Low turnout causes Kootenai High to cancel its football season in 2019

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  • JASON ELLIOTT/Press Kootenai defensive lineman Marcus Ausman wraps up Mullan quarterback Gryphon Todd during a 2016 6-man game at John Drager Field in Mullan. Due to a low turnout, Kootenai had to cancel its football season this fall.

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    JASON ELLIOTT/Press Kootenai quarterback Tanner Andersen breaks away from the Mullan defense during a 2016 game at John Drager Field in Mullan. Kootenai, due to a low turnout, cancelled its football season on Monday.

  • JASON ELLIOTT/Press Kootenai defensive lineman Marcus Ausman wraps up Mullan quarterback Gryphon Todd during a 2016 6-man game at John Drager Field in Mullan. Due to a low turnout, Kootenai had to cancel its football season this fall.

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    JASON ELLIOTT/Press Kootenai quarterback Tanner Andersen breaks away from the Mullan defense during a 2016 game at John Drager Field in Mullan. Kootenai, due to a low turnout, cancelled its football season on Monday.

The numbers just didn’t add up for the Kootenai High football program this fall.

In 2018, the team had 14 players — four seniors — with 10 projected to return when the team started practice on Aug. 12.

Then two transferred to Lake City, another to St. Maries and two opted not to turn out.

That equaled the cancellation of the football season on the Harrison Flats for the school in 1A Division II, Idaho’s smallest classification.

“We had eight kids that we thought were coming back and two decided not to play,” said Kootenai football coach Doug Napierala, who also serves as the school’s athletic director, girls basketball coach and track and field coach. “We had six kids at practice, and this year’s freshmen class is all girls. We’ve been trying and trying to get any of the other boys in school to play, and been failing.”

Kootenai was the last North Star League to qualify for the state playoffs, in 2013, capping a run of eight straight appearances since 2006. Kootenai advanced to the state 1A Division II championship game in 2008 at the Kibbie Dome in Moscow, finishing the season 11-1.

Kootenai advanced to the semifinals in 2007, 2009 and 2011.

Kootenai had 54 students in the high school during the 2018-19 school year according to its website. In comparison, 26 attended the junior high.

“It’s tough right now,” Napierala said. “We’ve got kids in the school, but a lot of them don’t want to play football for whatever reason. We’ve tried, and we just don’t have the numbers. We should be able to field a junior high team this fall and gain some freshmen next year. We’re only losing one senior this year, so it looks good for the possibility of bringing it back next year.”

For now, Kootenai and Wallace are working on forming a co-op for this season so that those interested in playing from Kootenai can join the Wallace program.

“We’re working with the state right now trying to get something done there,” Napierala said. “I know (Wallace) is low on numbers as well. Our kids that want to play are closer to Wallace than St. Maries by living in Rose Lake. Wallace starts its practice a little later after school, and they’ve got a chance to start there.”

Due to low numbers, Wallace opted out of the Whitepine League this fall and will just play its scheduled games against other North Star League opponents. The Division II schools in the NSL (Clark Fork, Lakeside, Mullan-St. Regis and Kootenai) had moved back to playing each other twice in league this year for the first time since 2013.

“I was excited about that too,” Napierala said. “It (the league title) was going to be up for grabs this year, but I’d have to give the nudge to Mullan-St. Regis. Still, anything can happen on any given Friday night. I think it was going to be a good competitive season. Now, I can go watch it a little more.”

Napierala was hoping to hear later this week if the Idaho High School Activities Association will approve the co-op with Wallace before moving onto other options so that Kootenai players can play this year.

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