Photo By Randy Jones - #1 Shane Jennings
Written By: Will Hoenike
The Gooding Senators will be adjusting schemes and gameplans a bit in 2019 but still have the look of a team that should contend for a SCIC conference title, a 3A state playoff spot, and a potential state title.
The list of reasons in long, but we’ll start here – an experienced coaching staff, led by long-time head coach Cameron Andersen, a home-heavy schedule that will see the Senators play on its home field in six of the team’s nine games during the regular season, and senior quarterback Shane Jennings.
Gooding has a number of good players returning to the lineup this fall but any team that returns a first-team All-State quarterback like Jennings, all eyes will fall on the young man under center. As a junior, Jennings threw for over 2500 yards and ran for 1000 more, totaling nearly 50 touchdowns between passes and runs. As a result, he’s holding college football scholarship offers from Utah State, Idaho State, and Idaho, among others, and expected to lead a potent Senator offense.
“I think it would be silly to say it doesn’t start with Shane Jennings,” Andersen said. “But there will be a heavy workload on this senior class. We have worked hard this offseason to build an offense around their overall skills and makeup.”
Senior Andrew Prince returns at one receiver spot after hauling in more than 30 passes as a junior. Jonathon Carpenter also returns for his senior season after rushing for more than 500 yards last fall. The team has a core of offensive linemen returning to the field as well in seniors Anthony Huber and Colton Page along with junior Carter Norstebon. Junior AJ Darcy and sophomore Colston Loveland are expected to earn playing time at receiver this fall.
Defensively, the Senators will need to replace the presence of dominating defensive tackle Jake McGinnis and leading tackler Brayden Roe, who graduated last spring. With that said, Andersen noted a number of younger players were pressed into roles on the defensive side of the ball that could help going forward. Senior Jared Conrad was an all-conference performer as a junior, he’ll be joined by senior Dale Shaw at the linebacker position, and sophomore Kurtis Adkinson could step into a role there as well. Junior Logan Anderson will play in the secondary and Jennings has proven himself to be a capable defensive back as well. Sophomore Dakota Sage will be given an opportunity to earn ample playing time at defensive tackle. Anderson praised Sage’s work in the weight room, noting that he bench-pressed 280 pounds as a freshman.
“The team follows their leaders,” Andersen said of the program’s commitment to the weight room. “With your quarterback (Jennings), linebacker (Conrad), and lineman (Huber) all reaching maxes on the bench press of over 300 pounds, it bleeds into the underclassmen.”
Though Gooding will host six of its nine regular season games, it is by no means an easy schedule. The Senators will play two playoff teams from the District III Snake River Valley Conference in the first three weeks, hosting Fruitland before traveling to Weiser early in the season. They’ll host an Oregon powerhouse when Vale comes to town and they’ll also travel to play 4A Caldwell late in the regular season. And then there are the conference games hosting Buhl and Filer before a regular-season finale on the road against Kimberly, which reached the 3A state semifinals last fall.
“We love to prepare to play tough teams and we believe our schedule to be the toughest in the state,” Andersen said. “Hopefully we can remain healthy and put ourselves in position for the first season of the RPI (rankings).”
Health. The overriding “X” factor for every team. Assuming Gooding is able to stay healthy, there’s every reason to think the team be in good position to make a run for the first football state title for the school since 1985.