MOSCOW - Local high school stars have gone on to make an impact on the Idaho Vandals football team, but they have been few and far between.
Former Coeur d'Alene High standouts Chad Chalich and Deon Watson have played together since they were little kids, helped the Vikings win back-to-back state championships, and both redshirted last year at the University of Idaho.
This year, both are poised to play key roles as redshirt freshmen for the Vandals, who open the season next Saturday at North Texas.
Though he hasn't officially been named yet, most indications are that Chalich will be the starting quarterback in the opener. And Watson, with an impressive fall camp, has worked his way into the rotation at wide receiver.
"I'm just excited for the opportunity to come out and play for this university," Chalich said. "It's a great honor for me, being a hometown guy, playing for your hometown college."
"He's playing real good," Idaho coach Paul Petrino said. "I think the game's slowing down for him, he understands what's going on, he sees ... he's accurate ... just leave it at that, let's take it one game at a time and keep improving."
"It's fun to see those Idaho kids excel," Idaho athletic director Rob Spear said. "We'd love to build our roster with Idaho kids."
Which would definitely help attendance.
"I was up in Coeur d'Alene (Thursday night)," Spear said. "We had our Coeur d'Alene celebration, and just the excitement to know that those local kids have an opportunity to play a lot of football here, is exciting to that community, exciting to me because I think we can generate some fan interest from that community."
Petrino also said he would be comfortable using two quarterbacks, saying he has done that in the past - putting the second guy in for 10-12 plays to give the starter a breather and reduce the number of hits he takes.
Which means Joshua McCain, the junior college transfer competing with Chalich for the starting job, could also see action in the opener.
"I think our players have a high amount of respect for Chad, to be honest with you," Idaho offensive coordinator Kris Cinkovich said. "Last spring, when he was hit all the time, when quarterbacks were live forever, I really think he developed a lot of respect from his teammates and, frankly, he developed a lot of toughness."
"Coach wants to see us quarterbacks being tough," Chalich said. "We have a lot of pressure on us to be the guy, and we have to be tough, we have to be running quarterbacks and be willing to take a hit. I think the spring made us really tough - we have to be willing runners, all the time. It was great for me to get tougher, and it's obviously shown."
The 6-foot, 205-pound Chalich was asked if the coaches want him to run out of bounds to avoid some hits. Petrino, sitting nearby enjoying a meal during the media day event Friday, interjected.
"No. Never," Petrino said.
"For me, I'm just going to run over people," Chalich said. "I'm a player, out here playing football, and I'm going to run with a passion and love for the game and just play."
The 6-foot-4, 213-pound Watson played well in the spring game, and has shown even more this fall.
"Deon's had a very good camp," Cinkovich said. "I didn't know how that whole depth chart deal was going to sort out, but Deon has been as good or better than anybody in our camp at receiver. When he's been presented with opportunities to make plays, he has made plays.
"He has improved his speed. He never looks very fast, because he's a strider, but he's obviously faster than he looks. He ran a post today (for a touchdown from Chalich), and he got the corner to turn around - it looked just like an NFL tape that we were watching today, as far as technique. He needs to be a superb route runner, because he is not probably going to run by people. He has the ability to separate from people using his size, and when you watch him, he does catch the ball in his hands all the time. And that is what real good, high-caliber receivers do - they catch the ball away from their body, then they have the chance to get 'run after the catch.' He does that."
"He's made great strides," Chalich said. "He's a great guy, great athlete, he has speed, he has size. He's going to be a big player this year."
"I've gained a lot of confidence," Watson said. "I feel comfortable with the guys I'm playing with. Last year, going from scout team, I was just a little unsure about my route running and my technique, and this year I'm really confident in what I'm doing."
Watson gave a lot of the credit to Cinkovich.
"He's teaching me things I never thought I'd know," Watson said. "How to read defenses, what coverages routes are good for and what coverages aren't. He's really taken my game to a whole 'nother level."
Watson, son of former Vandal basketball great Deon Watson, considered walking on to the Idaho basketball team when he signed with the Vandals in high school. But it appears now he's totally committed to football.
"I've thought about it, but with this football schedule, it's a little tough," Watson said. "I've dedicated my time to football, and I think that's where it's going to go for the next four years."
NOTES: Friday afternoon, the Vandals held a "mock" game at the Kibble Dome, which was much like a scrimmage, with the first-team offense going up against backups, and vice versa ... Chalich threw four TD passes in the first half, most of them to ridiculously wide-open receivers. The fourth went to Deon Watson ... Chalich finished 17 of 20 for 325 yards and five touchdowns. Watson caught two passes for 37 yards and a score ... Chalich and true freshman Matt Linehan took most of the snaps. McCain played one series in the first half and concluded it with a short TD run ... Richard Montgomery, a true freshman from Florida, continued to impress at running back, with 112 yards on seven carries and three TDs ... James Baker, slowed by injuries, rushed for 96 yards on four carries. ... JC backs Jerrel Brown and Kris Olugbode, who shined in spring ball, played sparingly. Olugbode is also dealing with injuries. ... The big new video board, hung above the goalposts on the east wall of the Dome, is impressive. The older, smaller video board was moved to the west wall. "Awesome," Petrino said of the new board. "I looked up (during the mock game), and I thought I was in Dallas Cowboys Stadium."
Jared Klingenberg 33 pass from Chad Chalich
Richard Montgomery 11 pass from Chalich (Austin Rehkow kick)
Montgomery 14 run
Dezmon Epps 47 pass from Chalich
FG Rekhow 20
FG Ryan Bordner 20
Montgomery 2 run (Rehkow kick)
Josh McCain 4 run (Rehkow kick)
Delency Parham 53 fumble recovery
Deon Watson 28 pass from Chalich (Rehkow kick)
Montgomery 32 run
Michael LaGrone 32 pass from Chalich
FG Bordner 19
James Baker 3 run (Chalich run)
Baker 52 run
RUSHING - Montgomery 7-112, Baker 3-85, Chalich 4-32, Brown 5-25, McCain 3-23, Williams 16-21, Linehan 3-7, Davis 2-6, Olugbode 1-4, Whitehead 3-2, Kauffman 1-(-2).
PASSING - Chalich 17-20-0-325, Linehan 5-13-0-54, Davis 3-7-0-26, McCain 2-2-0-19.
RECEIVING - LaGrone 5-61, Epps 4-121, Brown 4-37, Runner 3-39, Watson 2-37, Montgomery 2-31, Sannon 2-24, Klingenberg 1-33, Kauffman 1-32, Featherstone 1-6, Elmo 1-3, Williams 1-0.