The Front Row with MARK NELKE August 23, 2012

This n' that on eve of prep football

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* They no longer have to battle each other for state playoff berths - or, in one case, a trip to the state championship game.

But Lake City football coach Van Troxel is happy to see Satini Puailoa back in the high school coaching ranks. He returns this season as Sandpoint High coach.

Puailoa and Troxel both came to North Idaho in 1994, Puailoa to take over the Sandpoint program, Troxel to begin the Lake City program. While Troxel has been at Lake City ever since, Puailoa stepped down as Bulldog coach following the 2003 season.

Puailoa coached Sandpoint to its only state title in 1997. Troxel guided Lake City to state titles in 2002 (after beating Sandpoint in the semis) and '06.

"(Eighteen) years ago, he walked into Sandpoint and I walked into Lake City," Troxel said. "We became instant friends. We have the same philosophy (find a way to play as many kids as possible, to increase interest). We changed the way North Idaho is thought about in football, and the way football is played in North Idaho."

Lake City plays host to Sandpoint on Oct. 5.

* Coeur d'Alene, the two-time defending state 5A football champions, who open their season Friday at Skyview High in Nampa, are 23-1 over the last two seasons, 30-5 over the last three. The Vikings have made the playoffs six of the last eight seasons, after just one trip in the previous nine seasons.

* Over the past three seasons, Post Falls might be the best team in the state that didn't make the playoffs over that span. The 5A Trojans are 19-8 the past three seasons, but have come up short of the playoffs each time.

Post Falls last made the playoffs in 2004, its second-to-last season as a 4A school.

* Lake City has put together an impressive run of 15 straight trips to the state football playoffs, but that streak has been in doubt in recent years.

Last year the streak appeared over after a loss to Coeur d'Alene in the final week of the regular season, but a loss by Post Falls the following night opened the door for the Timberwolves, who went on to win a Kansas tiebreaker three nights later to keep the playoff streak alive.

This year, Lake City hopes to not have to sweat out making the playoffs quite so much. Two of the four teams in the 5A Inland Empire League advance to the playoffs.

"There is just a better overall commitment here," Troxel said. "This whole group is really into football - even the knotheads. They really love football. We've even had a little more passion to practice."

• Troxel, in his 34th season as a head coach (he spent 15 seasons at Hellgate High in Missoula before coming to Lake City) is just four wins away from 200 career victories. He is at 196-148 overall (119-69 at Lake City).

Lake City’s fourth game this season is against Post Falls.

• Off the football field, the Post Falls volleyball team has won 88 matches the past three seasons. The Trojans are 88-26 over that span, with a tie for fifth, a fourth-place finish and a second-place finish at state.

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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