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Elstad and Giulio's 'Unselfish' Running Keeps CDA Dominant
They might not have the stats to prove it, but Coeur d'Alene's running backs make their presence felt on every down
Published: 11/12/2020 10:53:24 AM

Two of the most productive players in the 5A classification probably won’t appear on the all-state teams when they’re announced later this winter — a tale as old as time for Coeur d’Alene running backs.

The value isn’t all in the stats for Trent Elstad and Gunner Giulio — but their numbers are far from disappointing. The Vikings’ running backs — who also play defense — have combined for over 1,000 yards rushing and double-digit touchdowns for the undefeated No. 1-ranked team in the state. But it’s difficult to rack up the accolades when part of a running back committee.

While their individual achievements might not be memorialized, a state title would be. That’s what Elstad, Giulio and Coeur d’Alene (8-0) are hunting as they head into this weekend’s state semifinals against Rocky Mountain.

“They’re just the example of why we’ve been successful for so long,” Vikings coach Shawn Amos said.

Elstad and Giulio comprise Coeur d’Alene’s latest two-man backfield, a common approach Amos has used during his 24-year run as the Vikings’ head coach. Splitting the load between multiple ballcarriers offers flexibility in the playbook, but also keeps those running backs fresh for when they have to play defense.

Playing both ways isn’t all that common at Idaho’s 5A football programs, but it’s a reality for Coeur d’Alene. With one of the smallest enrollments among 5A schools, CDA often can’t build the depth its counterparts can.

So stat lines like Elstad’s —11 carries for 71 yards, four receptions for 63 yards, one receiving touchdown and eight total tackles, all achieved Oct. 23 versus Post Falls — are more or less par for the course.

Along with their combined 1,007 yards rushing, 401 yards receiving and 19 total touchdowns, Elstad and Giulio have teamed up for 65 tackles, nine tackles for loss and four sacks at linebacker and defensive back, respectively.

“They’re both all-state-level running backs and all-state-level defensive guys,” Amos said. “Their unselfish approach of being willing to share carries so they can help us on defense is a great reflection of their character.”

Elstad, a senior, watched Coeur d’Alene’s backfield timeshares play out while he bided his time as an underclassman. First, it was Shilo Morgan and Caleb Beggerly, then Kale Edwards and Morgan. Edwards and Morgan were both seniors in 2018, paving the way for Elstad to take the lead as a junior the following season.

But Giulio was there, too. A year younger than Elstad, Giulio moved to Coeur d’Alene after eighth grade and got some varsity reps as a freshman. Elstad understood he’d never have the job to himself.

“When he moved here, at first I was like, ‘OK, well there’s this other running back that I’m going to have to work with,’” Elstad said. “But then, Gunner and I get along super well and I really like splitting time with him back there.”

They combined for just under 1,000 yards rushing, over 700 yards receiving and 17 total touchdowns last season, helping CdA reach the state title game. But two players can’t share an all-state nomination, and neither one made the cut.

Morgan is the only Coeur d’Alene player in the last five years to be named all-state as a running back after he amassed 1,310 total yards and 14 TDs in 2018.

“They have to sacrifice the accolades,” Amos said. “These two kids can play on any team in the state, but because their stats don’t stack up, it’s going to be hard to get them the accolades of an all-state player.”

Like any successful running backs, Elstad and Giulio are shepherded by a dependable offensive line — a unit that has been recognized on all-state teams over the years. The front five get plenty of acclaim for their contributions  — and quarterback Jack Prka is a top candidate for 5A Player of the Year.

“Those guys are freaking studs,” Giulio said.

But it’s the sacrifices of Elstad and Giulio, Amos said, that epitomize Coeur d’Alene’s team-first success.

“Kids like Gunner and Trent willing to share time so we can build depth … being unselfish and just doing what’s best for the program,” Amos said. “It’s just a great example of that.” 

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