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Wood River Wolverines—In Pursuit of Perfection
 
           
 
Monday, August 15, 2016
 

BY MICHAEL DAVID

PHOTOS BY PAUL STEVENS

Is there another perfect season in the cards for the Wood River Wolverines Class of 2017 Football players?

In the fall of 2011, when this group of seniors were seventh graders navigating their middle year of middle school, they put together a dominant undefeated season. They finished with a 6-0 record, outscoring their opponents 236-6.

They followed up that feat with an equally dominant season as eighth graders, securing a second straight undefeated season at 7-0 and outscoring the opposition 208-26.

It is safe to say many of these young middle school student athletes dreamed about playing in front of throngs of raucous fans on Friday night as Wood River Wolverines. And now the Class of 2017’s team is positioned to continue the football dominance they displayed several years ago on the middle school gridirons.

Coach Kevin Stilling enters his eighth season as head coach of the Wolverines and feels confident this team, part of which contributed to last year’s 6-4 playoff team, can compete with anyone in the Great Basin Conference. Further, he is not overly concerned about replacing the offensive firepower provided last season by now departed Alec Nordsieck and Gunner Gibson, even though Nordsieck and Gibson filled the stat sheets last year in record-breaking fashion, accounting for the vast majority of the team’s offense.

Stilling says this year’s squad will need to spread the offense around to its many talented skill position players, and he feels he has the right athlete under center to do just that.

Senior Cade Schott has waited patiently, preparing for three years to get his opportunity to lead the Wolverines football team. Schott has a strong throwing arm and great size. But, according to his head coach, his greatest attribute is his ability to see the entire field, read the defense and make the correct throws. Stilling feels Schott will put up big offensive numbers this season…as long as his big offensive line provides the necessary quarterback protection.

Schott will depend on some returning starters to keep the defensive rush at bay and give him the chance to make those reads and find his open targets. Stilling feels that Jens Blackman has a chance to be the finest center in the conference. Blackman will anchor that line with Brendan Bingham, Caleb Morgan and Jeron Peavey.

Schott possesses several quality targets coming out of the backfield, off the end of the line and split-out wide. Travis Swanson, Owen Gifford, Ashton Owens along with exciting newcomer Turner Maza will see time as running backs and wings. Stilling calls Maza, a transfer from perennial powerhouse Edison High School in Southern California, an “exciting player,” compact at 5-foot-six and 165 pounds with an uncanny ability to make the defenders miss.

Senior Jubal Toothman will move from the offensive line to tight end, and has impressed himself and his coaches with his soft hands and ability to catch the football in practice this summer. But the converted lineman Toothman’s biggest value may be his downfield blocking.  Zach Nelson and Ike Buxton provide big body targets at wide receiver, along with Steven Balcos.

On defense everything is centered on the line backing duo of Toothman and Swanson. Coach Stilling says these two players, at 215 and 225 pounds respectively, are “as good as any line backing tandem in southeast Idaho.” While the corners look solid with Gifford and Nelson returning, the safety positions are question marks at this point. All of last year’s safeties graduated so it is up to some of the less experienced players to step in and contribute.

On special teams, Taylor Koth returns to handle the place kicking duties. Stilling is confident in Koth’s leg strength and accuracy for field goals, extra points and kickoffs. Who will handle the punting duties has yet to be determined.

Overall, Coach Stilling feels this team has embraced the “Mountain Tough” attitude necessary to play football at a championship level. He sees this squad banding together, not letting their teammates quit and taking care of each other.

“This is a team that has been together for a long time, a team that has experienced success and witnessed the varsity team’s extreme adversity as freshman and sophomores. They understand what it means to persevere, and they know what it takes to win football games,” he says.

The Wolverines open their season at home at Phil Homer Stadium on Friday, Aug. 26, against Pocatello High School. 




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