The Cheney High football team did well in their first year under head coach Bobby Byrd last season.
They began 2014 with five straight road games, including a 12-10 non-league loss at Colville in the opener. After Colville, the Blackhawks went on a five-game winning streak, including a non-league win over Moscow in their home opener. However, back-to-back losses to Great Northern League rivals West Valley and Clarkston kept Cheney out of the postseason. The Blackhawks finished 2-2 in GNL play and 7-3 overall.
Byrd, now entering his second season, said the team is coming off a successful summer camp and has developed great chemistry.
“This team is a tight-knit group, they feed off each other’s energy,” Byrd said. “They are just a great group to be around. That makes it a fun job for me.”
Byrd emphasized that the coaching staff will continue to stress hard work and discipline in the locker room. He complimented assistant coach Jason Williams and his work with defense.
One of the team’s staples, Ty Graham, is starting in his fourth year. Graham made the All GNL first team as a defensive back and the second team as a running back. Byrd said Graham is “kind of the rock” of the team’s defense and a vocal leader on the field. Kris Brewer also returns as a defensive end. The team will have a strong linebacker core of Harrison King, who made the all-league first team, Brayden Butikofer, who earned second team league honors, Chris Fuentes, Cade VanWormer, Jackson Shaw and Osiris Goodloe.
“This defense is comprised of what I would call ‘salty veterans,’” Byrd said. “It’s going to be fun to watch them. The coaches have done a great job on all sides of the ball with these guys.”
Senior Josh Martin is back in his second year as starting quarterback. Byrd said Martin has been “working his tail off all summer and has thrown better than he has in the past.
“I expect him to have a good year,” Byrd said. “He’s been a good leader for us, he leads by example.”
Byrd said Graham and Butikofer will also make an impact on offense. Other key players on offense include Adam Ingham and Logan Pratt, Logan Kendall, Chance Gleave, C.J. Johnson, Cam Hardt and Andrew Witt.
“When you have many different looks and speeds on this team,” Byrd said. “it’s hard for a defense to prepare for different backs.”
Cheney opened its season Sept. 4 with a 28-0 win over former GNL rival Colville. Unlike 2014, the Blackhawks play five straight home games, including its Sept. 25 homecoming game against Sunnyside. The Blackhawks open GNL play against East Valley, Oct. 1.
Byrd hopes the team can take advantage of the home games and the friendly atmosphere. He said teachers and administration are already pushing the school spirit.
As for the GNL, Byrd said it’s hard for teams to predict where Cheney will end up. He referred to last year when Clarkston was picked to finish last at the beginning of the season, only to win the league championship.
Byrd said he would like his team to win the league title and continue to build upon the great football culture in the community.
“Winning a league title will be that first step to helping build a rich culture,” Byrd said.