Written by: Dylan Carder, Sports Director KIFI/KIDK
The 2019 Aberdeen Tigers are more likely to run through you than they are to run around you. However they get there, the intended destination for head coach Jeff Duffin in his eighth season is the same. Win a conference title.
The run heavy Tiger offense lost some of its dynamic speed from a year ago. A couple of explosive runners in quarterback Matthew Klassen and running back Hulizes Ortiz are gone. The Tigers will also be without all-state lineman Mitchell Spence and Spencer Watson. Both were three year starters.
Duffin says the overall loss of team speed will be made up by an increase in physicality. That will start with the offensive line. Duffin expects the group of Clay Ingersoll, Jack Behrend, Martin Law, Carson Wynn, Dawson Driscoll, Rhett Schritter, and Taylor Potts to control the line of scrimmage all season long.
They will be expected to clear the way for Angel Lemos, Jesus Gillen, and Payton Foster. Duffin says the trio will be carrying most of the load running the football out of the shotgun D-wing offense. That power game will be aided by their work in the weight room, where several of those players made huge strides during the summer.
How far Aberdeen goes this season may depend on what happens on the defensive side of the ball. Several newcomers and position changes means there will be an adjustment period as players learn their new rolls.
“One of our goals defensively is to not give up big plays.” Duffins adds, “How well we do as a defensive unit this year will be determined by how well and fast those kids adapt and adjust.”
The good news for Tigers is that they have quality players coming back on defense that can help ease that transition. First team all-conference defensive back Jesus Guillen will be back. Also returning are a couple of second team all-conference linebackers in Carson Wynn and Dawson Driscoll.
Another thing going for Aberdeen is that they will have veteran leadership in several key positions on both sides of the ball. The three-headed rushing attack of Lemos, Guillen, and Foster are all seniors. Most of the offensive line and many of their two way players are also seniors.
Heading into the season, West Side and Aberdeen look to be the favorites in the South East Idaho conference. Their showdown in Aberdeen on September 27 could be the game that determines who comes out on top. If their defense can adjust to their new roles, the Tigers could have enough to grab the top seed.