Written By: Brandon Hill
The Lost River Pirates will be — hypothetically — getting the best of both worlds in 2019. After a tumultuous offseason that saw the joining of Butte County and Mackay’s football teams, the newly branded Pirates will have plenty of logistics to work out before kickoff.
“Combining two coaching staffs has been interesting,” said Lost River Head Coach Sam Thorngren. “Butte County has been known for their punishing ground game the last several years. Mackay, on the other hand, was primarily a passing team last season. How we mesh the two philosophies will be a big key to our success.”
Thorngren, formerly the head coach of the Butte County Pirates, will co-head coach the new team alongside one-time Mackay Miners head coach Travis Drussel. Between the two squads, a host of returning upperclassmen will be at the coaching staff’s disposal, despite the departure of plenty key players.
The Pirates will be without Butte County’s leading running back Ty Witchell, while Mackay lost brothers Caleb and Dallin Green, the Miners’ deadly receiving and quarterback duo.
“Ty was the hardest worker on the team. He was a great kid that is going to be missed,” Thorngren said. “The Green brothers filled numerous roles for last year’s team, and they brought a tough attitude that rubbed off on the other players.”
Thorngren said depth will be the difference maker while the team works out the chemistry kinks in practice. After a host of injuries kept out key players for both Mackay and Butte County last year, a loaded roster filled with experienced players will give the Pirates some breathing room down the stretch. Thorngren identified senior offensive and defensive lineman Byrson Gunter as one of the players who had his 2018 season throttled by nagging injuries. Gunter, senior fullback and linebacker Brady McAffee and senior lineman Logan Romrell should all be poised for a breakout year, he said.
“How we come together as a team after blending the two rosters is our main focus. We have good talent, size and more depth than we have had in quite a while,” he said. “We have to stay healthy, though.”
Running a balanced attack will the Pirates’ offensive focus heading into the new season, with the strengths of Butte County’s stout running game and Mackay’s high-flying offensive style available for the expansive coaching staff. Thorngren said he’ll be looking forward to keeping defenses guessing all throughout 2019.
“We have a big line and several experienced running backs. It’s no secret that our focus is on establishing a punishing ground game,” he said. “At the same time, we need to be more efficient in the passing game so we can make teams pay for running loaded fronts.”