KUNA, Idaho — The Kuna High School football team proved to be one of the most compelling stories in the Southern Idaho Conference last fall. After some dominant years at the 4A level – including a state championship in 2019 – the Kavemen took the leap up to 5A.
In a span of just two years, Kuna made it to the state playoffs in Idaho's largest classification. With a plethora of returning talent in 2023, the squad says they are going to reach far higher this go-round.
"Super excited. I mean, most of us started as sophomores and had a couple rough seasons, but now I think we're up to our full potential and ready to compete," senior left guard Gavin Hindle said.
The Kavemen believe they have "always been underrated," and despite a 5-4 performance during the 2022 regular season, they are "still underrated." However, it has become far more difficult to underrate Kuna.
Head coach Jeff Schank told KTVB in year three, his team is still climbing the 5A mountain, but they are starting much closer to the top.
"We're sitting at base camp four and right now we gotta decide are we gonna summit this thing, or are we happy with where we're at," Schank said. "I think these kids are hungry and I think they want to give it a go."
Opponents in the Southern Idaho Conference (SIC) are taking note of Kuna's power in the trenches. The Kavemen return a loaded offensive line this fall.
"It's amazing, 'cause we've all been together through all these years. So, now we've got five seniors on the o-line and it's just a brotherhood," senior right tackle Jaxon Peterson said.
At the 11th annual Famous Idaho Potato Bowl 7-on-7 Tournament and Lineman Challenge in July, Kuna turned heads by winning the Tug-of-War championship, defeating Capital.
"We pride ourselves as kind of a smash-mouth football team," Schank said. "We got some real big dudes up front that have been working hard in the weight room and we're gonna lean on those guys a lot."
The Kavemen also finished in third place in the Lineman Challenge, an event that includes drills like a five-man truck push, a tire flip relay, kneeling medicine ball throw and more. With teams across the state competing, Kuna finished behind only Mountain View (first) and Eagle (second).
Senior running back Austin Lattimer is certainly excited for the front five's potential this fall:
"I love those guys. Big, beefy guys in the hole blocking for me, it's just amazing," Lattimer said.
According to Peterson, the feeling is mutual for the offensive line, a group that is eager to put their hand in the dirt.
"We're gonna show up, run the ball and we're gonna show you what grit we have," Peterson said.
Grit has become Kuna's identity, especially through this week's competition.
"Every practice it's gritty, it's hot, we're all sweating. We don't want to wake up in the morning and work, but we all show up and get the job done," senior defensive back and kicker Jason Monroe said.
The identity reflects the environment, as Kuna itself is a gritty town. This fall, the Kavemen want to make sure they are representing the mentality well under the Friday night lights.
"You don't get it a lot, often anymore, where you got that one high school, that 'one town, one team' mentality, but it is absolutely that here in Kuna," Schank said. "We've got just a ton of support. They want to go out there and have success and I think they deserve it, because they've worked their butts off for the last several years."
Kuna starts the season with a fun matchup against 5A SIC foe Centennial at home on Friday, Aug. 18, at 7 p.m.
Each of KTVB's prep preview stories will be linked below as Friday Night Football inches closer:
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