CHOPPING AWAY

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There was only one problem with the departure time of the Lewis-Clark Valley Loggers' team bus, headed to the Midwest roughly nine weeks ago. It was about 24 hours too soon for quarterback Roth Roth to get out of a science lab at Lewis-Clark State College.

So Roth did what any normal college student would do to keep his commitment to his football team. And his schoolwork.

A teammate recalled what happened next.

"So we could make it to the game (at Concordia of Chicago), we drove through the whole night, like 24 hours (straight)," Connor Imel said, painting an unenviable picture: Imel, Roth and Roth's little brother, Ryan, also a team member, packed into a Jeep, making up time on the team bus by simply not halting, aside from the occasional pit stop.

"We maybe got to sleep for two hours in the hotel," Imel said, before realizing the absurdity of it all - and reacting accordingly.

"Oh my gosh, it was just a freakin' trip, dude. I can't believe it. That was just a straight up road trip movie."

Fellow Logger Myles Baldwin saw the independent football team's journey the past four years along similar lines.

"You could write a book on all the crazy stuff the team has experienced," he said.

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If you were to write a book on the Loggers since their inception in 2014, surely a chapter would be devoted to one of the team's most eventful road trips ever - a first-season journey to Everett.

Trouble started before the Loggers even got to Veterans Memorial Stadium. There was a fatal accident elsewhere on the highway, which stopped traffic for two hours straight, giving the Loggers just 10 minutes to warm up before facing, what was at the time, the pre-eminent team in the Northwest Junior College Football League.

"Basically Alabama," Baldwin said of Everett Junior College.

And yet, the Loggers weren't just staying within shouting distance of the Red Raiders, on Everett's home field. The Loggers were winning by a point with several minutes left - when one of the more bizarre endings to a college football game transpired.

Baldwin - at the time a center for the team - can still remember the scene.

"I put my hand on the ball, to get ready to snap it, and the lights go out."

Players stood around for about 20 minutes, wondering, what's next?

"Are they going to turn the lights back on?," Baldwin remembered thinking.

Nope.

And Baldwin was surely not ready for the next news he got. The team bus had broken down in the parking lot.

Which put the Loggers between a rock and a hard place at 9 p.m. on a Sunday - with no rental car places open, and no budget for the team to get hotel rooms.

But they caught a break. The parents for Everett Junior College's waterboy invited the Loggers to crash at their place.

But not every Logger was willing to wait until the next morning for the team to rent vans and drive home.

It initially sounded like a joke when Ryan Roth got a call late that weekend evening, with a unique request: Could he drive over from Wenatchee, where he was playing college baseball at the time, to Everett? To give his older brother and some teammates a ride back to Lewiston? And hey, could some of those teammates sprawl in the back of his 2006 Ford Ranger's pickup bed, since there was limited seating inside?

All Rob Roth remembers from that drive back was this: "it was light out" when he steered back into Lewiston.

And yet, somehow ... Rob Roth went to class. At 7:30 a.m.

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Not long before he started the Lewis-Clark Valley Loggers from scratch, Bob Thorson formerly taught marketing as a professor at Lewis-Clark State College, where, for nearly a decade, he hammered into his students a fundamental lesson.

There are one of two ways to make money.

"An additional dollar in revenue," Thorson said, "or an additional dollar in cost-savings."

It's safe to say: the Loggers, with Thorson as the team director, have chosen the second route.

Thorson happily gave several examples of how his team is able to operate yearly on a budget of $50,000 - roughly, he added, what it costs for players to attend the opposing NCAA Division III schools his team often faces in exchange for pizza.

Thorson proceeded to list just a few of his budgetary hacks, which go as follows: "We haven't had overnight stays the last couple trips we've taken to western Oregon, those are over-and-back trips. Other times when we've stayed in hotels, we might go three to a room instead of two. We might bring food on the road. ... Our team's shoulderpads, we bought 70 or 80 of them for $500 from UC Davis, which had purchased new equipment. ... Our bus, I think a new bus would have cost $800,000 or higher, I purchased it for $25,000."

Thorson came up with an analogy for what his team is doing: "It's no different than an individual who is really good at shopping yard sales."

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The Loggers will wrap up their season this Saturday the same way they've played most of their "home" games since 2014. Using a local high school - this time Lewiston High, where LCV will welcome Bellevue's Eastside Junior College at 1.

But a home field isn't the most glaring thing the Loggers are missing. While Logger players must enroll at either Lewis-Clark State College, Walla Walla Community College of Clarkston or Northwest Indian College of Lapwai to compete, no official ties bind LCV to any of those schools. So naturally, no scholarships, the second major hurdle for the team.

The team's coach has done everything he can to help mitigate those shortcomings, often going above and beyond what an average college coach might do.

Right now, three Loggers are living with Jeff Schumacher (including star LCV wideout Raheem Harvey, who is originally from Florida).

And then there's the recruiting Schumacher's done, which he's gone to great lengths in.

"My first year," Schumacher said, "I put somewhere between 9,000 and 10,000 miles (on my car)."

The hardest part of recruiting for Schumacher isn't the travel. It's the food the parents of prospective recruits always offer - which carries a heavy price.

"I'm a short, fat, bald man - but I just get fatter during recruiting season, because I eat so much at kids' houses."

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Rob Roth didn't even play quarterback his senior year of high school for Lewiston. Back in 2005, he was a wideout. And also a scout-team quarterback, under the direction of a familiar assistant: Schumacher.

As he did the legwork on putting together a team, Schumacher recruited the former minor league baseball player hard, knowing a team with an arm like Roth's could fulfill his ultimate vision. Schumacher wanted to pass on pretty much every down, which is just what the Loggers have done.

Central Sound coach Jared Beard admits that "every team knows it's coming," and yet, with pass defenses nickle and diming him, Roth has still piled up some impressive passing stats. He's thrown for 2,416 yards and 25 TDs this year - all of that helping him earn perhaps the ultimate compliment from one opposing coach.

"He could probably play at a scholarship school," said Tim Driscoll, who leads Finlandia of Hancock, Mich.

Rob Roth shares a distinction with two other Lewiston High grads playing for the Loggers.

Roth and wideouts Lucky Gaskill (a 2012 Bengal grad) and Imel (2011) are basically the Mount Rushmore of LCV football, having been there from the very beginning.

And so has Baldwin, though in various capacities. The Nevada transplant played as a lineman his first three years, before transitioning into a coaching role this year.

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No matter what happens this week, it's inevitable. The Loggers will finish with a losing record - both on this maiden season as an NCAA affiliate (2-6) and through four years (15-17).

Though Thorson will be the first to tell you: these guys aren't losers.

Just try to count up all the hurdles they've overcome.

"Like counting grains of sand on a beach," Thorson said.

For their part, the Loggers seem to embrace their role as the underdogs - some might even cop to relishing it.

But what most impresses Thorson is something else. The dignity his team demonstrates - rain or shine.

Something which hasn't been lost on opposing coaches.

Concordia of Chicago boss Randy Awrey called the Loggers "one of the classiest teams I've come up against," and Whitworth coach Rod Sandberg promised to hang this article in his team's locker room for a simple reason.

"Our guys follow them now," Sandberg said.

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Edelman may be contacted at bedelman@lmtribune.com or (208) 848-2277.

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