011, the team had the program’s one winning season with a 6-5 record.
8-man disclaimer: You know how tough it is to play 8-man football? Since you’re a smaller school filling out the roster is difficult (not a problem for Northport this year as they had 24 kids turn out), and then if the other team finds your one weak spot, you bet your britches they’re going to run every single play at that weak spot. Unlike Montana, which plays 8-man football on a smaller field, Washington keeps its 8-man teams on a regulation field which means it’s a track meet every time. These are wild games.
“You’ll see a lot of crazy formations in this game, swinging gates, stuff like that,” Northport coach Kevin Dionas said. “As long as five guys are one the line you can line up pretty much how you want. Speed wins and you need containment on defense. The defensive ends are key.”
How Northport thinks the league will shape up: It’s kind of an open year for the NE 1B North division as a lot of the good teams graduated their seniors. Inchelium looks like it doesn’t have big numbers this year in terms of turnout. Columbia looked strong in their first game. Cusick and Republic are probably the favorites, and Selkirk looks like they graduated some talent. It’s 1B so if two kids get sick from the flu, you’re looking at a league-changing event.
“The kids have had a different feel this year, they really want to turn this around,” Dionas said.
Studs to Watch: The fun part about the Mustangs this year will be Kade Middlesworth at QB. At 6’4” and 160 pounds he’s got the framework for a quarterback. He can also run the ball, and after figuring that out last year he rushed for over 1,000 yards and seven touchdowns.
Northport’s MO is passing the ball in the wide-open 8-man game. This is the exact opposite of the 1A NEA League where everybody runs the ball three times and punts. Against Wellpinit last year Northport put up huge numbers in the air and turned that game into arena football. This year, Kade is back and could be Stevens County’s premier gunslinger stats-wise.
“He can really throw the ball and he’s the lead of the team, we expect big things from him this year,” Dionas said.
Billy Rizzo returns at linebacker. Now a senior, Rizzo has played since 8th grade and has a name you would expect to be adhered to a linebacker.
If the O-line can come together for the Mustangs, they might have something going on there. They also have freshman Bowen Middlesworth at linebacker and Phenix Young at running back who notched 500 rushing yards last year and seven touchdowns.
What stinks in Northport: THEIR BRIDGE! Apparently you have to wait your turn to cross it, and everybody is afraid it’s going to collapse into some apocalyptic heap of metal because somebody drove a Ford Excursion on it. In all seriousness though, Northport is a scenic community and we hope the state gets around to fixing their bridge since a lot of people like taking a drive through there.
What’s great in Northport: The view! Look at this town!
They probably use stock photos of Northport for every Hallmark made for TV movie where a big city hot shot moves back to his hometown and finds true love. That’s literally every Hallmark movie.
The Independent’s Take: Go watch a game if you can. There are three 8-man football teams in Stevens County (Hunters, Wellpinit and Northport) and they play each other. It’s fun football. With Northport breaking out the Mare Raid offense (see what I did there, since they’re the Mustangs?), expect some exciting games with lots of big numbers being put up.