THE FRONT ROW with Mark Nelke July 19, 2012

Five (or so )to look forward to

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With the exception of the 5A schools, local high school football schedules are pretty redundant - the foes usually remain the same, only the sites change.

But, glancing at this year's prep schedules, there are a few unique matchups.

With apologies to Coeur d'Alene, where most of its games are intriguing (and we've already written about the Vikings' challenging nonleague schedule), here are five other games that jump out, and not necessarily because they're the most important:

* Friday, Aug. 24, Lake City at Eagle: It will have been 294 days since Lake City walked off the artificial turf field at Thunder Stadium, victims of a 58-7 shellacking by Eagle in the first round of the state 5A playoffs. Lake City coach Van Troxel had a choice between playing Capital and Eagle for his squad's season opener this year and wanted to play Eagle, so you figure the motivation will be plenty for the Timberwolves to come out strong in their first game, despite the lengthy bus trip on a likely warm late-August day. Plus, this Eagle team won't have star quarterback Tanner Mangum, who has moved on to BYU.

* Thursday, Aug. 30, Graham-Kapowsin at Post Falls: These teams have never met before, so it's somewhat a roll of the dice - sometimes you get a mismatch, sometimes it's an evenly matched game. Also, this game will go up against Idaho's season opener vs. Eastern Washington at the Kibbie Dome, and Washington State's opener at BYU on ESPN.

* Friday, Aug. 31, Kennewick (Wash.) at Lake City: Van Troxel coaches against the school where his father, Ed, once coached.

* Friday, Sept. 21, Sandpoint at Timberlake: 3A Timberlake plays 4A Lakeland, its district rival, every year, and played Post Falls once in 2004, when the Trojans were still in 4A. But this is the first time Timberlake, which opened in 1998, will play Sandpoint, which has been a perennial 4A playoff team, but is coming off a 1-8 season. And Timberlake is 3-5 vs. Lakeland since Lakeland made the move up to 4A in '04, including losses the past two seasons by a combined four points.

* Saturday, Sept. 15, W.F. West vs. Lake City at Kibbie Dome, Moscow: Before Coeur d'Alene takes on highly touted Skyview of Sammamish, Wash., in the finale at 8 p.m., Lake City faces the Bearcats from Chehalis, Wash., at 5 as part of the second Idaho Football Classic. W.F. West finished 10-3 last year, losing to eventual champion Lynden in the semifinals of the state 2A playoffs (Washington's highest classification is 4A).

The other Classic matchups that day - Clarkston vs. Sutter (Calif.) at 11 a.m.; and Lewiston vs. Sequoia of Redwood City, Calif., at 2 p.m.

* Friday, Sept. 21, Post Falls at Lake City: These teams have met in their 5A Inland Empire League opener each of the past four seasons, but this one may have a little more meaning to Post Falls. The Trojans beat Lake City twice last season, but they've had to live with the pain of the way last season ended - a loss at Lewiston when a win would have meant a state playoff berth, and a loss to Lake City three days later in a Kansas tiebreaker that put the Timberwolves into the playoffs for the 15th straight season.

* Friday, Oct. 5, St. Maries at Grangeville: With St. Maries dropping down to 2A from 3A this year, this game, along with a home game vs. Orofino on Oct. 19, will determine the Lumberjacks' playoff fate. St. Maries last made the playoffs in 1998.

* Friday, Oct. 26, 5A Inland Empire League state play-in games: This is intriguing mostly because it's a new idea - designed so teams weren't forced to play each other twice in the regular season, with one of the games not counting in the league standings. This year, Coeur d'Alene, Lake City, Post Falls and Lewiston will play each other like they always have. But instead of those games determining the two state playoff teams, they will determine seeding for the state play-in games - No. 4 at No. 1, and No. 3 at No. 2. So, especially in the 3 vs. 2 matchup, it's an opportunity to reverse the result of the first meeting. And since the week before, Lake City plays at Coeur d'Alene and Lewiston travels to Post Falls, rematches one week later are possible.

And yes, I know I singled out eight games. In the spirit of the upcoming season, call it a touchdown and a two-point conversion.

Mark Nelke is sports editor of The Press. He can be reached at 664-8176, Ext. 2019, or via email at mnelke@cdapress.com. Follow him on Twitter at CdAPressSports.

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