Photo by Andrew Ottoson
The 2018 Rams are (back row, from left): Tyler Hess, Cole Carter, Davis McElroy, Tyce Pfefferkorn, Lane Schilling, Tyler Pressly, Dylan Pickering, Austin Routh and Ty Dominguez; front row, Layton Schlieper, Bubba Summers, Scott Zarnick, Will Willis, Aiden Martinez, Christian Fabbi, Ridge Shown, Tate Pfefferkorn and JJ Propst.
As of Thursday, August 30, 2018
The first test for Clearwater Valley coach Roger Whalen came last year — his first of eight-man football in a long coaching career. The next one is coming up Aug. 31, when the Rams host Council for their season opener.
“We’re a ways off,” Whalen said of his team’s readiness for the opener.
But they’re a lot farther along than they were when, after 11 practices, the Rams ran into a rout against Wallace in their first game last fall.
“They put 21 on us in the first four or five minutes,” Whalen recalled. “They just shocked us. We were not ready to go.”
While they won’t overlook the Lumberjacks, the Rams didn’t play Council last year and will therefore treat the Wallace game Sept. 7 as their first chance to chart progress from last season.
“They have 8-9 seniors back and I expect that to be a tough ballgame,” Whalen said. “It’ll be a good indicator of any improvement we might have made.”
The Rams have their whole nucleus back from last year.
“We have a little more depth at different spots,” Whalen said. “We’ll mix things up a little more this year on defense, change fronts and things like that. Our same players are back on defense.”
It’s a similar situation on offense.
“We had to replace a center and a guard — we had four seniors last year and we’re going to miss those four guys,” Whalen said. “We got some role players back who are bigger and stronger, and their speed is the most glaring difference — we’re faster. We’re going to be able to do some more things because of natural growth on their part and mine. Wallace was my first 8-man game, period, and I’ve learned it’s a different game. It’s quicker and you have to have speed at the right spots.”
Perhaps the Rams’ biggest position battle will be at quarterback. Whalen had penciled in returning junior Tyce Pfefferkorn.
“He’s back and he’s taller and throwing the ball better,” Whalen said.
A hand injury may put sophomore Aiden Martinez on the spot instead — and his throws in practice appear on point.
“He’s really looking good,” Whalen said.
At running back, CV has depth.
“We’ve got three or four kids there’s not a lot of difference in,” Whalen said. “Bubba Summers stands out, and Lane Schilling is back stronger. One of our speedsters — Will Willis — is only a sophomore but he’s pretty darn quick. Christian Fabbi and Davis McElroy can be pretty effective with what we’re doing.”
One of the main differences from last year’s squad will be on the bench, where CV will boast a “new” assistant coach and about a century’s worth of football knowledge.
Bob Brockie steps in as Whalen’s chief assistant.
“He has 47 or 48 years of experience,” Whalen said. “We’re going to have a hundred years of experience on the sideline.”
Whalen said he coached against Brockie for 12 years before the joined forces in cooperation the last six or seven years.
As for the Rams’ chances in the ever-tough Whitepine League, the top of the WPL once again appears
“It’s forever going to go up the 95. Prairie, Genesee and Lapwai are the favorites and the rest of us are in the mix, I guess. We’re going to have to be physical and play big in the moment. We looked good in the first half against Genesee and Prairie last year, but they just beat us down in the second quarter and we didn’t answer in the second half.”
The Rams face Genesee Sept. 28 and Prairie Oct. 19.