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Notus and Lighthouse Christian Playing on Borrowed Time
Both the Pirates and Lions will play with depleted rosters. But Notus's bench will be exceptionally short after key injuries
Published: 11/4/2020 3:02:20 PM

As the cold winter air starts to roll through Idaho and the 2020 football season starts to close, the state’s remaining teams continue to deal with depleted rosters, short benches and the ever-present injury bug. 

Numbers, especially in the 1A ranks, always remain an issue, no matter the school or division. And that problem is no more apparent in this weekend’s matchup between Lighthouse Christian and Notus. 

For both teams, keeping players healthy has been an area of concern throughout the season, especially later in the year as the state playoffs get underway. 

Lighthouse Christian, last year’s 1ADII state champion, moved up to the Division-I ranks over the summer, resulting in a need for more available weapons to stay competitive with high-enrollment eight-man squads. 

According to Lighthouse Head Coach Cory Holloway, the Lions are dealing with their lowest student numbers in the last five years, coinciding with a time Lighthouse needs all hands on deck. With teams like Oakley, Raft River and Prairie standing in the way of a title this year, the loss of nine seniors from 2019’s team stings even more. 

But the Lions are well-accustomed to the “next-man-up” mentality. Offensive lineman Kevin Holliday made his first start in the state semifinals, Holloway said. Holliday helped pave the way for quarterback Collin Holloway and the rest of the offense to score 39 points against Kendrick that year, one game before securing the state championship

“Those guys, they’ve led us to where we are today,” Coach Holloway said. 

The Lions will have around 20 players at their disposal Friday against the Pirates, another team struggling to field enough athletes to keep their state title hopes afloat. Unlike conference power Oakley, which has around 50 players listed on its roster, Notus will field just 14 Friday. 

The Pirates started the season with 17 active players, but season-ending injuries quickly took their toll. Running back Quentin Hutton was the first to fall, tearing his ACL in the first game of the season against Council.

Despite the injuries, Notus is in the midst of a banner year. The Pirates’ 7-0 record is their best since 2010, when they went 9-1, finishing the year with a first-round playoff loss to Grace. 

For Head Coach Joe Woodland, having his team stay competitive against Lighthouses’ spread offense became immensely more difficult after projected first-team receiver and cornerback Mack Shimondle broke his leg in practice earlier this week. 

“That really hurts us on both sides of the ball,” Woodland said. 

Not only was Shimondle one of quarterback Kaeden Clemens favorite targets — totaling more than 30 catches and 10 touchdowns on the year — he was the Pirates’ best defensive back in coverage. Without him, Lighthouse will look to dial up its already lethal air raid attack.

In his place, Clemens will be dropping into coverage from his linebacker spot on defense. Clemens said the Pirates faced a similarly styled offense in Horseshoe Bend this year. Notus won that contest 26-16.

“It’s hard losing your No. 1 receiver and one of your best corners, but it is what it is,” Clemens said. “Our team has heart and determination to get through this.”

Out at corner, Carter Woodland will fill in for Shimondle. Carter said Shimondle has been incredibly helpful through the transition. 

“He has been there at every practice so far and continues to be supportive,” he said. “He also provides pointers to the team on both sides of the ball.”

Lighthouse Christian and Notus are set to face off in the 2020 state football quarterfinals 7 p.m. Friday. Watch the game live by clicking here. 

“My players, they’re always asking me, ‘Are they good?’ They have a few state titles, so they’re not bad,” Woodland said. “And at this point in the season, everybody’s good.”

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