Head Coach: Justin Torfin
Years as Head Coach: 1st Season
Record Last Year: 4-5
State Titles: None
Robbie Anselmo, RB/DB, 12
Keegan Hegel, RB/DB, 12
Brett Gordon, WR/DB, 12
Arron Reyes, OL/DL, 12
Cole Thompson, OL, 11
Returning Players with Honors:
Robbie Anselmo, 1st Team All-IML RB/DB
Arron Reyes, 2nd Team All-IML OL/DL
Cole Thompson, 2nd Team All-IML OL
Keegan Hagel, 2nd Team All-IML RB
Photo By: Patty Theurer - #7 Keegan Hegel
Incoming impact players:
Cody Low, RB/DB, 11
Tanner Cochrane, OL/LB, 11
Coby Rogers, QB/LB, 10
Written By: Will Hoenike
The 2018 Priest River Spartans have a chance to do something this fall that is both unique and positive. But it’s also something programs don’t necessarily aspire to go through.
First-year head coach Justin Torfin, a former college-level assistant coach at the College of Idaho in Caldwell, is looking to lead Priest River to the 3A postseason for the third consecutive year. If successful, he’d be the third head coach to lead the Spartans into the playoffs in those three seasons.
It speaks to the quality of players in the program, the adaptability and unity, to keep improving as the situation around them evolves. And it seems likely that the positive evolution can continue this fall. In fact, it’s something Torfin has already learned about his new troops.
“The way they treat each other and look out for one another,” Torfin said when asked what excited him about the team. “Great unity.”
Priest River has gone 2-1 in Intermountain League play each of the past two seasons to clinch berths in the 3A state tournament and the Spartans appear to have depth up front and in the offensive backfield to have an opportunity to do it again.
Senior Robbie Anselmo is back at the running back position after earning first team All-IML honors as both a running back and defensive back last fall. But he’s hardly alone. Senior Keegan Hegel was a second team All-IML running back and junior Cody Low also figures in to the backfield rotation at Priest River. Collectively, they should help spearhead an offense that averaged nearly 30 points per game in league play as the Spartan staff expects its offense to start with a strong ground attack.
Gone is last year’s starting quarterback, Riley Dement, with sophomore Coby Rogers appearing first in line to have an opportunity to trigger the Spartan offense. Along with the depth at running back, he’ll also have senior Brett Gordon back at wide receiver when the Spartans need to go to the air. The team also appears to have a solid group of returning linemen up front. Senior Arron Reyes was a second team All-IML performer along both the offensive and defensive lines last season and will likely be joined by juniors Tanner Cochrane and Cole Thompson. Torfin is looking for an offense that gets a good push up front and protects the football. If those things happen, Priest River could pack a pretty good punch when it has the football.
Defensively, Priest River has a deep and experienced secondary with Anselmo, Hegel, Gordon and Low. Cochrane should see time at linebacker on defense, along with Rogers, with Reyes anchoring the defensive line. The Spartans did hold four opponents to two touchdowns or less last fall but also had some struggles against big, strong, physical teams like Gooding and Homedale. As a result, Tofin is hoping to see continued improvement in terms of both tackling and creating turnovers.
Priest River opens the 2018 campaign with a pair of games against nearby opponents from Washington before making a non-conference run through the 2A Central Idaho League – facing all three CIL teams in a three-week span. Then the real test starts as Priest River closes the season with its three IML games.
Working in Torfin’s favor is that two of the three IML games will be at Priest River as both Kellogg and Timberlake come to town. The Spartans will travel to Bonners Ferry as its third IML game on October 17.
The standard clichés apply for Priest River in 2018: stay healthy, protect the football and get some bounces. If those things can happen, the Spartans should be in great position to secure a third consecutive berth in the 3A state playoffs in November.