Written By: Will Hoenike
It wasn’t that long ago that Mullan High couldn’t play eight-man football due to a lack of numbers. It wasn’t that long ago that Mullan High couldn’t play ANY football due to a lack of numbers.
Turns out, there was a similar story down the road in St. Regis, MT. So the two schools got together and were able to get a cooperative agreement put together so the two schools could combine on a football team that would play in Idaho. In its first year, the co-op that crossed state lines produced a season-ending three-game winning streak. Could 2019 see that upward trend continue?
The answer – absolutely.
The Tigers return a pair of all-state players in Ian Farris and Skye Gallaway. Two all-staters on an 8-man team. That represents a quarter of the players on the field at any point in time. And those two aren’t alone.
Adam Ball and Luke Trogden were all-league performers as freshmen and return for their sophomore campaign and touted freshman Caleb Ball arrives on scene to take over the quarterback duties for head coach Stetson Spooner and his assistants, Jesse Allan and Dan Fritz.
“Building off the success of being undefeated at home last season, chasing a NSL (North Star League) title, and a playoff berth,” Spooner said when asked what he was most excited about coming into the season. “We want to make a run.”
That word, “run,” may be the key. Spooner and his staff has assembled a lot of speed. Farris was clocked at 11.3 seconds in the Montana class C track meet. Junior Riley Trogden won the 100-meter and 200-meter races at the North Star district track meet. Gallaway has tremendous speed as well while Adam Ball and Luke Trogden have both been timed at under 4.8 seconds in the 40-yard dash. With only eight defenders on a regulation 8-man field, that means the Tigers are a threat to take the ball all the way to paydirt on virtually every play.
That speed also turns in a plethora of big plays on defense. Farris’ all-state nod – which may be the first time a non-Idaho athlete has earned first team all-state honors, since he’s from St. Regis – came largely from an eye-popping ten interceptions in six games. Riley Trogden added five more with Gallaway and Luke Trogden combining for 20 sacks.
“Our defensive intensity and speed allows us to be relentless,” Spooner said. “Our speed in coverage allows our big dogs up front to go to work.”
If there is a question mark about Mullan/St. Regis, it is the offensive and defensive front. Gone is Kash Truitt, who led the team’s charge on both lines last fall. Can his size and strength be duplicated this fall? Senior Matt Peite is a player whose role is expected to grow this fall on the Tigers’ defensive line.
The 1A Division 2 teams located in District 1 – Mullan/St. Regis, Kootenai, Clark Fork, and Lakeside – will each play a home and road game against the other three, as well as 1A Division 1 independent Wallace. That makes up each team’s schedule. However, Mullan has scheduled a ninth game on September 13 against Victor (MT) that will be played in St. Regis, giving the fans and athletes from the small Montana town a chance to host a game on its field. All other home games will be played in Mullan, along Interstate 90.
Importantly for Spooner, along with all the other coaches, players, and fans of North Star League teams, the winner of the North Star will earn a berth in the 1A Division 2 state playoffs. The North Star and White Pine have combined to form a league for the past several seasons and the White Pine has claimed the two spots each of the past five seasons. The last North Star team to reach the state playoffs was Kootenai in 2013.
Can Mullan break that string? Yes. But they’ll have to overcome an experienced Lakeside team, a talented Clark Fork team, and an improving Kootenai team to do it. The regular season won’t be a simple coronation parade for Spooner and his squad.
However, the opportunity is there. The redemption story continues. A program that didn’t have enough kids to field a varsity team in 2015 has a chance to go to the state playoffs in 2019.