Football is like life - it requires perseverance, self-denial, hard work, sacrifice, dedication and respect for authority. - Vince Lombardi
As Sandpoint High School varsity football head coach Satini Puailoa enters into his fourth season since returning to the helm of the bulldogs, this year looks to be better than ever.
“We caught up to a lot of teams last year,” said Puailoa. “And this year we should pass a lot of them. Whether it will be all (the teams) remains to be seen.”
There are approximately 30 lettermen returning to this year’s squad, including over 30 seniors. And of the fourteen returning starters, there are two who were all state their junior year – Kyle Perry and Carlos Callado - and five players who were all-league. “We had Paul Sundquist, Davan Norris, Carlos Collado, Wyatt McCormick and Kyle Perry,” said Puailoa of those who were all-league.
Puailoa said the dedication this team has shown over the off-season has him confident that they will be giving it their all on the field this fall.
“We are loaded with 5A competition,” said Puailoa, who adds that there are many players being looked at by college scouts.
Among the teams they will face are Post Falls, University High School, Lewiston, Mount Spokane, East Valley and Lake City High School. In addition, their league games will be against Moscow and Lakeland. It’s a schedule that speaks to the strength of the Sandpoint football program.
“You can tell the health of the team when you see the schedule,” said Puailoa, who adds that to get ready for conference games it is good to play the bigger 5A schools.
When discussing this season, Pualioa said key players include Davan Norris at quarterback with Paul Sundquist, who will be starting middle linebacker, serving as the backup quarterback. “We also have Kyle (Perry), Jake (Timothy) and Wyatt (McCormick); three guys who scored a lot of points for us last year,” said Puailoa, who adds that Perry alone scored 29 touchdowns last season.
Puailoa is optimistic about the season. “We’ve been playing catch up since we started (four years ago),” said Puailoa. “Last year, with the exception of Lake City, we closed the gap.” Assistant Coach Chris Lassen agrees. “While we caught a lot of people this year, we’re hoping to pass them this year. But we have to show up and play on Friday night,” said Lassen.
So just what is it that has made this team increase its success over the last few years? It is the dedication of the kids and coaches that has grown not just during the season, but during the off-season as well. “The first year, we would have four kids a day in the weight room during the summer,” said Puailoa. “Last year it grew to about 50, and this summer we’ve had over 60 kids. Now, they all live here.” But it took more than encouraging the kids to train, it took providing an atmosphere of camaraderie and instilling a solid work ethic.
“We have leaders and mentors who have created an atmosphere where the players can reach peak performance,” said Puailoa. “We’ve created a positive bond among everyone involved.”
Lassen said the program is a creative one and is a two way street. “To have a program like this, the kids have to spend the time with the coaches, and the coaches have to make the time as well,” he said. “It’s amazing the number of adults who are here (in the weight room) every day interacting with the kids.”
While many of the students spend a lot of time together in the off-season, once school begins there are about 150 football players who spend a minimum of four hours each day together in their physical education class and practice. “Add to that the time they spend on the bus, eating their team meals and game time,” said Puailoa of the 30 plus seniors, 25 to 30 juniors, over 40 sophomores and approximately 50 freshmen who will be suiting up for the bulldogs’ football program this fall.
Coach Lassen and Coach Puailoa credit the Sandpoint High School administration with being instrumental in providing a schedule that allows the players time to bond and grow.
“The administration has been wonderful about creating opportunities for the kids to be together,” said a grateful Coach Lassen.
The result of team bonding and support from a highly dedicated coaching staff is a group of athletes that are always pulling for one another and have unique insight into one another’s strengths and weaknesses. “That does not just happen,” said Lassen. “We have a unique situation, and it has taken time to build the program.”
As for the upcoming season, Lassen summed it up well. “When you have the blood, sweat and tears into the program, the kids are not going to let anyone take that away from them. Once we get to the top of that mountain, we’ll look for another mountain.”
August 28 Sandpoint @ Post Falls
September 4 Sandpoint vs. University High School
September 11 Sandpoint vs. Lewiston
September 18 Sandpoint vs. Mt. Spokane – Homecoming & Senior Night
September 25 Sandpoint @ East Valley
October 2 Sandpoint vs. Lake City High School
October 9 Sandpoint vs. Lakeland
October 16 Sandpoint @ Moscow
October 23 Sandpoint @ Grangeville
October 30 First round of playoffs
November 6 Second round of playoffs
November 13 Third round of playoffs
November 20 Milk Bowl State Championship
*Home Games in Bold *All Home Varsity Games Played at 7pm