Aug. 24—Last year was a forgettable campaign for the Moscow football team, and second-year coach Rob Bafus wants his players to do just that — put the disastrous 0-8 season in the rearview mirror and focus on looking forward.
"After what we went through last year, we're super excited to get the script flipped," Bafus said. "Let's just address the elephant in the room: We were 0-8 (and) I've instructed my staff and my kids to quit talking about it."
The Bears haven't won a football game since beating rival Pullman 47-7 on Sept. 17, 2021. Even worse, Moscow was outscored 180-7 in its last three games of its winless 2022 campaign.
So how are the Bears looking to bounce back?
It started with some introspection from the head coach.
"I didn't experience anything like that in my past, so it was just a lot of self-reflection and looking in the mirror," Bafus said. "What do I need to do to change the direction we were headed?"
Bafus said he worked to get more buy-in in the offseason and garner "more intention, more focus and more drive" from everyone involved, from players, to coaches, to himself.
Numbers are a bit down this year, but he said he's excited about the commitment from the players who did come out.
"There's some guys that are pissed off that want to prove themselves," Bafus said. "You can see them flying around and getting after it every morning and every night in practice and the weight room in the offseason."
Some good that came out of the tough season was a lot of players on the current roster got some much-needed experience.
Junior quarterback Noah Velasco was "thrown to the wolves" in the second half of Moscow's first game last season, but returns having made "huge strides in his growth as an athlete and a leader."
The team's most dynamic playmaker is senior wide receiver Toby Frei, who has missed some of fall practice with an injury but is expected to be a major contributor during the season.
"He'll carry the load for us on offense and then he's going to play some D for us and set the tone (in a) high-octane, high-volume capacity," Bafus said.
Fellow wideouts Butch Kiblen and Connor Isakson, both juniors, are also expected to light up the stat sheet.
Running back will be by committee with Scotty Needham and Eby Qualls sharing the touches.
The offensive and defensive lines are paced by a quartet of seniors in Phillip Windley, Dylan Taylor, Joey Williams and Dominic Hutton.
"They're embracing the pressure and the responsibility and they've all worked their tails off in the offseason," Bafus said of the bunch.
The Bears will have their first chance to get their first win in nearly two years Week 1 against Idaho 2A foe Kellogg on Friday on the road.
Kellogg routed the Bears 50-12 in last season's opener, but the Wildcats this season are without star twin brothers Riply and Kolby Luna, who are now with the University of Miami.
"My password on my computer is Kellogg, with a few other bells and whistles in there," Bafus said. "Our emphasis has been Kellogg, Kellogg, Kellogg. They gave us a butt-whooping last year and we need to make sure we're competing when we go up there for our first game."
Wiebe may be contacted at (208) 848-2277, email@example.com or on Twitter @StephanSports.
Coach — Rob Bafus, second season.
LAST YEAR'S RECORD — 0-8 overall, 0-2 4A Inland Empire League.
KEY RETURNERS — Phillip Windley, sr., OL/DL; Dylan Taylor, sr., OL/DL; Joey Williams, sr., OL/DL; Dominic Hutton, sr., OL/DL; Noah Velasco, jr., QB; Scotty Needham, sr., RB/LB; Eby Qualls, sr., RB/LB; Toby Frei, sr., WR/CB; Cadan Teigen, sr., WR/LB; Butch Kiblen, jr., WR/CB; Connor Isakson, jr., WR/S.
8/25 — at Kellogg, 7 p.m.
9/1 — Clarkston, 7 p.m.
9/8 — at Pullman, 7 p.m.
9/15 — Timberlake, 7 p.m.
9/22 — at Lake City, 7 p.m.
9/29 — at Lewiston, 7 p.m.
10/6 — Bonners Ferry, 7 p.m. (HC)
10/13 — Sandpoint, 7 p.m.
10/20 — at Lakeland, 7 p.m.