Consider this. Challis lost two games by a total of eight points in 2018.
Those two losses came in conference play against state runner-up Oakley and state champion Valley. At 7-2, Challis didn’t even make the 1A Division I state bracket — despite routing state qualifier Raft River 49-20 in Malta.
But you won’t hear anyone in Challis fermenting grapes over the 2018 season. Because boys in Challis are raised to know that sometimes you win, sometimes you lose — but you never, ever whine.
“A lot of these kids do rodeo, and they know the difference between an injury and a hurt,” first-year head coach Bill Bradshaw said. “They can get back up, rub some dirt in it as they say, grin at you, and keep going.”
The Vikings will keep going without 11 graduating seniors from 2018 and only senior Bruin Bradshaw returns with any significant varsity experience. In addition, the Vikings will be without former head coach T.T. Cain who led Challis for four years before moving away.
Those things are hurts, to be sure. And Bradshaw and his staff are ready with the dirt.
“We have a group of 18 this year who are probably bigger and faster than we have been in a while, just without the experience,” Bradshaw said. “We’re going to try to be a power football team again, and I think we can do that with our size and our speed.”
Bradshaw, who served as an assistant for the past six seasons, knows his roster up and down. He is looking for big things out of sophomore R.J. Phelps, as well as from senior Isaac Schwenke, who measures in at 6-foot-2, 220 pounds.
Down the highway from Challis, two teams have become one. The Lost Rivers Pirates. No more Mackay Miners. No more Butte County Pirates.
A brand new team for a brand new time.
“This co-op has been interesting,” Pirates’ coach Sam Thorngren said. “The kids took right to it. The old timers were a little different.” And you can hardly blame them. The annual battle between Mackay and Butte County was a cross-generational blood feud with the very honor of Custer and Butte counties on the line. Less so today, however.
“We have to rise above those biases and come together,” Thorngren said. “These boys played together in Grid Kid growing up, so today there’s a different dynamic.”
The two teams combined to go 6-7 in 2018, and Mackay made it to the second round of the state playoffs. With only seven boys out this fall, Mackay was not in a position to field a football team.
“These kids like each other,” Thorngren said. They’re working hard, and I think our fans should be excited.”
Returning on the line are Bubba Gunter, Dakota Anderson and Logan Romrell — all seniors and all multiple-year starters on both sides of the ball. Add to that Mackay’s Ruger Stamos and Kolton Holt (6-foot-5, 290-pounds), and the Lost Rivers Pirates are expected to push some lines around.
“The advantage of those guys is they are big and quick and can pull,” Thorngren said. “Defensively that depth will give us a chance to have a rotation and keep people fresh.”
Bridger Hansen will line up behind center for the Pirates, and Keyan Cummins will start a third-straight years as one of the team’s home run hitters.
“Were going to be a tough out,” Thorngren said. “And if we can stay healthy, it’s scary to think what we could be by the end of the year.”