Head Coach: Mathew Pancheri
Years as Head Coach: 2nd Season
Previous Experience: 12 Years HS Football
Record Last Year: 5-4
State Titles: 1993 and 1996
Tyson Wallace, QB, 12
Connor Spencer, DB/WR, 12
Treyce Bradley, RB/LB, 12
Returning Players with Honors:
Connor Spencer, 2nd Team All-State/2nd Team All-IEL
Key Players lost from last year:
Troy Hanes, RB, leading rusher
Nicholas Blume, OL/DL, dominant lineman
Photo By: Jason Duchow - #10 Tyson Wallace
Incoming impact players:
Wade Ahlers, LB, 11
Written by: Will Hoenike
Welcome to year two of the Mathew Pancheri era in Lewiston, where the Bengals will look to bounce back after missing the 5A state playoffs by one game last fall.
It was a bit of a reloading season in 2017 for the Bengals, who were replacing a truckload of talent and experience, led by now-University of Idaho quarterback Colton Richardson. The team battled to a respectable 5-4 finish, but a loss to Post Falls in the second-to-last game of the season squelched their postseason hopes.
Fast forward to the current day, where Pancheri – instead of figuring out how to replace piles of players – has a lot of returning talent along the Snake River in northern Idaho.
“We return a lot of key positions,” Pancheri said. “We also have some young guys that will contribute a bunch this year.”
Most eyes in the stands focus on the quarterback and Lewiston has produced some good ones in recent years, including Richardson and current assistant coach Justin Podrabsky. The keys to the machine currently belong to senior Tyson Wallace. While Richardson and Podrabsky were big, strong-armed pocket passers, Wallace thrives on the move and can beat defenders by running outside the pocket as well as taking his drop, setting his back foot and delivering a pinpoint pass.
Evidence? In the final game of his junior season, Wallace threw for 418 yards and six scores in a win over Lake City. But, obviously, a quarterback can’t compile numbers like that by himself.
“We will throw the ball quite a bit and are really excited about our receivers,” Pancheri continued. “Colt Jacobs, Kyle Alford and Conner Spencer all played a lot last year and that experience will help us.”
Those senior receivers and their quarterback helped the Bengals average over 36 points per game in the team’s five wins. Offense was a little harder to come by in the four losses (10.8 points per game), which is logical, but there is plenty of reason to expect the offense to be more explosive on a consistent basis with a full year of experience under everyone’s belt.
Defensively, Spencer returns as a second-team All-Idaho honoree as part of a deep and athletic Bengal secondary. The team plays routinely with three safeties in the secondary and all three return, providing critical game experience. Spencer, Alford and senior Conor Albrich will patrol the defensive backfield with senior Treyce Bradley and junior Wade Ahlers filling crucial roles at linebacker.
Collectively, that group posted two shutouts in 2017 and held a third opponent to just seven points. Eventual 5A state runner-up Coeur d’Alene, led by University of Washington commit Colson Yankoff, was the only team on Lewiston’s schedule to put up more than 28 points last season.
After opening up at home against Idaho Falls, the Bengals face three consecutive opponents from Washington before coming back in-state to play a pair of 4A foes. Then comes the all-important, three-game stretch to end the season where the Inland Empire League teams face each other to determine their two playoff bids.
Both Coeur d’Alene (Oct. 5) and Lake City (Oct. 19) come to Lewiston this season, which could prove critical in what figures to be a competitive IEL race. From a strictly logical standpoint, if the Bengals can protect their home turf in those two games, they’ll be playing postseason football.
With the offensive tools, defensive depth and potentially-favorable schedule, the second installment of Pancheri’s Bengals appear to have a good chance to play football in November.