Photo by Andrew Ottoson
Returning five seniors and having won the 1AD1 state championship last fall, Prairie enters 2018 as one of the state’s highest-ranked football teams. Statewide media voted two teams — Oakley and Valley — ahead of the defending champions in their preseason poll. Pictured are (from left) Caleb McWilliams, Michael Schwartz, Dylan Schumacher, Spencer Schumacher and Carson Schmidt.
As of Thursday, August 30, 2018
Last season, the Pirates lost one game and avenged their only loss when it counted for the most: During the state title game, when they reversed Genesee’s 36-6 September win with a 38-26 triumph in November.
Prairie’s championship aspirations last year came out of having 11 upperclassmen on hand at the start of last season. While graduation removed five from the roster, the Pirates have championship aspirations once again, stemming from the Class of 2019 seniors who stepped up prominently as juniors during Prairie’s third state title since 2008.
“We do have a good returning core of players this year, a good-sized senior class, so hopefully that bodes well for us,” Pirates head coach Ryan Hasselstrom said. “We had a solid football camp over in Butte back in June and we are looking forward to getting things rolling here in August. … We go into every season with the goal most teams do: Winning a championship. In order to do that we really need to fill some holes, take each game as it comes and hopefully stay healthy. We will see what the outcome is after that.”
As perhaps physically the biggest player on the field during the finale was defensive lineman Spencer Schumacher, who made impact plays on both sides of the ball, including by running and throwing for touchdowns as quarterback.
While Schumacher was kept out of the passer’s role by a hand injury for much of the season, sophomore Damian Forsmann stepped up, notably turning a tight first half during a home game against Kamiah into a blowout.
“We know we have two guys who can step in and play QB,” Hasselstrom said. “Both Spencer and Damian have proven they can perform at that position. This year we will try to work both of them in there throughout the games — haven't figured out just how yet though. We will see as the season begins.”
The PHS offense scored 50-plus five times, and Prairie’s defense held three of six Whitepine League opponents to two or fewer touchdowns — and the seventh, Potlatch, offered no test with an Oct. 20 forfeit.
“Replacing Jacob Stubbers at running back this year will be difficult,” Hasselstrom said. “He was a huge player for us last season. As of right now we are looking at senior Michael Schwartz, juniors Derik Shears and Owen Anderson and sophomore Cole Martin. I feel confident that these four will do a good job for us. Caleb McWilliams will be back at fullback also for us. At wide receiver we need to replace Hunter Chaffee and Nick Mager, both seniors who had a really good year for us. Forsmann and Shears filled those roles at camp so we will see who else we can get in there.”
Prairie has two graduates to replace on the offensive line: center Dereck Arnzen at center and guard Jace Perrin.
The Pirates will be gunning for the Whitepine League title, which affords the victor favorable seeding for the playoffs.
“As for the league, not much has changed,” Hasselstrom said. “We have a tough schedule with five away games and only three home games. I see Genesee being tough again, Clearwater Valley with some great young players, Kamiah with talent left and Lapwai with solid skill guys. Should be a fun season once again.”
Prairie’s first game will take place on a Saturday afternoon in the Mountain Time Zone, where the Pirates will take on Valley at Middleton High School at 3 p.m. MT Sept. 1.