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SBLive Washington is previewing the Top 50 high school football teams in the state ahead of the 2020-2021 season. Here's an inside look at the Central Valley Bears of the 4A/3A Greater Spokane League - No. 32 in our countdown. (Feature photo by Erik Smith)

Editor’s note: Central Valley is in the East region of Washington’s COVID-19 reopening plan. The region has been cleared to move to Phase 2 of the plan on Monday, Feb. 15, which means football practice can start.

2019 IN REVIEW

7-3 (third place in 4A GSL).

COACH'S RESUMÉ

  • Ryan Butner, fifth season.
  • Overall record: 30-12.
  • Coordinators (base scheme): Offense - Ryan Butner (spread). Defense - Travis Harmon (3-4).

NOTABLE DEPARTURES

RB/DB Chad Carlson

DL Tate Cornell

OL Bradley Fillis

QB Matt Gabbert

DL/OL Preston Grote

WR Carsen Raab

WR Cameron Sheley

P/PK Landon Rehkow

RETURNING STARTERS

Offense - 4. Defense - 6.

TOP PLAYERS

QB Luke Abshire, 6-2, 170, jr.

OL Dane Anderson, 6-7, 250, sr.

DL Sam Brown, 6-4, 225, sr.

LB Trevor Gravelle 5-11, 205, jr.

WR/RB/DB Josh Lawson 5-9, 165, sr.

RB/LB Kyle Parkman, 5-9, 190, sr.

DB/WR Nic Saunders, 5-9, 160, jr.

DL George Sonko, 6-2, 265, jr.

THREE TO SEE

Luke Abshire, quarterback

Got feet wet late in 2019 after injury to Matt Gabbert - and could truly be one of state's breakout stars.

Josh Lawson, athlete

Rare first-year, two-way starter (safety, wide receiver) who will now line up all over formation for Bears.

Nic Saunders, cornerback

Don't underestimate him based on slight frame; he is physical in playing shutdown pass defense.

2021 OUTLOOK

Fact: There weren't 16 teams in the Class 4A state playoffs last season better than the Bears.

Fact again: They will once again be one of the top programs statewide from the Greater Spokane League in 2021.

Why? Not only does coach Ryan Butner have a program-best 29 seniors on the roster for this shortened season, he also has a talented junior class, led by Luke Abshire, his new starting signal caller.

Butner said Abshire is a "hybrid" of the past two starting Central Valley quarterbacks in Grant Hannan and Matt Gabbert - and really showed his all-around skill set during offseason pass competitions, including the Northwest 9 Showcase.

"He runs it and he throws it," Butner said. "And he has a leadership quality and a drive to be great."

The offense has a new but exciting set of go-to weapons, including Nic Saunders at wide receiver, Josh Lawson lining up all over, and Kyle Parkman - a standout baseball player - as the team's top running back.

One of the team's offseason developments came on defense in switching to a 3-4 scheme to not only get more of the team's athletes on the field, but center the attack around all-GSL first-team linebacker Brandon Thomas.

But last spring, doctors discovered cancer in one of Thomas' legs, and it was amputated. He will sit out this shortened season, but plans to return at some point in the future with a prosthetic leg. Trevor Gravelle now becomes the team's run-plug in the middle, and vocal leader as well.

COVID-19 IMPACT

"It’s taken away the consistency of what we provide. It’s made it difficult to make progress in the weight room and bond as teammates. I do believe kids now see an opportunity to participate in something, so I anticipate a larger turnout." - Ryan Butner

2020-21 SCHEDULE - CENTRAL VALLEY TEAM PAGE

  • Feb. 27 vs. Ferris
  • March 5 vs. Mead
  • March 12 vs. Cheney
  • March 19 vs. Mount Spokane
  • March 26 vs. Lewis and Clark
  • April 2: at University
  • April 9: vs. Gonzaga Prep