It was a moment 44 years in the making last week when the Kellogg Wildcats heard the final horn sound following their 56-6 win over Bonners Ferry.
The win signified a changing of the guard within the Intermountain League.
Regional sports pundits barely gave the Wildcats a chance in any of their games, something that fueled Kellogg to a 6-2 regular season record.
It was the Wildcats first outright, league championship since they won the Inland Empire League in 1973, during a time when Kellogg competed with teams of all sizes across the entire Panhandle of Idaho.
Following the change from IEL to the Intermountain League in the 80’s, Kellogg found itself living in the shadows of Post Falls for several years, and then it was Lakeland, and then it was Timberlake.
But after the past few weeks, it appears that the IML may be entering into the Age of the Wildcats.
It has been a wild ride and a massive turnaround for a team that was winless a season ago, something new coach Dan Lucier came to rectify.
“These are good, hard-working boys on this team,” coach Dan Lucier said. “Before the season got going, we had a pizza meeting and one of the boys came up to me and said, ‘you know coach, we’d really just like to win a couple games.”
Lucier seemed perplexed by this statement, he had seen the boys practice, and then after their preseason jamboree, where they ran through Timberlake and Priest River, he was really confused.
“We looked like the best team at the jamboree,” Lucier said. “I knew these guys were going to do well this season. They had put in the work and it showed.”
Once the season rolled around things began to click for the Wildcats.
A brief bump in the road against St. Maries was followed by back-to-back-to-back wins over Medical Lake, Orofino, and Omak, and then a tough loss to West Valley, but it was the bookends of that part of their season that defined the dominance that the Wildcats displayed over the last three weeks.
“We would love to run that game against St. Maries again,” Lucier said. “But, I think the game against West Valley really was the confidence booster that we needed to finish the season. We played them really tough, especially since we were matching up against some much bigger players.”
Over the course of their six wins, Kellogg has had an average margin of victory of 27.6 points per game, a number that bumps up to 32 points when you look at their success against IML competition.
Case and point, these Wildcats can score and they can keep other teams from scoring.
Senior Ryan Morgan has been a part of the program since he was freshman and he suffered through the losing seasons, but that's all in the past.
"I'm so excited," Morgan said. "We worked so hard this year. I was surprised because I thought this is where we would've been last year, but this team works harder than any team I have played on."
The success of these Wildcats hasn’t been lost on the surrounding communities either.
Mullan head coach Stetson Spooner was very congratulatory of his Silver Valley comrades.
“In my seven years in the valley this seems to be the most complete football team I've noticed down there,” Spooner said. “I've been a part of big programs in my playing days through high school and college. Some up years and some down, the only correlation with the good years were hard work and commitment. But I think the strides made by those boys and new coach are tremendous and only hard work causes that kind of turnaround. Hats off to the Kellogg football program and the valley is pulling for a deep run. Well done fellas.”
Kellogg still has a week before they get a chance to prove they really are among the State’s elite, but they are still working just as hard.
“We still have work to do and we are going to be ready,” Lucier said with a smile. “We are good team. And we are still getting better.”
Kellogg will be playing Gooding on Saturday, November 4, at Gooding High School at 1 p.m. in the opening round of the 3A Idaho State Playoffs.