Genesee football coach Tim Sperber has “been around a bit.”
He has coached at area schools on and off since the 1980s, heading up the Moscow program for a year before moving on to stints at Genesee, Lapwai and Colton, then coming back to the Bulldogs three years ago.
It is no small thing, then, when he says there “could be more parity in the league this year than I’ve ever seen.”
Sperber considers the Whitepine League Division I to be perhaps the toughest conference in Idaho Class 1A football, and even as he speaks highly of his own team, he recognizes the competition it faces there will be “brutal.”
“No breaks; no rest for us,” he said of the schedule. “We get a tough game every week.”
While the Bulldogs’ first test of the season will be a nonleague game, it might be among their sternest — they face defending 1A state champion Valley of Hazelton at 10 a.m. Saturday in Middleton as part of the 8-Man Classic tripleheader.
“We beat them in the state quarterfinals a couple years ago and we scored a lot of points, so I’m sure they remember that and aren’t too happy with us,” Sperber said of Valley. “The problem with our team last year was we were very young and didn’t tackle very well, so if we can tackle and play with Valley, we’ll do just fine.”
The veteran returners among the Bulldogs are no strangers to success or to its opposite. After earning a league title and reaching the state final in 2017, Genesee spent most of 2018 in a downturn. Last year’s Bulldogs started 0-7 before they finally found their footing and concluded the season with a pair of wins.
“We had a very young team last year and our older kids got hurt, so when you lose your seniors, it’s pretty hard to gain a lot of ground,” Sperber said. “After our senior quarterback went out last year, Dawson (Durham) took over and played really well, and he just kept getting better and better, and so did we — and the result of that was those last two games.”
Durham returns for his junior season. Fellow junior Owen Crowley will “catch a ton of passes for us this year,” according to Sperber.
Among seniors, Genesee will look for leadership from the likes of Dillon Sperber and Ethan Graves, both of whom were starters on the offensive line for the state finalist team two years ago. A son of the coach, Dillon Sperber also was a first-team All-Conference honoree the past two seasons and a second-team All-State center last year.
A couple fresh infusions of talent will come from junior transfer Jake Odenborg and senior Jared Ketcheson, who is turning out for football for the first time since the eighth grade.
“I think we’re athletic, and we have a lot of kids that are going to be tough up front,” Tim Sperber said in summing up his roster. “We’ve got about 12 or 13 kids that are going to see extensive playing time. We’ve got to stay healthy and all the stuff coaches always say, but with our senior leadership up front, I think we’ll be all right.”
Coach — Tim Sperber (fourth year)
Last year’s record — 2-7
Returning letterwinners — Ethan Graves, sr., OL/DL; Truman Renton, sr., TE/LB; Dillon Sperber, sr., C/LB; Dawson Durham, jr., QB/DE; Owen Crowley, jr., WR; Jack Johnson, soph., RB; Kole Reibold, soph., RB; Cy Wareham, soph., QB/WR; Jacob Krick, soph., OL/DL; Jackson Zenner, soph., TE/DE.
All times 7 p.m. unless noted
Sept. 7 — vs. Valley at Middleton, 11 a.m.
Sept. 13 — at Lapwai
Sept. 20 — vs. Deary
Sept. 27 — vs. Prairie
Oct. 4 — at Clearwater Valley
Oct. 11 — vs. Kamiah
Oct. 18 — at Potlatch
Oct. 25 — vs. Kendrick
Nov. 1 — vs. Troy