Written By: Will Hoenike
Veteran head coach Kip Crofts is optimistic headed into his fourth season leading the Payette Pirates football program. Crofts has worked at some of the state’s biggest, strongest programs in the past with stops on his resume at 4A Bishop Kelly and 5A Eagle, along with 5A Meridian before taking the reins at 3A Payette. So he knows what it takes to get it done on the field.
Unfortunately, it didn’t happen for the Pirates in 2018. The team finished winless, having to forfeit its final four games in the best interest of student-athletes after team numbers had dwindled. But Crofts says that has changed a bit this offseason.
“We have had better turnout over the summer,” Crofts said, saying a key to his team’s success this fall will be players adjusting to a big learning curve in the ultra-tough Snake River Valley Conference. The team’s final three games – home against Weiser, home against Homedale, and at Fruitland – each represent contests against teams that expect to play deep into November this fall. And those will be weeks seven, eight, and nine of a nine-game slate that doesn’t feature a bye week.
In short, the team’s toughness and depth are likely to be tested.
The team returns senior QB/LB Blake Garcia as well as fellow seniors Deano Rodriguez (FB/LB) and Brandon Deaseleer (OL/LB), giving the squad an experienced corps of linebackers to lead the defense.
From there, there are a lot of positions to be earned. Crofts and his staff have some athletes to choose from as they put the player puzzle together leading up to the opener on August 30 against Cole Valley Christian.
After a tough start to the season (the Pirates’ first two opponents, Cole Valley Christian and New Plymouth, each qualified for 2A postseason play last season), Payette has some winnable games in the middle of the campaign before the challenging close to the season mentioned above.
The Pirates’ staff will be preaching fundamentals all season long. A playoff spot in such a tough conference may be tough for Payette but, if they can tackle well and protect the football, positive strides should be taken. And, since it is a young team on paper, that’s a positive first step as the program looks to return to the postseason for the first time since 2014.