1AD1 White Pine League
Written by: Will Hoenike
PRESEASON COACHES POLL
4. Clearwater Valley
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Payton Sobotta, Lapwai
Kendall Leighton, Lapwai
Devin Ross, Prairie
Spencer Schumacher, Prairie
Dakota Haddaler, Potlatch
Connor Akins, Potlatch
Laban Francis, Clearwater Valley
Kolby Moser, Genesee
Rhett Sandquist, Troy
Zachary Stoner, Troy
Jace Sams, Kamiah
Samuel Brisbois, Kamiah
Want to know what the coaches of the 1A Division 1 White Pine League think of their teams?
Every coach polled by IdahoSports.com selected Lapwai, Prairie and Potlatch as the top three teams.
Don’t interpret that to mean no one respects the other four teams in the seven-team league – far from it - but there seems to be good reason why the league’s coaches are so high on the Wildcats, Pirates and Loggers.
Lapwai was the consensus pick by the coaches who responded to win the White Pine this season.
And why not? Lapwai has won the past two 1A Division 1 state titles and has appeared in each of the classification’s past four championship games. Head coach Bob Sobotta returns his son, Payton, for a third year of running the point for the Wildcats and also explosive guard Kendall Leighton. That’s a formidable one-two punch for the small town just south of Lewiston as the community looks to send a player on to the college ranks for the third straight year – Ivory Miles-Williams plays at NAIA power College of Idaho and Emmitt Taylor III is playing at North Idaho College (as of December 4, Taylor was leading the team in scoring at over 21 points per game).
But both Prairie and Potlatch appear primed to challenge the Wildcats for White Pine – and classification supremacy.
“The team this year has some good returning experience from last season and the team is expected to finish in the top three in the White Pine League,” Prairie coach Kevin Chaffee said of his Pirates’ squad. “The team has good overall size and speed.”
It starts with returning all-conference performer Spencer Schumacher in the post and fellow senior Devin Ross on the wing. They’ll be joined by fellow seniors Taylor Ott and Tanner Hibbard in leading a team that won 22 games last season and has high expectations in 2018-19.
Fans in Potlatch also have high expectations. Head coach Ryan Ball returns Dacota and Braden Hadaller along with junior Connor Akins, each of whom earned all-league recognition last season, to the team this season. The Loggers won 17 games last season but came up one win short of a trip to the state tournament, something they’ll hope to change this season.
“We have many players returning off of last year’s team, including the top four scorers,” Ball said of his squad. “With the number of players returning and experience, this team should have the opportunity to be as successful, and possibly improve upon last season.”
The league gets just two teams into the state tournament, so we can already see the competition will be stiff. The thing is, though, there are more teams that want a chance to grab the proverbial brass ring.
First-year head coach Kelly Carlstrom at Troy welcomes 19 players into his program this season – only one of which is a senior. Ten of the players are freshmen.
“This team will be considerably younger (than last season’s),” Carlstrom noted. “And will need to gel and work together as a team.”
The Trojans do return four solid juniors that form a nice nucleus in Troy: guard Zachary Stoner, post Rhett Sandquist, guard Grason Foster and forward Tyler Heath.
Another team to keep an eye on, according to Carlstrom (and others), is Clearwater Valley.
“They didn’t lose much,” Carlstrom said. “And they generally play hard, especially on the defensive end.”
The Rams do have Laban Francis to lean on, which is a good start. Likewise, Genesee has talented senior Kolby Moser – who missed much of last season with an injury. New head coach Travis Grieser also returns senior guard Jeffrey Waisanen and sophomore guards Dawson Durham and Sam Spence to form a deep, quick backcourt for the Bulldogs.
Second-year Kamiah head coach Aaron Skinner returns sophomore forward Jace Sams and junior guard Sam Brisbois, along with junior guard Titus Oatman for a team that won three of its four games against 2A competition last season, but the Kubs are going from a senior-laden team to a young squad this season.
“Last year, we had four seniors that played a majority of the minutes,” Skinner said. “This year, we are looking at trying to get sophomores and juniors to carry a majority of the workload.”
So while there is an appearance of a three-horse race, there are plenty of obstacles that exist beyond Lapwai, Prairie and Potlatch this winter. Especially with the younger teams, like Troy, Genesee and Kamiah, who figure to gain experience and confidence as the season goes on.
Which teams will represent the district in the Boise area for the state tournament? And will one (or two) of them have a chance to hoist a title trophy at the Ford Idaho Center on Championship Saturday?
Seven communities and seven fan bases are excited to find out.