Aug. 24—As it did to the community as a whole, the tragic death of expected returning quarterback Drew Hanna in a car accident earlier this month dealt a devastating blow to the Orofino football program.
"He was definitely our leader," coach Jake Maetche said of Hanna. "He was the guy that really got kids out. Big into school spirit, playing sports and being a team — a huge part of the team. That's a big loss for us."
Nevertheless, the Maniacs have not folded, and will look to honor Hanna's memory in seeing the season through.
"We're trying to put together a season, and I think that's something Drew would want, so that's what we're trying to do," Maetche said.
Orofino continues a traditional nonleague rivalry in playing its season opener against the Marsing Huskies, with this year's game coming at 7 p.m. Friday on the road. Marsing took the 2022 encounter 35-12, inflicting the first of seven consecutive defeats in what would prove to be a winless season for Orofino.
"Last year, we came in and we really only had two guys coming back that had played any amount of football," said Maetche, who is entering his second year at the helm of the program. "This year, coming out, we've got probably eight or 10 guys that have had significant varsity playing time, so I think that's really going to help us.
"A lot of juniors this year. We did lose a couple kids to transfer and other things, but gained a couple new kids who hadn't lived here in a while. They're looking pretty good; we're pretty excited about that."
Standouts on the roster include senior running back Nolan Williams — described by Maetche as a "dynamic player" who is "really tough to bring down" and junior quarterback Aiden Olive, who gained experience last season before spending some time out with injury. The team also boasts what Maetche calls "probably the best line I've seen in several years out of Orofino, as far as big and fast and pretty physical."
The Maniacs begin Central Idaho League play facing Kellogg on Sept. 22. Last year's game ended in a crushing 80-0 defeat for Orofino, but the Tigers have since graduated standout brothers Kolby and Ripley Luna, and Maetche is hopeful that his more-experienced lineup can make a better showing in this and other matchups in the coming weeks.
"I'm excited to see how we've progressed from last season to opening practice, and how the season's going to unfold for the year," Maetche said. "The kids have really been working hard — they've had great attitudes, they're very coachable, dedicated. I'm excited to see how much progress they've made."
Things to watch:
-How well will the team cope with the untimely loss of Drew Hanna?
-The Maniacs have split their last two games against Marsing, prevailing 31-0 two years ago before falling 35-12 in last year's season debut. Can they turn back the clock in Friday's opener and reassert the upperhand in their nonleague rivalry?
-It has been close to five years since Orofino recorded a win in Class 2A Central Idaho League play. With a more-experienced roster after a building year in 2022 and a line described by coach Jake Maetche as the school's best in several years, could the end of that losing streak be in sight?
Coach — Jake Maetche (second year)
Last year's record — 0-7 overall, 0-4 2A Central Idaho League
Returning lettermen — Nolan Williams, sr., RB/DB; Levi Karling, sr., OL/DL; James Paulson, sr., OL/DL; Tyler Matthews, jr. WR/DB; Aiden Olive, jr., QB/DB; Edward Harrison, jr., RB/LB; Wyatt Tomlinson, jr., WR/DL; John Wicks, jr., RB/LB; Daniel Steiger, jr., OL/DL; Galileo Perez, jr., OL/DL; Maddox Lichti, jr., OL/DL; Declan Crockett, soph., WE/DB; Hunter Gamble, soph., RB/DB.
Aug. 25 — at Marsing, 7 p.m.
Sept. 6 — at Lewiston frosh, 5 p.m.
Sept. 22 — at Kellogg, 7 p.m.
Sept. 29 — at Grangeville, 7 p.m.
Oct. 6 — Priest River, 7 p.m.
Oct. 13 — at Bonners Ferry, 7 p.m.
Oct. 20 — St. Maries, 7 p.m.