School does not start here in Chewelah until September 5, but the Cougar football team is already into its second week of practices in preparation for their 2012 season. Before classes begin, they will already have participated in the pre-season jamboree on August 27 and played their first game against Deer Park on August 31.
“We will be at Deer Park for the jamboree on Monday, and then Deer Park will come here for our season opener the following Friday,” said Coach Jim Fisk.
Monday’s jamboree will begin at 5 p.m. The game will begin at 7 p.m. on Snyder Field.
Fisk has 53 players turning out for back to back daily double practices this week, beginning each morning at 8 a.m. After three days without pads last week, they came out of the locker room wearing shoulder pads and helmets on Thursday for their first one-on-one combat.
“We have a lot of work to do,” said Coach Fisk, “but we always do at this time of the year. Everyone is working hard, and we’re getting ready for our season opener.
The Cougars will be strong on offense at the skill positions this year with the return of two-year starters Derek Smith at quarterback and Ben Johnstone at receiver. Smith is a returning All-Northeast A League double-threat quarterback who led the Cougars in scoring last season. Johnstone returns as an All-League middle linebacker, where he was Chewelah’s leading tackler last season, but he is also a hard-running ballcarrier and sure-handed receiver at the slot position on offense.
“We have a lot of experienced receivers for Derek to throw to,” Fisk said. “Right now, they are all battling for the three remaining spots. Johnstone already has the other receiver position locked up.”
So, Fisk has two wide receiver positions and one slot position up for grabs. Among those battling for those three positions are Dustin Crowell, Caleb Wiebe, Tommy Norman, Jordan Lambert, Ty Curtis, Trey Barnett, Jake Culverwell, Mason Miller, Kyle Connall, and Braeton Flanagan. Most of Chewelah’s offensive formations utilize four receivers.
“We will be using several wide receiver packages, so we will be rotating slots and wide receivers into games,” said Fisk.
Two runningbacks are competing for the one tailback position in Chewelah’s shotgun offense. They are senior Cordell Bean and sophomore Blake Owens.
The Cougars will have a senior-dominated offensive line, led by returning starters Sam Cobb and Chris Lambert. Others with some varsity experience are Austin Heine and Dustin Olson. Sophomore Jamie Olson and freshman Hunter Daniels are pushing the upperclassmen for playing time.
“We’re going to have some depth in the offensive line,” said Fisk. “We have plenty of linemen. We just have to get them ready to play.”
Since Monday, the Cougars have been practicing twice every day. They work on offense in the morning and defense in the afternoon.
Chewelah’s varsity and JV teams will both participate in Monday’s jamboree at Deer Park. Cougar coaches will be watching every snap of the ball closely while taking mental notes about the performance of each and every player. Those who impress their coaches will be the ones who see the most playing time on Friday against Deer Park.
By Geno Ludwig, The Independent Staff