Photo By Randy Jones - #2 Treyton Young
Written By: Will Hoenike
Want an easy choice as a “bounce-back team to watch?” We present the 2019 Snake River Panthers.
Head coach Jeb Harrison’s team returns a lot of talent from last fall’s team that finished 2-6, but don’t let that mislead you. The Panthers started 0-4 and the four teams they played constituted half of the final eight teams standing in the 3A classification. Kimberly, Sugar-Salem, Gooding, and South Fremont combined to go 34-10 last season, so that skews the curve just a little bit.
Three of the four are back on the schedule in 2019. But we’ll get back to that.
Back to the present. This team not only looks like a candidate to turn it around, but they look like a team that has a chance to compete deep into November.
“This team has a lot of depth. We could easily have eleven starters on offense and eleven defensive starters (instead of using the same players on both offense and defense),” Harrison said. “Our juniors are varsity-ready and we have a strong senior class. I’m really excited about what we can do offensively. We can throw the ball and run it as well, we are not one-dimensional like in years’ past.”
Harrison welcomes former Shelley head coach Jake Monahan onto an already-good staff to run the team’s offense. And what an offense it could be. Competition across the board and, as Harrison already noted, depth. Junior Mitch Lindsay and sophomore Cole Gilbert give the team a talented 1-2 combo at quarterback. The team boasts five receivers that stand at least 6-foot-2 and ten varsity offensive linemen, including five experienced seniors. It seems the only place where there isn’t much reason for debate is running back, where Treyton Young returns for his senior season.
During his junior season, Young battled injuries and still managed to earn All-State accolades as a defensive back. Quick and elusive, Young ran for 144 yards against a good Marsh Valley team last October. Now fully healthy, Harrison is excited about the type of production Young could put up.
Young isn’t the only one who oozes potential on this Panther roster. The defense boasts a pair of defensive linemen who already have offers to play college football – senior Taylor Scott (Carroll College) and senior Ty Belnap (Rocky Mountain College) – and a third defensive lineman, junior Drake Anderton, who has moved to the area and joined the team after qualifying for the 6A State Wrestling Championships in Utah last winter as a sophomore.
Six starters in all return for the defense, which will add Anderton and Pocatello transfer Kelan Dayley to the unit as well. Along with the strong defensive front, the team returns Armondo Garza at linebacker and all-conference selection Cody Anderson with Young in the defensive backfield.
It’s easy to see why a lot of people are talking about the Panthers coming into the season. But Harrison says his program doesn’t want to leave it in the hands of anyone – or anything – but themselves after missing out on the playoffs last fall due to the state’s RPI system. The computer formula ranked Teton ahead of Snake River, even though the two teams had the same record and Snake River won a head-to-head matchup convincingly.
“At the end of the season last year, we were playing pretty dang good,” Harrison said. “We beat a 4A playoff team (Preston) but still didn’t qualify for the playoffs. We have a sour taste in our mouths (about) the RPI ranking system, we felt that we got screwed over last year, but that motivated us to not leave it up to some computer ranking system and we know that we need to take care of business.”
Taking care of business means winning football games, which is not a given because the Panthers again face a tough schedule. Snake River opens up against 3A semifinalist Kimberly and 2A semifinalist West Side in non-conference play. They’ll also travel to both Gooding and South Fremont, who were both 3A playoff teams last season. Teton, Marsh Valley, Preston? All on Snake River’s schedule – and all playoff teams in 2018. Nine teams on the schedule, seven of them played postseason football last fall.
So, while the Panthers have a ton of talent and depth, it will get tested. It won’t be a cake walk. Harrison knows that, but he also believes in his staff and his players, who he says “have all the tools to be in the mix in November and we expect that we will be.”