Head Coach: Dan Lucier
Years as Head Coach: 2nd Season
Previous Experience: Superior (MT), 32 Years
Pullman (WA), 5 Years
Record Last Year: 6-3
State Titles: None
Owen Seitz, OL/DL, 12
Justin Waller, RB/DB, 12
Justin Lehto, OL/LB, 11
Brandon Miller, OL/DL, 11
Returning Players with Honors:
Justin Lehto, IML Defensive Player of the Year
Owen Seitz, All-IML OL
Brandon Miller, All-IML OL
Incoming impact players:
Raiden Rickets, QB/DB, 12
Gavin Luna, RB/LB, 11
Written By: Will Hoenike
Coming off a six-win season and winning the Intermountain League – snapping an impressive run of 13 straight IML titles for rival Timberlake – second-year head coach Dan Lucier still thinks his Kellogg Wildcats have some heads to turn in north Idaho.
“We have been mediocre for so long,” Lucier observed. “I believe that our opponents still do not respect us.”
Another campaign like 2017 for the Wildcats and, well, anyone who doesn’t respect what is happening in Kellogg would be making a big mistake.
How good of a job did Lucier and his staff, with help from 14 outgoing seniors, do last fall? The six wins Kellogg picked up last fall matched the total number of wins for the program between 2012 and 2016. The team won all three games in IML play and went on the road to nearly knock off a very good Gooding team in the opening round of the 3A state playoffs. They flipped the narrative nearly 180 degrees from recent history.
Now … Act Two, so to speak.
Lucier welcomes back the nucleus of a very good offensive front, which is pivotal to the offense they run.
“We run the wishbone offense, which I feel is a great team-style offense,” Lucier said. “It will take a team effort out of everyone to be great.”
It starts up front with the run-heavy wishbone, where the Wildcats return All-IML linemen Owen Seitz, Brandon Miller and Justin Lehto. That bodes well for running backs Justin Waller and Gavin Luna, alongside new quarterback Raiden Rickets, and an offense that totaled 274 points in nine games, an average of just over 30 points per contest. Add in the fact that it is year two of the Lucier system, meaning the team’s comfort level with schemes and systems has improved, and the potential is there for a good showing from the Wildcat offense in 2018.
Lehto leads the way for Kellogg on defense after earning IML Defensive Player of the Year honors last fall as a sophomore. The 200-pound junior will be the heart of the Wildcat defense from the linebacker position and Lucier expects the team’s front seven to be its defensive strength. It is a unit that only allowed one team, St. Maries in the season opener, to top 28 points last season.
A big key for the Wildcats in 2018 is staying healthy. Nearly half of Kellogg’s 2017 roster were seniors, meaning there are roles available for younger players to step into and limited depth behind them. It’s a challenge that Lucier and his staff are looking forward to.
“I think the thing that excites me the most is taking last year’s JV (team) and helping them become a dominating varsity team,” Lucier said.
Can Kellogg stay at the top of the proverbial hill for another season? In the four-team IML, the season basically comes down to the final three weeks of the season when the teams duke it out with one another. Timberlake should rebound after a rough 2017, the Tigers play in Kellogg on October 12, and both Bonners Ferry and Priest River will have a say in things as well. Will it be Kellogg repeating as IML champs? Timberlake returning to the top after a one-year hiatus? One of the other two teams taking their shot at the top chair?
As they say, that’s why you play the games. But this much is known: Lucier believes in his team and intends to prove that 2017 wasn’t a fluke. It should be a fun season to watch as Kellogg looks to make it two consecutive trips to the 3A state postseason.