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  Undefeated Lost Rivers on the Hunt for 2019 Championship

With a potential bump to 2A coming in 2020, the co-op Pirates set their sights on a 2019 1A title

By: Seiji Wood
Published: 10/29/2019 1:44:09 PM
 

 The Lost Rivers football team made the most of a rare situation. 

Once bitter rivals, Mackay and Butte County combined in the offseason to form a co-op program. Mackay, a playoff team a year ago, was in danger of not fielding enough players for 2019. That’s when two rival head coaches put their heads together to find a solution. 

Mackay Head Coach Travis Drussel got together with long-time friend Sam Thorngren, head coach of Butte County, to give Mackay students a chance to get back out on the field for 2019.

“We tried this the year before and it didn’t happen,” Thorngren said. “This year, around May, Coach Drussel called me. He was to the point where he only had seven players who would for sure play.”

Both coaches had to move fast in order to make their idea a reality. The two schools rushed to get approved by the school boards, athletic directors and the communities. 

Once the necessary pieces fell into place, the newly-branded Lost Rivers Pirates had to work out the logistics of where to hold practices and host games.

Most of the players hailed from Butte County, so the two sides agreed on having practices in Arco on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, with Thursday practices held at Mackay. The team also decided to play a few home games for the Mackay fans, with the rest being at Butte County. 

“Arco would’ve had five home games this year,” Drussel said. “We were able to get two of those in Mackay, so it worked out pretty well that way.”

The growing pains associated with bringing together two different programs extended just beyond logistics. Working out a playbook that could compromise the offensive and defensive styles of both teams proved to be a challenge, along with finding perfect roles for the more than 30 Lost Rivers athletes.

“The biggest reason this has worked is because of the kids,” Thorngren said. “They’re determined to make this work. It's been harder in a way for the assistant coaches on both sides that don’t have as many responsibilities as before.” 

Both coaches said it helped that most of the athletes on the team played together before their high school days. 

“I feel like this has been a blessing,” said senior running back JaCoda Whitworth. “I played with these guys when I was little, from about the fourth to sixth grade. It was actually really cool that we could play together for my last year.”

The Pirates burst onto the 2019 scene, winning eight games and earning top billing in the state playoffs. Their biggest win of the season came against Oakley, ranked first in the statewide media poll at the time. The Pirates defended their pseudo home turf, winning 20-14. 

“We just want to win,” said senior quarterback Bridger Hansen. “Really nothing matters other than winning.” 

And with 1ADI Snake River Conference locked up, Drussel said his team is primed for a deep run into the postseason.

“These kids are all business,” he said. “They don’t really get rattled. They just play the game and rely on one another.” 

But 2019’s domination could come at a cost next year. Should the co-op continue, major changes could be underway. 

According to both coaches, if the team were to stay together, they would be bumped up to the 2A classification, forcing the Pirates to field an 11-man team opposed to their current eight-man squad. Both said they worry if a classification change would occur, they still wouldn’t have enough players to put together a team. The Pirates petitioned the state to remain in 1A as a co-op team, but were denied.

“The state keeps telling us we (Butte County) have enough for a 1A team,” Thorngren said. “Well, we know that. The issue is the four to six Mackay kids. What are they supposed to do? So we’re kind of at a standstill there. But after the season, we’ll try to raise it up again.”

For Thorngren, the hope is the state will eventually accept their petition and allow the co-op to continue in 1A play. For Drussel, he doesn’t mind if the co-op continues, but would eventually like for Mackay to have their own team again. 

“Obviously you want to play for your school,” Drussel said. “But our numbers and the kids coming out just aren’t going to be there.”

Regardless of what lies ahead next year, the focus still remains on a 2019 state title. 

“The hope for anyone that’s in our position is the championship,” Whitworth said. “That’s what we strive for. That’s what our season is built on. It’s to go to that championship game and win it.”

Lost Rivers will face Challis Friday to end the regular season before hosting either Clearwater Valley or Kamiah in the first round of the state playoffs.

 

 

 


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oldguycoach
11/1/2019 9:00:11 AM
LOST RIVERS SUPER TEAM
I think the state messed up big time on this one! These two teams: Butte County and Mackay should never/ever have been allowed to combine. They have literally formed a Super Team. They have a combined score of 402 to their opponents 106 for the season. They have so many players that they take two buses to games. I know most 3A teams travel are able to travel on 1 bus and even a few 4A teams. The game I watched this year of Lost River playing they had 34 kids in uniform and their opponent had 19. That is a huge advantage for Lost Rivers! In football, numbers are a huge factor in the outcome of these games. Just ask any team in Idaho that are on the bottom of the enrollment list in their classifications. Butte might have the numbers, but most of their stud athletes come from Mackay. If they run the table throughout the playoffs I feel this team needs to be separated back to their individual teams. It is not fair to these small schools that they get to pound on each and every week. Besides double the kids, their is also double the coaching staffs, which at this level is also a huge advantage! I think I counted 11 or 12 coaches on their sideline. That is the size of most 4A staffs around the state. Again, not fair to the opponents. One local 1A school that I am really familiar with has 3 coaches, 3! Tell me that is not a huge advantage for Lost Rivers?? At practice they have a guy watching each and every individual group, that is huge! Watching for proper technique and proper alignment within the scheme. Most small schools are not receiving that luxury. IHSSA please look at this again during the off season, not fair competition - and that is your job - to create fair competition amongst the schools in each classification of the state. If they want to combine, then move them up to 2A!
gfazech31
11/1/2019 11:39:48 AM
hey
you
gfazech31
11/1/2019 11:41:20 AM
As someone who has played and coached 8-man football in Idaho...
I know this situation all too well. I am glad they let it work out. The kids earned a chance to play and small schools 1A espcially D2, they need every guy they can or can't field a team each week and end up forfeiting games no one wants. I can be called upon If need be to testify how the Mackey kids should be allowed to play with Butte Pirates team this next summer if need be. now, If butte has enough to go 2A, that is one thing. 1A to 2A is a huge difference because 8-man and 11-man football are very different. tough transition. Huge ordeal their. But If they are just adding some mackey guys who want to experience and keep playing high school football till they graduate, I'm all for it. It's a sports experience like no other; and these kids worked hard through the years, just to have a few injuries or friends classmates leave their school... so their senior year they can't play the game they enjoy?! They could limit the coaching unless it's purely volunteer and only higher pay like 6 coaches max. But the numbers in small school sports participating is a good thing. every student should try one sport in high school at least. Now if the butte high school has enough students to qualify for 2A, let mackey join them for 2A. No big deal.
gfazech31
11/1/2019 11:43:59 AM
and also
I have coached in a similar situation in recent years. We didn't have to combine but might have needed to. Played with 9 guys. 2 guys get hurt, we forfeited 3 games. No one wants that. Players espically, even if its a blow out hard loss. We could of created a super team sure with our rivals, and they came close to winning state on their own. We didn't have a team years later for lack of interest and numbers as well. Glad our rivals let some kids play with them. great team and games. Not unfair. Close to winning state but still didn't. Life goes on. These kids get these awesome memories. I enjoyed it all over the years. Good for them. Hope the state is wise in dealing with this ordeal next year.
gfazech31
11/1/2019 11:44:29 AM
hey old guy coach!
PS. Oh and old guy coach... Check out the 2007 year state title for 1A. might interest you. Salmon river faced Butte actually on the blue for the title. Amazing game really. Salmon river 9 and Butte 42.... the number of players they had for the game playing suited up is what i mean... Guess who won? not the size of the dog in the fight as the saying goes... but to be fair, No one was beating Salmon River that year. butte tried. Still, great game to watch David over Goliath. So cool what the savages coach said before the game to his team on the sidelines. We had great seats. "Look at our opponents. that army over there... (pointing and pausing) ... I would still take each and every one of you guys and coach you proudly than over that whole team over there, regardless of the outcome today. Your here today because their is only 9 of you and that's why we are going to win today." paraphrased and glorified a bit in my memory, but basically his pre-game speech to them. very cool moment. And they did. Lost rivers could still lose easily. Prairie is very good up north. Better competition too normally. Anyway, enjoy. peace.
myboyslovefootball
11/1/2019 8:31:39 PM
Lost Rivers
WOWZA oldmancoach! Is someone still holding a grudge about your team losing? I could NOT remain silent to your false claims regarding this “Lost Rivers SUPERTEAM.” For starters, yes, sometimes two buses are taken to accommodate taking the JUNIOR varsity boys, the volunteer EMTs and the cheerleaders. Next, there are NOT 11-12 coaches! Many of those grown men and college boys standing on the sidelines are called volunteers, dedicated and excited fans from BOTH communities who have come together to support these young men. This “Lost Rivers SUPERTEAM” is loaded with parents, players and two small town communities who have sacrificed a lot to make this co-op a successful reality. Have you NOT heard of Clark-Water-Springs, Camas County/Richfield, Tri-Valley, Rimrock/Greenleaf or Mullan, ID/St. Regis, MT? Or, are you just whining because you are jealous this “Lost Rivers SUPERTEAM” is actually having a successful season? As to your comment, “Butte might have the numbers, but most of their stud athletes come from Mackay.” Well, you couldn’t be more wrong! This “SUPERTEAM” has stud athletes from BOTH Mackay and Butte who have unselfishly given up playing time, spent extra hours traveling to practices, learned to trust new teammates, and unwittingly dismissed petty, rival, small-town politics and negative comments from people like you because they simply love playing football. Finally, thanks to Seiji Wood and Idaho Sports! The Lost Rivers Pirates appreciate your article and choverage of our small schools.
idiotslayer2
11/1/2019 8:43:37 PM
Old Coach Guy
I’m gonna keep it nice but seriously please stop talking like you know anything about the situation. There is 12 seniors on the team and these kids have had a great four year run. Anyone that has watched any Butte county the last few years knows how stacked this senior class they are state champion track athletes. That does not take away from the athletes that Mackay have but saying most are from Mackay is flat out wrong. Mackay did not have enough players to field a team and they are still not gonna next year. The numbers for the schools next year will push them to 2A and Butte does not have the numbers to play 11 man and adding 6-7 kids is not enough. So what you are pushing is for the Mackay boys to not be able to be able to play football.
idiotslayer2
11/1/2019 9:28:37 PM
Old Coach Guy
I’m gonna keep it nice but seriously please stop talking like you know anything about the situation. There is 12 seniors on the team and these kids have had a great four year run. Anyone that has watched any Butte county the last few years knows how stacked this senior class they are state champion track athletes. That does not take away from the athletes that Mackay have but saying most are from Mackay is flat out wrong. Mackay did not have enough players to field a team and they are still not gonna next year. The numbers for the schools next year will push them to 2A and Butte does not have the numbers to play 11 man and adding 6-7 kids is not enough. So what you are pushing is for the Mackay boys to not be able to be able to play football.
thecropdoctor
11/1/2019 11:33:56 PM
Old guy coach
Honestly I agree with old guy coach and at risk of pissing off some Lost Rivers fans it is a “super team” you’re taking the best players from each school and putting them on a varsity squad. Tell me how that’s not a super team. Frankly, if you’re not going to have enough kids to field a team then don’t have a team. Co-op’s aren’t fair to anyone and I think the state should do away with all co-op’s. This was a huge mistake for the state to allow this to happen. If teams insist on playing in a co-op they should be forced to combine the number of students in each school and play at whatever classification that would put them in. So if Butte County and Mackay decided that it was absolutely necessary for them to combine for sports then they should likely be playing at the 2A level. Anyone who does co-op’s should either be forced to do this or stop doing co-op’s entirely. Mark my words if Lost Rivers wins the state football championship there will be a lot of very angry people going to the state demanding it never happen again.
thecropdoctor
11/1/2019 11:35:04 PM
Old guy coach
Honestly I agree with old guy coach and at risk of pissing off some Lost Rivers fans it is a “super team” you’re taking the best players from each school and putting them on a varsity squad. Tell me how that’s not a super team. Frankly, if you’re not going to have enough kids to field a team then don’t have a team. Co-op’s aren’t fair to anyone and I think the state should do away with all co-op’s. This was a huge mistake for the state to allow this to happen. If teams insist on playing in a co-op they should be forced to combine the number of students in each school and play at whatever classification that would put them in. So if Butte County and Mackay decided that it was absolutely necessary for them to combine for sports then they should likely be playing at the 2A level. Anyone who does co-op’s should either be forced to do this or stop doing co-op’s entirely. Mark my words if Lost Rivers wins the state football championship there will be a lot of very angry people going to the state demanding it never happen again.
myboyslovefootball
11/2/2019 12:37:09 AM
Lost Rivers
FYI : Butte and Mackay’s enrollment THIS year combined, IS the classification WE are playing in. This information is easy to fact check. Next year, is a different story. The projected numbers combined would barely exceed 1A . This is where a decision must be made to co-op again, forcing Lost Rivers up a division to one of the smallest 11-man, 2A teams, or leave Mackay without a football program again.
milkers58
11/2/2019 12:34:17 PM
The Crop Doctor
How dare these kids from small schools want to play football. Get rid of all the Co-ops. Obviously the state combines the numbers between the schools. I’m glad we are all here to support high school athletes and I would love for you to come meet the 4 players from Mackay that are gonna be teamless next year. Maybe you could tell them how unfair it will be to let them play football.
Anarchy6
11/2/2019 8:21:18 PM
It’s for the kids
C’’mon man! Give the state more credit than that! They do make teams play in the division where their numbers are at! Do your homework! Butte has 9 seniors this year. 4 have been starters since their freshman year! Butte was gonna be good regardless! The 3 seniors and 3 juniors they got from Mackay are good players! All good players wanna play football! 8 coaches, 3 paid from Butte and 3 paid from Mackay like other small schools and 2 volunteers, are doing what they can to ensure this co op is a positive experience for the players! Isn’t that what high school sports is about, the players?? Butte county was not gonna sit back and let those kids not have an opportunity to play! I didn’t think following the rules would piss so many people off! I guess shame on Lost Rivers for winning.
Anarchy6
11/2/2019 8:49:39 PM
Numbers
Also butte county moved down to 8 man in 2012. They were in the nuclear conference in 2a forever before that! So that 2007 game you’re talking about is not butte county.
Anarchy6
11/2/2019 9:02:21 PM
Numbers
Also butte county moved down to 8 man in 2012. They were in the nuclear conference in 2a forever before that! So that 2007 game you’re talking about is not butte county.
thecropdoctor
11/2/2019 10:06:37 PM
Milkers58
Then recruit within your school to try and field a team. Go out and convince your friends that they should play with you. I seriously think the state should get rid of all co ops. There is absolutely no reason for it. If it’s really about the kids then consolidate school districts. Then those kids can have their sports and the best teachers. Also why does any 1A 8 man team need 6 coaches and two volunteers?? Most 1A teams make do with 2 coaches. That’s the way it was when I played 8 man football. Also there’s video evidence that lost rivers players are dirty. I’ve seen a video that clearly shows a player from lost rivers attempting to break the arm of an opposing player.
Anarchy6
11/3/2019 7:46:55 PM
Cropdoctor
I think you answered your own question. Apparently Lost Rivers doesn’t wanna just make do with 2 coaches. Also, I would love to see this video of their players being dirty.
Anarchy6
11/3/2019 9:14:48 PM
Cropdoctor
I think you answered your own question. Apparently Lost Rivers doesn’t wanna just make do with 2 coaches. Also, I would love to see this video of their players being dirty.
michpete
11/7/2019 6:49:40 AM
Cropdoctor oldguycoach
I would seem to me that the people upset at this co-op may be suffering from "fake news". Literally none of their information is correct except possibly the point differential of the games. The combined enrollment of Mackay/Arco is 155 (2018-2020 numbers as reported by the state) which puts them squarely in the D1 division - right where they are playing. There are six varsity boys from Mackay that committed to playing football - which is not even enough for a six-man team to go through a season. Believe me, the school and community tried everything they could to have boys sign up, but the numbers simply weren't there. Four of the six Mackay boys who wanted to play, had conference honors, and one had all-state honors. The IDHSAA did the right thing in allowing them to play. Mackay brought with them two paid coaches and one volunteer. The Butte team has numbers and enough to form a JV team. In addition, there are cheerleaders and EMTs traveling with the team. Many of the kids on the sidelines - those were their JV players. Also, for a few games that didn't have a JV game prior, the Lost Rivers coaches pulled starters early or the scores would have been much higher. This group of Butte boys were state track medalists and two of the Mackay boys were qualifiers . Would this have been easier for some people if the quality of athletes was less? That makes no sense at all. The demographics of the state is changing - the small towns are getting smaller and we should be seeing more co-ops, not less. Especially when you are considering a sport like football, when safety should be paramount! Instead of disparaging this team, maybe we should just look at a fine group of young men and coaches. The "dirty" player comment, immediately discounts any stance you may have had - all games are on HUDL with zero evidence of an outrageous claim.
gfazech31
11/14/2019 12:05:05 PM
uh hey My boys love football...
Greenleaf teamed up with with rimrock one year and it didn't really work out best for both. They do this so guys can play ball even if their is only 5 guys who can play from a school. I get this and i agree with you. but that was a poor example. greenleaf has more so teamed up with wilder over the years over anyone else. But they don't have a team that i'm aware of playing anymore. But yes i agree. He has a point in that some of the best athletes team up at times for schools who do which isn't always right.
gfazech31
11/14/2019 12:16:06 PM
Well isn't it a good thing for everyone then ....
to settle this peace when PRAIRIE wins the state title! these next few games will settle all this nonsense. Dirty football is rare today but does exist in small schools mountain areas in IDaho around a CITY with wild cats in the area I'm sure. It is eventually working its way out. The game is night and day from when i played how dirty it can be. sports dont just build your character; they reveal it to all who see. The game is still tough and you have to protect yourself and train or you could break your arm or worse. But those who play well should be repected like prairie or wilder or lost rivers etc...















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