POMEROY — While high schools like Touchet, Colton and most recently DeSales have watched football turnouts recede in recent years, Pomeroy is experiencing a modest resurgence.
Not that the Pirates haven’t endured their fair share of misery. Pomeroy, in fact, hit rock bottom as recently as 2017.
When Kyle Kimble took over as Pomeroy’s head coach in 2016, he assembled a roster of 15 players and managed to coach the Pirates to a 6-5 record and a first-round loss to Almira-Coulee-Hartline in the Washington Class 1B-8 state playoffs.
However, the following year there were only 10 athletes interested in playing football. The school was forced to forfeit its varsity campaign and play a five-game junior varsity schedule.
But as discouraging as 2017 might have seemed, it proved to be a turning point. Pomeroy’s roster expanded to 18 players in 2018 and the Pirates managed a 4-6 varsity record, and this year Kimble is working with a squad of 21.
“We called ourselves The 10,” Kimball said of his small band of 2017 players. “We still have seven of those 10 players on our roster, and they essentially saved football in Pomeroy.”
There are just three seniors on this year’s team, two of whom represent The 10, with five more members of that exclusive group among six juniors on this year’s squad.
Danner Maves (6-foot, 200 pounds) and Brendon Reisinger (5-10, 185) are the senior returnees and Byron Stallclup (6-3, 250) is a senior transfer from Pullman. Maves played tight end last year and should see time at middle linebacker, Reisinger can play both the offensive and defensive lines, and Stallcup also figures to see time on both lines.
“He’s a once-in-a-lifetime type of transfer,” Kimble said of Stallcup. “He has played a lot of football, but he was injured last year and other than a handful of practices was never cleared to play.
“But he’s super athletic, super big and super physical, and he’s well coached. He’s going to help us out a ton on the field, but where he helps us the most is that he is really starting to be a part of our family and is growing into a good leadership role, not only in football but at Pomeroy High School.”
Brandon Bales (5-11, 150), Tyson Kimble (6-2, 220), Carson Zimmerman (5-10, 185), Jacob Blachly (6-0, 160) and Noah Lamb (5-10, 140) are the five juniors who were part of that 2017 team. The sixth junior is Devon Noffsinger (5-8, 170), who has turned out for football for the first time since he was in the eighth grade.
Bales was the team’s quarterback in 2017 but switched to tight end and outside linebacker a year ago when Jace Gwinn returned to the team and took over the signal-calling duties. Gwinn graduated last spring after earning league most valuable player honors in three sports.
“He has worked hard this summer and is really throwing the football,” Kimble said of Bales. “He will step right back into that quarterback role and the kids will follow him.”
Tyson Kimble is back for his third season as the team’s starting center and will see some time as an end on defense.
“In our offense the center has to be able to snap the ball to three different guys in the backfield,” coach Kimble said of his son. “It takes a special kid to do that and not create a lot of chaos because our offense runs through our center. Tyson has been able to do that.”
Zimmerman is an offensive and defensive lineman who started at times last year. Blachly wasn’t a regular last year but should see more playing time at tight end and outside linebacker. And Lamb started in the defensive backfield as a junior and can also play wingback.
Noffsinger is competing for playing time at running back and linebacker.
A group of eight sophomores suggests that Pomeroy’s football future is in good hands for at least the next couple of years.
The group includes Trent Gwinn (5-11, 145), Braedyn White (6-0, 170), Colton Slaybaugh (5-10, 135), Devon Knuteson (5-9, 140), Richie Vecchio (6-0, 220), Troy Steele (6-0, 190), Kato Latham (5-9, 175) and JJ Shingleton (5-10, 165).
Gwinn was the team’s leading receiver at wingback and the leading tackler at outside linebacker as a freshman, and those two spots are his again this season. He is also the Pirates’ quarterback in waiting.
White was a two-way starter at tight end and defensive end and brings a wrestler’s mentality to the gridiron, Kimble said. And the coach described Slaybaugh, who excels on special teams, as a “heat-seeking missile who doesn’t fear contact,” and he’ll be switched from nose guard to linebacker where he will be in position to make more tackles.
Knuteson is making a strong bid for the running back position.
“He lettered last year but didn’t start,” Kimble said of Knuteson. “But any chance he got to run the ball he did a tremendous job, and he has greatly improved his strength and ability to be an athlete.”
Four freshmen round out the roster: Brodie McGill (5-5, 140), Lane Shawley (5-6, 140), Sidney Bales (5-10, 160) and Trevin Kimble (5-7, 170).
With four new schools — DeSales, Lyle-Wishram, Yakima Tribal and Tekoa-Rosalia — now affiliated with the Southeast 1B-8 League, Kimble isn’t sure of where the power lies. But he figures he’ll get a real good read on his team Friday night when it entertains Odessa, last year’s 8-man state runnerup, in a non-league game.
“They only graduated three kids, so they will be a big challenge for our boys,” Kimble said.
But not as big, perhaps, as the challenge Pomeroy faced in the fall of 2017.
“That was not fun at the time,” Kimble said. “But we knew we were going to bounce back higher because of what we went through. It’s a statement to the players and the coaches, because we could have easily quit.
“I would love nothing more than for those freshmen and sophomores who rode out the storm to have some success this year.”