Sandpoint High School
Conference: 4A Inland Empire League
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Head Coach: Ryan Knowles
Years as Head Coach: 1st Season
Previous Experience: 12 Seasons at Colgate University
3 Seasons of HS Football
Record Last Year: 3-7
State Titles: 1997
Cole Ducken, OL, 12
Jaxon Pettit, QB, 11
Declan Plummer, QB, 12
Alex Stockton, TE/LB, 12
Dillon Mitton, RB, 12
Tyler Lehman, LB, 11
Riley Anderson, CB, 12
Karsen Fournier, DL, 12
Thomas Aleto, DL, 12
Garrett Chandler, P/K, 11
Returning Players with Honors:
Alex Stockton, IEL Defensive Player of the Year
Dillon Mitton, All-IEL
Tyler Lehman, All-IEL
Key Players lost from last year:
Robbie Johnson, QB
Photo By: Jason Duchow - #80 Alex Stockton
Incoming impact players:
Brandon Casey, OL, 11
Written by: Will Hoenike
When a football coach refers to one of his own as a “next-level kid,” fans often chalk it up to a little bit of homerism and self-promotion.
But it feels a little bit different when new Sandpoint head coach Ryan Knowles talks about senior tight end and linebacker Alex Stockton. Knowles, the first-year Bulldog head coach, was a four-year starter at the University of Idaho, earning All-Big West honors in 2000. And he has spent the past dozen years coaching college football, serving as the defensive line coach and special teams coordinator at FCS-level Colgate in Hamilton, New York.
Translation – Knowles knows what he’s talking about.
He knows what he’s talking about when he talks about Sandpoint in general. He’s a Bulldog alum and his father, John, is also a Sandpoint alum and a long-time assistant coach. He basically grew up at Barlow Stadium, on the banks of Lake Pend Orielle.
And he knows he’s got a good one in Stockton, the reigning 4A Inland Empire League Defensive Player of the Year.
Stockton, who also earned All-IEL honors in both basketball and baseball as well as football, is a sideline-to-sideline linebacker at 6-foot-3 and 230 pounds with the quickness to make plays on the edge and the size and strength to step into the interior line and win battles. He’s also an excellent tight end, where his size and speed causes mismatches for defenses. Colleges have already taken notice of the player some suggest is among the top athletes in the state of Idaho.
One man can’t win a game by himself, though, and Knowles has other nice pieces to work with in his first year back home.
Running back Dillon Mitton ran for nearly 500 yards as a junior, adding another 233 in pass receptions, to present another key offensive weapon. The Bulldogs will need to replace veteran quarterback Robbie Johnson and Knowles appears to have a battle for the position looming, with both senior Declan Plummer and junior Jaxon Pettit working to earn the position. Cole Ducken returns along the offensive line along with junior Brandon Casey. The team also returns its kicker/punter in senior Garrett Chandler.
Defensively, Stockton and junior all-conference performer Tyler Lehman will man linebacker positions behind returning defensive linemen Karsen Fournier and Thomas Aleto, both seniors. Riley Anderson returns to the Sandpoint lineup at one cornerback position.
“This team has talent at every position,” Knowles noted. “They are hard workers. I look forward to getting them to execute on the field.”
Defensively, the Bulldogs gave up over 36 points per game last season, but the number can be misleading. With just three teams in the 4A IEL, Sandpoint (just like Moscow and Lakeland) is routinely forced to take on a challenging non-conference schedule against 5A foes and big schools out of eastern Washington. This fall will be no exception. Sandpoint will face three of the four 5A IEL teams in non-conference play, two talented teams from the Spokane area and a team from nearby Raymond, Alberta, in preparation for conference play.
It really comes down to two weeks – Sandpoint hosts Moscow on October 5 and travels to Lakeland on October 12 – to earn a playoff spot. The Bulldogs have won six of their past eight conference games dating back to 2014 and has advanced to the postseason each of the past four seasons, reaching the 4A title game in 2015.
Knowles’ squad is good enough to extend the postseason streak to five consecutive seasons. Health and good fortune, especially in a three-team conference, always play a role once the ball is kicked off. But don’t be surprised if we see football along the lake in November again this fall.