Photo By Clayton Bunt - #8 Caden Brennan
Written By: Sven Alskog
As Jared Hughes takes over for his second stint as the head football coach of the Priest River Spartans, the hope is that some continuity will be started up at the top of the program.
The current senior class will be playing for its fourth coach in as many years, including previous head man Justin Torfin, who led the Spartans to a 3-5 mark last season.
A trio of Second Team All-IML defensive selections return, including Bradley O’Brien at defensive line, Coby Rogers at linebacker and Caden Brennan at defensive back.
“We will need to hang our hat on our defense for us to be successful this year,” said Hughes. “We return a good core of defensive players. Solid tackling, creating turnovers and not giving up big plays will be our focus.”
Expect Priest River to use pieces like Brennan at quarterback and Teagun Holycross at running back to try to play a ball control style where the Spartans win the time of possession battle.
“Caden Brennan will be a second year starter at quarterback and will have to shoulder the leadership role as we install a new offense with very few returning starters. We will be focusing on turnover ratio, so protecting the football will be key. We will also be relying on our experienced offensive and defensive lines,” added Hughes.
A new offense is in the works to be installed, however some staples will remain the same, including a major focus on running the ball according to the new coach.
“Because we graduated a large senior class, we will need to play a lot of underclassmen at the varsity level. We will be installing a different offense, but remain run-heavy with a good returning offensive line.”
Rees O’Brien, Kameron Salesky and Rogers are names to watch for out of the backfield in addition to Brennan and Holycross.
Multiple players on the roster have impressed in the offseason.
“Senior Bradley O’Brien has really improved his strength and athleticism since last year. Running back Teagun Holycross has improved his speed to be one of the fastest kids in Idaho,” added Hughes.
Finding new players to join the program has been an early area of emphasis for the new coaching staff, with freshmen Deegan Goins, Joey Hayes and Jessie Poisel some of the new faces to watch for in the future.
Hughes knows that being one of the smallest 3A schools can have its challenges, but he is ready to tackle them head-on.
“We have to be smart, physical players if we have any hopes of competing this year. We graduated a large senior class and we will be focusing on developing some new team leaders early on. Our enrollment is down, resulting in low turnout over the past several years, so recruiting players has been another emphasis. We will also be working on creating depth on both sides of the ball.”
The Spartans begin 2019 with back-to-back home games, starting on September 6 against Riverside (WA).