(By Geno Ludwig/Chewelah Independent)
Cougars waste little time getting in the endzone at NEA League Jamboree in Deer Park…
Coach Al Johnson used to remind his football players that “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight that counts. It’s the size of the fight in the dog.”
This year’s Chewelah Cougar football team comes from the smallest school in the league, has the smallest number of players in the league, and has the smallest-sized players in the league. Yet, at Friday night’s preseason jamboree at Deer Park the Cougars exhibited the fight Coach Johnson talked about.
The Cougars had more bite than bark, scoring four times against Newport and once against Lakeside
Chewelah is starting the football season with 36 players. Deer Park has 71. The other teams in the league have around 50. The Cougars did not even have enough younger players to field a JV team at last Friday’s jamboree.
Junior varsity teams are usually dominated by a nucleus of sophomores who have a year of playing time under their belts, along with the rookie freshman. However, this season, only three sophomores turned out for the team. Therefore, most of the load will be placed on the shoulders of an inexperienced herd of incoming freshmen.
The high school is going through a phase where athletes who could be wearing a helmet and shoulder pads are deciding that they are only basketball players, or only baseball players, or only tennis players, or are no longer going to be in any sport.
“We hope our recruiting efforts on the first day of school will be successful,” said Coach Levi Hogan. “I’m going to have our coaching staff in the halls trying to convince more of our athletes to turn out for the team. I’m hoping that by the end of this week we can bring our numbers up to over 40. There are several athletes who could be—and should be—playing football with us.”
In spite of its lack of size and numbers, Chewelah more than held its own against Newport and Lakeside. The Cougars scored every time they had the ball against the Grizzlies. They ran 11 plays on offense and scored four times. Play started at the 35-yard line. If the team on offense scored or gave up the ball on downs, the next series of plays began again at the 35-yard stripe. If the team earned a first down, play continued from that spot.
On Chewelah’s first snap against Newport, fullback Kaden Mackowiak ran the ball into the end zone for a Cougar touchdown. The 35-yard gallop across the goal line was initiated by engaged blocking up front by Kolton Cairns, Robby Hopkins, and Loren Olson. Mackowiak weaved his way through the Newport defense and sprinted the final 20 yards to pay dirt.
The second Chewelah touchdown against Newport came as a result of a 30-yard pass from Owen Baldwin to Jensen Holloway. Baldwin faked the ball to the fullback, rolled out to the right, and found Holloway all alone near the 15-yard line. Holloway made the catch and ran across the goal line untouched.
Three plays later, Mackowiak was in the end zone for the second time. He had a 20-yard burst up the middle which he cut to the left sideline for the long gain. Then, on the following snap, he ran to the right following good interior blocking, and scored on a 10-yard surge.
The final Cougar touchdown against Newport came on a 17-yard pass from Baldwin to Griffin Stroyan.
The Chewelah wide receiver ran a fade route into the left corner of the end zone and adjusted his steps to make the catch just across the goal line.
So, the Cougars scored twice by land and twice through the air against the Grizzlies.
Chewelah had a tougher time against a bigger Lakeside team. The Cougars found the Eagle defensive front more difficult to block. Still, they kept their opening drive alive and ate up yardage in smaller chunks all the way into the end zone. Mackowiak scored his third touchdown of the evening on an inside dive play from the four-yard line. This was the only time the Cougars scored against Lakeside, although Baldwin had an 18-yard run on Chewelah’s final offensive play.
On the other hand, the Eagles got across the goal line twice. Chewelah swarmed the ball carrier pretty well on running plays, but one runner got away for a 28-yard touchdown run. The Cougar pass defense also gave up a long pass for a touchdown.
Overall, the Cougars ran the ball 17 times, gaining 132 yards. They completed five passes for 41 yards.
“We had a lot of players going both ways, and they all played hard through the entire jamboree,” said Hogan, “I was really pleased with our effort. We will have more players eligible for this week’s game at Bridgeport, so we will give some of the starters a break when they need it.
“The biggest surprise for me was how well our offensive line played. They maintained their blocks and opened big holes for our runners to run through. We have three veterans in the middle of the offensive line, but our two tackles were both new to their positions. One was a freshman, but I could not tell from the way he played. The other two were wide receivers who split time at left tackle. All three had been thrust into those positions just a couple of days before.
“The area in which we need the most work, from what I saw on film, is in our defensive secondary. We did not do a very good job of pass defense, so that is something we will be working on this week.”
This Friday, the Cougars embark on a four-game road trip. They travel to Bridgeport, to Liberty Christian, to Newport, and then to Freeman. The first home game will not be until September 29 because of the resurfacing of Merle B. Snyder Field. The playing surface was leveled and sod was planted. The grass will continue to root and to grow for another month before it will be ready to host a game.
Chewelah steamrolled Bridgeport 48-0 a year ago. The Cougars scored six times in the first quarter and held a 42-0 lead after 12 minutes of play. The JV team played the remaining three quarters, scoring one more time.
“I expect Bridgeport to be stronger this year,” said Hogan, “but, if not, it will give our younger players who did not get to play in the jamboree a chance to get in some playing time.”