BOISE -- Six points.
That was the difference between a historic season and another letdown for the Centennial High School football team last fall.
It was all that stood between the 3-6 record they finished with and the 5-4 mark they needed. Two heart-breakers, a four-point loss to Borah and a two-point loss to Timberline, are what defined last season for the Patriots, instead of the program's first playoff berth since 2010.
It may seem like a simple achievement in football, but to Patriots, those two words are what fed them an entire offseason worth of motivation.
"It really did. It fueled us in the winter," explained senior Victor Ngalamulamue. "Six points was the run that we needed. It was the block that we needed. Just the tackle that we needed."
"That's kind of been out mantra," said fourth-year head coach Dave Koch. "We look at that and say, 'Six points. That's one touchdown.' One touchdown made the difference. We're not going to let that happen again."
With the Patriots football team back out on the field preparing for the upcoming season, there is an overwhelming belief that the lumps they took a year ago could now actually result in a strength for this team.
"We started a lot of sophomores last year," said Koch. "Where we were last year to where we are now, with all the experience we got last fall and in the offseason, we're really excited about where we're at."
"We're going to be able to do more with our defense and our offense," added Ngalamulume about his more experience teammates. "This year is about proving that we're ready."
Experience may now be on their side, but numbers still aren't. Koch has seen player turnout increase from 75 to 110 during his tenure, but according to him, that is still about half the number that the tradition power programs in the 5A SIC seem to draw each year.
So that means the players you see on defense for the Patriots will also show up on offense.
"We're kind of going back to old school when everybody played two ways," joked Koch about his own prep playing career. "That's a badge of honor."
"For us it's just a grind all the time," said Ngalamulume, who added it's not a bad thing. "We just love it. More playing time means more fun."
On both sides of the ball, Centennial will lean heavily on Ngalamulume.
"His primary thing for us is defense," said Koch. "He is the heart and soul."
The third-year starter will lead the defense at middle linebacker, and look to help carry the load at running back on offense.
"We played him sparingly as a running back last year, I think we're going to get him quite a few carries [this year]. That's a huge plus for our offense."
Senior two-way standouts Chad Bowcutt, Daniel Carroll and Damon Trafford will also play significant roles on offensive and look to help junior quarterback Dane Koch take the next step in his development.
"He threw the ball a lot last year," said his father and coach, Dave Koch. "This year, because of his size and strength, [our offensive] will evolve."
"Our quarterback has gotten a lot better," added Carroll. "So that opens up our offense a lot more."
For this group of guys, the next three months are about more than just the season that lays ahead. It is an opportunity to restore the tradition of a one-time powerhouse program.
"Throughout high school, everyone just told us, 'You're never going to win a game. You're probably going to lose,'" said Bocca. "Once we turn that around, the atmosphere and school is going to be better."
In order to create that positive energy, the Patriots will have to prove that they are at least six points better than they were one year ago.
"I think me personally, I have," responded the younger Koch when asked if he had made up those six points. "And I think everyone else can say the same thing for themselves."
"Imagining my last high school year and getting into the playoffs," said Carroll. "It would mean everything to me."
"We're so eager," added Ngalamulume. "We're to show people that Centennial is back. We're ready to take what's ours."
8/25 - at Meridian
9/1 - vs. Caldwell
9/8 - vs. Mountain View
9/15 - at Columbia
9/23 - at Borah
9/29 - vs. Kuna
10/5 - at Eagle
10/13 - vs. Timberline
10/20 - at Rocky Mountain
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