Fall Sports Review

A recap of the 2020 Sandpoint High School varsity sports teams.


This past fall, Sandpoint High School athletes were able to compete despite the unusual circumstances this season. This year, 4 and 5A schools in the area recreated the Inland Empire League which gave the Bulldogs an opportunity to play against the tougher schools and have more games. Playing during a pandemic didn’t stop the athletes from succeeding. 


The Sandpoint High School football team had a season to remember. The team ended up winning the regional title and went to the state semifinals for the first time since 2015.

The team’s overall record was 5-5 and the Bulldogs dominated the other 4A schools in the region. After beating Lakeland, the Bulldogs played Hillcrest and won. Sandpoint then beat  Moscow which gave them the ticket to the state semifinals. 

In the semifinal game, the Bulldogs were tied 0-0 until the 3rd quarter when Skyline finally got a touchdown to take the lead and eventually win. 

Tag Benefield thought that morale was a big influence for the Bulldogs all season. “We definitely had good morale and good energy just like all year,” he said.

Tag Benefield, a middle linebacker and team captain, said his season was “good…I wouldn’t say better than last year, but I’d say we, as a team, did better than last year.”

“When that happened the morale was still good because like we get the ball back,” Benefield said, “but then they get the onside kick, and the short field, and then the pick, and then the morale it was just short.”

The pandemic affected the Bulldog’s ability to attend camps over the summer as they have done in the past. The team normally goes to campuses like EWU or WSU to train during the preseason. Benefield described this as a “back-step” for the team. Even though their training was stunted,  the Bulldogs overcame the step-backs and worked hard to go to the state semifinals.

The Bulldogs are ready to take on next season and hopefully get to the state championship. 

Boys Soccer

The Sandpoint High School boys soccer team went to state for the first time since 2017. Their record this season was 5-6-2 including their trip to the state tournament. 

The Bulldogs won the Inland Empire League with an undefeated record. After clinching the Inland Empire League title, the Bulldogs headed down to Idaho Falls to compete in the state tournament. There, the Bulldogs went 0-2 losing to Bishop Kelly and Vallieview, who went on to win the state title.

Head Coach Tanner French said, “I knew this season was going to be an improvement from last year, and I had high expectations from the start.” French emphasized that fitness was a big part of the soccer team’s success saying, “I consider myself a fitness-oriented coach, and I believed that if we were going to make it to the state tournament, that would come into play.” 

The coronavirus pandemic did shake things up a little bit for Coach French. “COVID created a mental atmosphere that was not comforting as a coach,” he said,“not being able to high five players and coaching with masks were two of the major discomforts.” in the end French was pleased with his team’s season and said, “Overall, I was satisfied with our play and our ability to remain healthy during this global pandemic.”

Nolan Angel, a key player for the Bulldogs, said, “I felt like the season was pretty good. I feel like we did well as a team and I did well individually.” Nolan was glad he got to experience his team advance to the state tournament. However, he was not thrilled with the team’s performance at state, “I was happy we went to state, but I was kind of sad about how our results at state went.” he said.

Although the Bulldogs were not able to make it far in the state tournament, the feat of getting to compete contributed to a memorable season. 


Girls Soccer

The Sandpoint High School girls soccer team had a little bit of a struggle in the 2020 season. The Bulldogs ended their season with a record of 5-7-1. Head coach Connor Baranski said that “Every season has its ups and downs. For our record, I was a little disappointed.” 

The expectation for every season is to win the league title and go to state. “The fact that we lost the district championship,” Baranski said, “that’s below our expectations and it’s not necessarily about the win, it’s just that we should be able to play to a level better than [the other teams] can do.” 

To Coach Baranski, COVID seemed to also have a minor effect on the team’s outcome of the season.“Not knowing if we had a season, they were just a little less motivated to workout in the summer and, I think, more overall that lack of understanding and uncertainty…that played a pretty big role.” he said. 

There were a couple of key players to the girl’s soccer team this year including Hattie Larson, Kelsey Cessna, and Jordie Breedon. Baranski said, “I didn’t feel like [Hattie] had a lot to do [as goalkeeper], just her leadership, and her presence is always important.” He said. “Kelsey Cessna is an absolute beast in the back. Her presence is just both encouraging…[and] intimidating for our opponents.” In addition, Jordie Breeden was the leading goal scorer on the team for the Bulldogs. 

Hattie Larson, the team’s captain, was able to talk to her team and bring them all together. “I could go talk to coaches about anything…it created a close circle where we could work anything out,” said Larson.

Larson also talked about how the pandemic may have affected the girls’  season. The Bulldogs normally play higher level teams from the Spokane area, but this year they were not able to because Washington schools did not have a season. Larson said, “some of the higher competition games that we normally have scheduled were canceled…those are usually big games for us that are similar to the state.” 

In terms of team functionality, Larson said the pandemic did not hurt them. “I think the girls were able to overcome that because we just had to wear masks [and] we were already a pretty close team.”

Next year, the Bulldogs are looking to recapture their league title. “I think that’s entirely up to my players quite frankly” Baranski explained,” it doesn’t matter how much that frustrates me…and I think my players will respond appropriately.” 


This season, the volleyball team had a record of 5-10. The head coach, Karen Alsager, had an optimistic view on her team’s season. “I’m happy that we did better than we did the previous year.” She said. Alsager was also pleased that the team beat a variety of different school levels. “Last year the wins that we had were all against 3A’s and one 5A.” she said, “This year, we had 2 5A wins and 2 4A wins, so we were beating better teams.”

A couple of players were key influences on the Bulldogs court including Gabby Hicks. Coach Alsager praised the young star saying, “[Gabby] was an all-around player. She didn’t come off the court. Hicks was a kill leader, a block leader, and an ace leader for the Bulldogs. “She made a huge impact on everything we did this year,” said Coach Alsager.

Another player that was a large influence on the Bulldog’s season was Bella Phillips. As one of the team captains, Phillips was always trying to motivate the team and get them excited. Phillips said, “I just made sure that everybody was positive and just feeling good about everything.” 

Phillips went on to say, “Overall I feel like [our season] was pretty good. It was rough at times, but I feel like every season is like that.” She was also happy that her team was able to beat Coeur d’Alene. “To take a game from them was pretty huge for us.” Another accomplishment of the Bulldogs was that they were the only team to take a set-off of Lakeland High School when Lakeland went to state.

The volleyball team also performed better this year in the district tournament than the previous year. Sandpoint beat Moscow and came really close to beating Lakeland, who ended up winning both the district title and the state title.

The Bulldogs came out of their season with high heads and ambitions for next year. The next season will begin next fall along with a journey toward a state title.

Boys Cross-Country

The boy’s cross-country team had an outstanding season. The boys went undefeated in every meet until they got to state. They beat all division one and two teams in their league. 

Coach Matt Brass also liked just coaching the team saying, “[It was just] a really fun team, they were a really fun team to coach and be around.” 

A few runners for the team this year that were influential to the Bulldog’s performance were Nikoli Braedt, Jett Lucas, and Keegan Nelson. Coach Brass said that those three runners came in first, second, and third, in almost every meet they went to. “Nik and Jett have basically rewritten the cross-country record books,” said coach Brass with high praise. Not only were they outstanding performers, but also the dedicated vocal leaders that Coach Matt and Angie Brass wanted. 

On top of being an exhilarating team, the boys also performed very well at state earning a fourth-place trophy overall. “They set this goal for themselves last November” “For me, it was just pride in the work they put in, they weren’t distracted, they kept their focus and kept working week to week,” said Coach Brass. 

The coronavirus pandemic did not disrupt the boys running performance this year, but it did affect another part of the team. Coach Brass says, “I think the team unity was as good as it normally is, if not a little better…[but] I miss, as a coach, some little things, like a high five or a fist bump or even a hug.”

However, the boy’s cross-country team seemed to overcome this obstacle and use it to their advantage, “I think there was a chance for some real connections because there were more real issues than normal,” said Coach Brass. This paved the way for the team to reach out to one another and reinforce an already tight family bond between the athletes. 

Nikoli Braedt, one of the team’s captains, was happy with the way the season turned out. “[Our season] was a lot of fun…i think just being able to have one was the big thing this year,” said Braedt. He also thought that because of the on-going pandemic, it brought a whole new appreciation for the sport. 

Braedt went on talking about the state tournament. “Hearing that [state] was at Pocatello was a big hit, and it was scary because we hadn’t been elevation training,” said Braedt.  But the Bulldogs were able to overcome this and earn their fourth place trophy. Because the Bulldogs had some experience in Pocatello from the previous year, Braedt thinks that this was a large benefactor in the Bulldogs success. “We ultimately did well, and I think it was a good way to end our season,” said Braedt.

At the end of the season, the Bulldogs went undefeated in every regional meet and earned a fourth place title in the state of Idaho making for a memorable season. 

Girls Cross-Country

The girl’s team also did very well. After getting to state, the girls placed ninth. Coach Angie Brass said, “It was a great season, especially considering just all the extra things in the world like the pandemic…we placed in the top three of most of our meets we attended,” said Coach Brass. 

The girl’s team were regional champions and made it to state which is always one of the many goals for the girl’s cross-country team. 

There were some key runners for the Bulldog’s success this season including Mackenzie Suhy Gregoire, Megan Oulman, and Ara Clark. “They were our top trio and always very consistent…they are also all on our top 25 list,” said Coach Brass. Also, Camille Nueder was one of the team captains who was an influential leader for the team who was able to mentor incoming players and motivate them to do their best. 

Having placed tenth at state the last 2 years, Coach Brass was happy they overcame that saying, “We were aiming for tenth or higher so [getting ninth] was exciting.” 

Due to the pandemic, the fall sports season could have ended at any time. This made winning regionals for the team extra special. “Regionals is always a celebration and it should be a celebration of your season, and your training, and your team” and “state, it felt like, was a bonus this year because of the uncertainty that every week held,” said Coach Brass. 

The girl’s team also had a large incoming freshmen class which Coach Brass was excited to see. “We had a big incoming freshmen class which was exciting with eight. So that was a good sign and also just good undertaking for our veterans and mentors,” said Coach Brass. 

The pandemic also shifted the mindset of the team in a way that was beneficial. Coach Brass said that “there was much more of being present in the moment that doesn’t always occur…so that was definitely a silver lining to the whole thing.” The masks posed a little disruption to the team’s connections; facial expressions are absent, but the team was able to adjust to this and still be unified. 

Being a captain, Nueder also found it difficult to lead the team through these weird times. “It is a lot harder to make connections without..being able to give a hug after a race or something, but you have to find other ways to share those kinds of moments and I think that did eventually allow us to have deeper connections,” said Nueder. 

Nueder described her season with pride in her team and was happy with the end result. “I think this was my favorite season [and] the whole season is what really got our team through this crazy time,” Nueder said.

The Sandpoint High School Girls Cross-Country team had a great season and was in the end, able to power through and win the regional championship. 


The Sandpoint High School swim team had a very good season. The boys team came in second in the district competition and the girls came in first. Both teams competed in the state tournament, but this year it looked quite a bit different in that it was a virtual event. The final result was that both teams placed second at state to cap off an amazing season. 

Kate Bokowy, one of the team’s leading swimmers, looked at her season with pride, “I am proud of my team because everyone put in their best effort and had many season bests,” she said. 

The pandemic also stimulated the team’s aspirations. “COVID gave us a new motivation to try our best everyday because for all we knew it was our last practice,” Bokowy said. 


The Sandpoint High School dance team is off to a great start this season. Their performances at the home football games this fall were all very exciting to watch. 

Head Coach Laurie Buck is very excited about this season mainly because of the high skill level her team has brought saying, “Our team this year has such a positive outlook and the skill level is higher than it’s ever been.” 

Breann Klopman, a captain on the SHS dance team, is happy with how her season is going saying, “[Our season has been] pretty good so far we haven’t had a competition yet…but the football games have been great.” 

Klopman also expressed praise for Coach Buck’s coaching ability. “[Coach Buck] definitely pushes us to do our best at every practice and performance and always strive for greatness. I think that because of her we are going to be ready for when the competition season starts. 

Despite the ongoing struggles with the coronavirus pandemic, the team’s spirit has not dampened at all. “We have been trying to work through all the new rules but it has not slowed our team down,” said Coach Buck. 

Klopman went on to say that “practices have been normal, we’ve actually been practicing more this year than we have in the past, and we are definitely ready to bring it at state this year.” 


This year the Sandpoint High School cheerleading team has gone to all but one of the football games and cheered for the Bulldogs. Although the team will not start doing cheer competitions until late January it is still beneficial for the team to cheer and get more experience at the football games. 

Cheering at the high school football games also boosts school spirit, which is a large part of the cheerleading persona. It can give the student spectators a chance to participate in the football games and demonstrate their Bulldog pride. 

The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted the cheerleading squad’s normal practices in a slight way. Head coach Heather Dinkins says, “For a long time we weren’t able to stunt, which is a huge part of getting ready for competition.” This gave the cheerleaders a little bit of a late start with their competition routines. 

Olivia Dyk, one of the Bulldog’s cheerleaders, thinks that because they weren’t allowed to stunt it may affect their season. “If we can’t [stunt], it will be very hard for us to do well since stunting is a huge part of cheer,” she said. 

Dyk went on to say that since coronavirus cases are going up in the state of Idaho that it is making the season different. “We haven’t been able to stunt, or be around each other without masks, and we couldn’t go to cheer camps,” she said. 

It has also been a struggle for the team because they do not know if they need to be prepping for competition season. One of the cheerleading competitions has already been canceled and there is a possibility that the rest will be canceled as well.