January 3, 2013 | Vol. 116 -- No. 37

Medical Lake travels long, winding road back to football playoffs

The journey from his 1-7 start as head football coach at Medical Lake in 2008 was one that was often said was made in baby steps Wes Hobbs would say.

And like the progress a child sees from the dependency of infancy to that of an energetic 5-year-old might also be a good way to measure the progress the program has experienced under Hobbs’ watch.

One of those first milestones came on Hobbs’ birthday back in 2008 when the Cardinals defeated Riverside on he road 21-13 for their first league win in years.

The Cardinals’ first dip in a decade into the playoff pool this past season was a quick in and out following a Nov. 2 loss 44-14 in Leavenworth to the Cascade Kodiaks. It marked a high point for the program that in year-two under Hobbs was 2-8 and 2-7 in 2010 with 11 points the difference in three additional victories.

Following a 4-5 mark in 2011 as an independent, Medical Lake finished 6-3 this past fall, third in their return to the Northeast A League.

The Caribou Trail League, of which Cascade was a member, made a mess of the Northeast A in the first round of the playoffs, winning three of four. Regular season champ Chewelah was the only victor, but struggled to beat No. 4 Okanogan while Quincy topped Freeman 16-7 and CTL champ Cashmere hammered Lakeside 66-9.

“I told the kids after the game it didn’t matter if it were a first-round playoff game or the state championship,” Hobbs said. “If you lose you feel your season was for naught; Only one guy can win it all.”

That’s a tough pill to swallow, no matter how far you get in the playoffs, Hobbs said after qualifying a team for the playoffs for the first time in his coaching career.

“You win six games with only two or three kids coming back on both sides of the ball,” Hobbs reminded. “I really think they exceeded everyone’s expectations and we should celebrate that.”

As the season came to a conclusion, Hobbs wanted to thank the entire Medical Lake administration, including athletics director Chris Spring, “And a good bunch of fans,” who provided solid support all season.

The path to playing winning football has begun to show other positives, which could be just what the program needs to sustain the same success it had in the past under the likes of coaches Jerry Connors and John Gannandrea.

“But again, we don’t gauge all our successes and failures on wins and losses,” athletics director Chris Spring said. There are multiple measurements Medical Lake uses to see if they are successful or not. “Most importantly I think is our participation rate,” Spring said. “Our numbers are holding steady from last year.”

“We hung out at about 50 and now we’re over 60,” Spring said. “Our sub varsity was more in a position where we didn’t know what to do with them all.” A good problem to have perhaps, unless you’re that skinny freshman shivering on the sidelines waiting for your call from the coach.

Paul Delaney can be reached at pdelaney@cheneyfreepress.com.

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