Prep football: League games take the spotlight

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In a league as small as the Inland Empire League — the four-team 5A version or the three-team 4A version — there is no margin for error.

Coeur d’Alene is the overwhelming favorite as 5A IEL play starts tonight with the Vikings (4-2) hosting Lewiston (4-2), and Post Falls (6-0) at home vs. Lake City (2-3).

Last year, Coeur d’Alene lost 55-51 at Lewiston. The Bengals went on to win the league title, got a first-round bye in the playoffs, and hosted a quarterfinal matchup. Coeur d’Alene had to play a first-round game, then had to travel in the quarterfinals, where the Vikings lost.

This year’s Lewiston team isn’t as loaded as last year’s Bengals, but ...

“ ... it doesn’t matter,” Coeur d’Alene coach Shawn Amos said. “A three-game league schedule, you better win all your league games. You lose one, you could end up in a tie. You’ve got to win every league game if you want to guarantee your spot; you can’t mess around with anybody.”

The top two teams in the 5A IEL advance to the 12-team state playoffs. The top seed earns a first-round bye, then hosts a quarterfinal game and, if it wins, a semifinal game. The No. 2 seed hosts a first-round game. The third-place team is eligible for the 12th (wild card) playoff spot.

“Obviously, everybody starts fresh,” Post Falls coach Blaine Bennett. “It’s a very competitive league. Lake City is coming off two big wins. ... anything can happen.”

In the 4A IEL, the top two teams advance to the 12-team state playoffs. The top seed earns a first-round bye, then hosts a quarterfinal game and, if it wins, a semifinal game. The No. 2 seed is on the road throughout the playoffs.

Lakeland plays host to Moscow tonight, then travels to Sandpoint next Friday.

Intermountain League play starts tonight, with Kellogg at Timberlake and Bonners Ferry at Priest River. The top two teams advance to the state 3A playoffs. The top seed earns a first-round bye, then travels in the quarterfinals. The No. 2 seed travels in the first round.

Central Idaho League play starts tonight, with Grangeville at St. Maries. St. Maries’ other league game is Oct. 20 at Orofino.

All three teams advance to the 16-team state playoffs, with the top two seeds hosting first-round games, and the No. 3 seed on the road.

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