Loggers on firmer footing

Quarterback Rob Roth, seen here during a youth camp in mid-August, will be back at the controls of the Lewis-Clark Valley Loggers this season. The independent, college-level football team is scheduled to open its season Saturday at Tacoma against Central Sound.

They have back their prolific quarterback, along with a selection of offensive weapons. Their defense has a few key returners. Their head coach and founder aren't going anywhere.

It seems that the Lewis-Clark Valley Loggers are on a foundation that is more or less solid.

"Yeah, we do feel like we have been established," said Bob Thorson, the director of the program, who, with coach Jeff Schumacher, created the Loggers from scratch in the summer of 2013.

The Loggers, an independent college-level football team with no official tie to a school, will embark on their second season this week. They will travel to Tacoma to clash with league opponent Central Sound at noon Saturday.

The Lewiston-based team is led by quarterback Rob Roth, back for his second season behind center after throwing for 1,697 yards and 18 touchdowns last fall.

Roth went into professional baseball as a pitcher immediately after graduating from Lewiston High in 2006, so it took a little while last season for him to rediscover his football mechanics, Schumacher said. But he eventually became one of the most effective passers in the Loggers' Northwest Junior College Football League.

There will be even more of a burden on Roth this year, with Schumacher wanting to push the pace with an uptempo no-huddle offense. The coach is hoping to expand the team's use of the scheme as the season progresses.

As for who will be catching Roth's passes, Connor Imel, also a Lewiston High graduate, is back for his second season. The mechanically sound, sticky-fingered Imel is cast in the mold of Steve Largent, Schumacher said.

A new wideout, Relijah McMillen, provides blazing speed on the outside. The Loggers' options at the slot position include Joey Walton, Ryan Roth and Elijah Salstrom.

Ryan Roth, Rob's brother, is also in the running back mix, along with fellow first-year Loggers Matangisinga Tauiango and Kadin Williams.

Returning to the Loggers' offensive line is center Myles Baldwin, along with Asotin brothers Avery and Ian Hurst, who will play on the line on both sides of the ball.

"When they told me they were coming back to play, I told them to be in good shape, because they will go both ways," Schumacher said.

The Loggers are trying to quickly piece things together on defense. The only starters who are back include defensive tackle Tony Picard, defensive end Brandon Berlik, middle linebacker Trent Line and cornerback Dalton Hanson.

Berlik terrorized opponents last season, averaging 13 tackles, about four of which were behind the line of scrimmage, per game, Schumacher said. The Loggers are moving Lucky Gaskill, a receiver last season, to safety.

The Loggers went 4-3 overall and 4-2 in league last season. Only a one-point loss to Everett in early November prevented them from unexpectedly grabbing the league title.

But it appears that Eastside of Bellevue is the favorite this season. The Bulldogs hammered Everett 47-7 on Saturday.

The Loggers, along with the other three teams in their league, will play nonconference games against NCAA Division III clubs (which will probably suit up their younger players for those games). The Loggers are scheduled to play host to Whitworth of Spokane on Oct. 4 at Bengal Field and travel to Linfield of McMinnville, Ore., on Oct. 25. They're also trying to work out a game with Pacific of Forest Grove, Ore., Thorson said.

Linfield, which is routinely one of the top NCAA D-III clubs in the nation, will pose an especially daunting challenge.

"I would call it the equivalent of University of Idaho playing USC this year, playing Auburn this year," Thorson said. "... The only difference between us and UI is UI will be getting well-paid. UI gets $800,000 to a million dollars to play a game like that; we get free pizza. But again, we love to have that association and step on the field with one of the top 10 Division III college football programs in the nation."

Thorson and the Loggers' coaches are all volunteers - they don't get paid - and the players aren't given any sort of scholarships. The players all attend either Lewis-Clark State, Walla Walla Community College in Clarkston or Northwest Indian College in Lapwai, but the football program has no official link to those schools.

"I look at it as we give the opportunity for young men to play football and go to school," Schumacher said. "That's kind of my motto: Our goal is to get young men in school using football as a vehicle."

NOTES - The Loggers' games will be aired live on either KMAX-AM (840) or KRPL-AM (1400), both Palouse stations. ... The Loggers are scheduled to play three home games at the Kibbie Dome and one at Bengal Field.

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Baney may be reached at mbaney@lmtribune.com or at (208) 848-2258.

Lewis-Clark Valley Loggers

COACH - Jeff Schumacher (second year)

LAST YEAR'S RECORD - 4-3 overall, 4-2 Northwest Junior College Football League

ASSISTANT COACHES - Gene Straughan, quarterback coach; Kenny Parham, defensive line coach; James Amos, running backs/tight ends coach.

ROSTER - Pete Bakker (Lewis-Clark State student), WR/S, Lewiston; Myles Baldwin (LCSC), C, West Wendover, Nev.; Kenny Beckman (LCSC, WR/CB, Horseshoe Bend, Idaho; Brandon Berlik (Walla Walla Community College student), DE, Lewiston; Alex Casey (LCSC), LB, Mead, Wash.; Peter Even (WWCC), OL/DL, Marsing, Idaho; ERic Finley (LCSC), OL/LB, Gooding, Idaho; Lucky Gaskill (LCSC), WR/S, Lewiston; Joseph "Nico" Guerrero (LCSC), OL/DL, Glenns Ferry, Idaho; Dalton Hanson (WWCC), WR/DB, Deer Park; Garrison Hardie (LCSC), TE/DE, Concord, N.C.; Kelton Hickey (LCSC), LB/TE, Weiser, Idaho; Trevor Hopkins (LCSC), OL/DL, Orofino; Avery Hurst (LCSC), DE/OL, Asotin; Ian Hurst (LCSC), DE/OL, Asotin; Connor Imel (LCSC), WR/CB, Lewiston; Aaron Iriarte (LCSC), WR/S, Lewiston; Dri "Abdu" Jabbi (WWCC), RB/CB, Pullman; Awad Kori (WWCC), RB/DB, Kennewick; Trent Line (WWCC), LB/QB, Clarkston; Richard Mathern (WWCC), OL/DL, Clarkston; Bobby McAllister (WWCC), FB/CB, Richland; Tyler McCoy (LCSC), S/WR, Jerome, Idaho; Relijah McMillen (WWCC), WR/CB, Bellingham; Bennie Miller (LCSC), WR/S, Boise; Hunter Onthank (LCSC), WR/CB, McCall; Ati Patu (WWCC), QB/S, Mililani, Hawaii; Tony Picard (Northwest Indian College student), DL/OL, Lapwai; Dylan Rivera (NWIC), LB/OL, White Swan, Wash.; Dustin Roberts (LCSC), OL/DL, Lewiston; Rob Roth (LCSC), QB/LB, Lewiston; Ryan Roth (WWCC), FB/LB/TE, Lewiston; Elijah Salstrom (WWCC), WR/S, Bellingham; Hahots Shebala (LCSC), S, Kooskia; Benjamin Stowell (LCSC), OL/DL, Grangeville; Dalton Sutton (LCSC), WR/CB, Jerome, Idaho; Matangisinga Tauiango (WWCC), FB/LB, Malaga, Wash.; Joey Walton (WWCC), RB, Lewiston; George Weaver (LCSC), TE/DE, Kooskia; Kadin Williams (LCSC), FB, Jerome, Idaho; Emilio Winn (WWCC), CB/WR, Payette, Idaho.

SCHEDULE

Date Opponent

Sept. 5 at Central Sound, noon

Sept. 12 Eastside (at Kibbie Dome),

1 p.m.

Sept. 20 at Everett, 2 p.m.

Sept. 26 at Eastside, 6 p.m.

Oct. 4 Whitworth JV (at Bengal Field), noon

Oct. 17 Everett (at Kibbie Dome),

1 p.m.

Oct. 25 at Linfield JV, 1 p.m.

Nov. 7 Central Sound (at Kibbie Dome), 1 p.m.