Sep. 1—With a football roster featuring most of the athletes who helped them achieve co-league champion status last year, the Clarkston Bantams see themselves as primed for another standout fall campaign.
"We return a lot of good players and bring some guys up that played JV last year that are quality players," Clarkston coach Brycen Bye said. "We really feel like returning experience is one of our strengths."
Last year's Bantams went 5-1 in regular-season Class 2A Greater Spokane League competition to make a three-way tie for first place with West Valley and Shadle Park. West Valley garnered the district's direct state playoff berth after winning a "Kansas tiebreaker" event, while Clarkston went on to suffer a season-ending 17-7 defeat in a regional crossover state play-in game against Ephrata of the Central Washington Athletic Conference. Bye considers the Ephrata game, which was played against a formidable defensive foe in adverse weather conditions, to have provided critical experience for his athletes.
"This year, we know exactly what it's going to take (to get to State), and I think our guys have accepted that," Bye said.
This fall's lineup features five Bantam returners who gained first-team all-league status for 2022: co-league MVP quarterback Carter Steinwand, wide receiver and defensive back Mason Brown, linebacker Josh Hoffman, defensive lineman Sage Lone Bear, and offensive lineman Ian Moore.
In addition to an air offense powered by Steinwand's standout passing game, Bye expressed optimism about the contributions of running backs J.J. Di Sarno and Milo Kunnap, the latter of whom is a newcomer to the team.
"They provide a really nice one-two punch," Bye said. "J.J. started several games for us last year, so the running game should be in good hands, and Carter's going to be a strong quarterback for us again, so we're really excited about our offense."
They will have their first chance to put it all together at Moscow today at 7 p.m. in a nonleague area rivalry game. Starting the season against Moscow is a long-running tradition for the Bantams, who blitzed the Bears 47-0 last year. Bye anticipates a sterner test this time around.
"I think they're a much-improved team, which is obvious from their Kellogg game last week," he said. "Historically, we've had a lot of good games against them, as far as competitive, tight, back-and-forth."
Following Moscow, Clarkston holds its traditional Battle of the Bridges with Lewiston, then dives into league competition.
"Our league should be pretty tough this year, and we feel like we're right in there with the mix," Bye said, emphasizing the need not to look past any opponent as his team pursues a potential league title and playoff spot. "If you slip up one game and lose, you put yourself at a real disadvantage. We're just looking one at a time."
3 things to watch
Clarkston starts its season with back-to-back area rivalry games against Moscow and Lewiston, having handled the former and fallen to the latter last year. With most of their core starters from last year returning while the Bengals graduated their top 2022 standouts, the Bantams could be in a position to repeat against Moscow, turn the tables on Lewiston and stake an early claim to being the top team in the quad-cities area.
The Bantams were deadlocked with West Valley of Spokane Valley and Shadle Park of Spokane for league supremacy last year. Have they gained the experience they need to stand alone at the front of the pack?
Quarterback Carter Steinwand has passed for 33 total touchdowns over the last two seasons as starter for the Bantams, averaging 164 yards per game with 288 completions from 455 attempts for a percentage of 63.3. His efforts last year gained him co-league MVP recognition. Can he achieve still greater heights in his senior campaign?
COACH — Brycen Bye (Tenth year)
LAST YEAR'S RECORD — 7-3 overall, 5-1 2A Greater Spokane League
RETURNING LETTERWINNERS — Carter Steinwand, sr., QB; Mason Brown, sr., WR/DB; Josh Hoffman, jr., TE/LB; Sage Lone Bear, sr., OL/DL; Bodee Thivierge, sr., WR/DB; Stephen Alfred, jr., WR/DB; Nathan Somers, sr., WR/DB; Ryken Craber, jr., WR/DB; J.J. Di Samo, sr., RB/LB; Killian Snyder, sr., OL/DL; Ronin Lysne, sr., OL/DL; Preston Port, sr., OL/DL.
Sept. 1 — at Moscow, 7 p.m.
Sept. 8 — at Lewiston, 7 p.m.
Sept. 15 — East Valley, 7 p.m.
Sept. 22 — at Wet Valley, 7 p.m.
Sept. 28 — at North Central, 7 p.m.
Oct. 6 — at Rogers, 5 p.m.
Oct. 13 — Pullman, 7 p.m.
Oct. 20 — Shadle Park, 7 p.m.
Oct. 27 — Grandview, 7 p.m.