BOISE, Idaho — With the opening week of the high school football season approaching in the Gem State, it's time to look at the landscape of the 5A Southern Idaho Conference (SIC), the conference that many schools in the Treasure Valley call home.
The 5A SIC is the athletic conference to a dozen of the largest schools from around the Treasure Valley, stretching from the heart of the City of Trees to the edges of the western Treasure Valley. The 12-team conference is divided into two divisions:
- Boise Brave
- Eagle Mustangs
- Timberline Wolves
- Meridian Warriors
- Skyview Hawks
- Rocky Mountain Grizzlies
- Capital Eagles
- Centennial Patriots
- Kuna Kavemen
- Mountain View Maverick
- Owyhee Storm
- Borah Lions
Leading up to the season-opening episode of Friday Night Football on Aug. 27, which will be live-streamed on KTVB.COM and on KTVB's YouTube Channel, KTVB sports reporter Will Hall is diving into the training camps of many of the high school varsity football programs in the Treasure Valley.
With the 2021 prep football season shaping up to be a return to normal for so many schools, athletes from around the Treasure Valley are gearing up for another thrilling season of high school football in the Gem State.
After visiting with players and coaches, KTVB's Will Hall has the latest of what prep football fans in the Treasure Valley need to know heading into the 2021 season.
2020 season record: 3-3
Year two of the Mike Altieri era is underway at Boise High.
"It's tremendous, an opportunity to bring this program back to greatness is something that has been in the back of my mind since I took this job," Altieri said.
Year one under the former Bronco was a massive success. The Brave ended the season on a three-game win streak, including a win over arch-rival Borah High School.
"It was huge. It was huge for us to get that win against Borah, our oldest rival, and then carry it into the next couple of games against Ridgevue and Mountain Home was big. To win three in a row to end the season was tremendous and it really did carry over into the summer. For Boise High, we finished last season with 28 guys on the roster on the varsity team, and this year, we have close to 50," Altieri said.
The team has also welcomed a new addition to the coaching staff; former Boise State Bronco Sam Whitney.
"He just brings a different dynamic. The experience that he has, the kids and the energy, and just the passion that he has for this game. The kids just really respond to him," Altieri explained.
One of the new roster additions will be southpaw quarterback Braden Anderson, who arrives from Twin Falls.
"He's a student of the game, he's a coach’s son, he sees it and he gets it," Altieri said.
Anderson has Division I offers for golf and student of the game might be an understatement, he has a Ph.D. in coaching from his dad.
"My dad is Lance Anderson, defensive coordinator at Stanford," Anderson said.
The new quarterback, much like the entire roster. has formed a special bond with Altieri, who truly defines being a player's coach.
"It's great. I love Mike, I've played golf with him, he's great," Anderson said.
It's that attitude that has players eager to scratch and claw for more wins for a program with a bright future ahead under Altieri.
"For me, it's about fun. It's about creating a culture that kids want to be around. We're here for these kids and we're here to help them have fun and that's what it's about, football is supposed to be fun. Just to be able to say, you were a part of that group at Boise High that got the ball rolling again is something special and they'll look back on this and remember for the rest of their lives," Altieri said.
2020 season record: 4-2
Note: Lost 21-14 to Mountain View in the quarterfinals of the 2020 Idaho 5A state playoffs.
When wandering the football facilities at Capital High School, it's hard not to wonder how the Eagles have been able to sustain their remarkable success.
The sheen on the goalposts has long faded and their practice field is a far cry from what some of their 5A SIC counterparts have.
However, upon closer inspection, it becomes clear that the character of head coach Todd Simis is a key ingredient to the Eagles' winning culture.
In his 15 years as head coach, the Eagles have never had a losing season. Yet, in recent years, that pride and tradition have been put to the test more than ever.
Enrollment-wise, Capital is the smallest school in the 5A SIC. The program's varsity numbers hit an all-time low last season, to the point that even despite a recent surge, Capital is still tweaking what it takes for them to sustain success.
Few players on this year's squad will offer a better representative of what it Capital football has become than Jake Walk. The 6-foot, four-inch, 230-pound D-1 prospect will hardly walk off the field this year.
Walk will serve as one of the primary targets on offense for quarterback Max Clark, who will be back under center after starting last year as a junior.
Even though Capital is light on numbers this season, they aren't altering their expectations. That stubbornness is the reason their program hasn't slipped and the ultimate goal will remain the same for at least one more fall.
2020 season record: 0-6
Year two of the Matt Greene era is now underway at Centennial High School. The Patriots went 0-6 last fall in his first season as head coach of his alma mater, but the foundation is continuing to be laid for future success.
"Anybody you ask, there's going to be a lot of energy, a lot of passion, they're going to work hard," Centennial head coach Matt Greene said.
Centennial has one of the more athletic quarterbacks in the valley in senior Keyon Horton. The lefty and younger brother of former Skyview star and current Idaho State University Bengal Demonte Horton continues to improve as a passer.
"The last two years, I've put in a lot of work developing my passing game. I like to say I'm becoming a pass-first quarterback, and when I need to run, I'm going to make the extra play," said Centennial quarterback Keyon Horton.
"He's very athletic, he can move around in the pocket very well. He can throw outside of the pocket and he makes good reads and gets rid of the ball quick," senior wide receiver Kyle Schabot said.
"He's just a playmaker. He can lead the team when things break down with the offensive line, he's a guy that can get us out when it's 3rd and 15, and go and get us a first down," Greene added.
That improvement was showcased this summer when he led the Patriots to the 7-on-7 passing tournament championship game, which was a confidence booster for the program.
"It was a huge step for our program. In this day and age, we're not going to rest our hats on hey we made the passing team tournament, but it shows these kids that they are capable of these things," Greene said.
"Honestly, that was one of the biggest confidence boosters that we could have, like the whole summer we've been working extremely hard," Horton said.
Greene is eager to get his alma matter back to playing for championships sooner than later.
"There's a lot of tradition here, there's four state championships, a lot of people love this school. Making those alumni and everybody that's been here proud of what we're doing out here," Greene said.
2020 season record: 6-2
Note: Lost 49-0 to Thunder Ridge in the first round of the 2020 5A Idaho state playoffs.
2020 season record: 1-6
"I feel like I hit the jackpot, I really do. I feel like I hit the jackpot landing here," new Kuna head football coach Jeff Schank said.
There are a ton of new faces for Kuna this fall, led by new head coach Schank, who takes over after Sherm Blaser took the head coaching job at Owyhee High School over the offseason.
"Energy is very high, he's never at a low, he's always high and he gets the energy out of you, which is a good thing," Cole Leukenga said.
Schank is a former Capital High School quarterback himself and he's thrilled to be back coaching in the Treasure Valley
"It's a blossoming program, it's an awesome community, there's a ton of support, so it means the world to me. I'm super excited to have this opportunity," Schank said.
New is also the theme under center, where the Kavemen must replace standout quarterback and current Montana State Bobcat Sean Austin.
"That is the million-dollar question. One of the best quarterbacks I've ever seen, truth be told," Schank said.
"They were good examples for me to learn from and hopefully I can take what they taught me and apply it to my game," Leukenga said.
The good news is Schank believes Kuna replaces one star quarterback with another gunslinger with a very bright future in junior Cole Leukenga.
"Luckily, we got a really good (QB) coming in right behind him. They are big shoes to fill, but I am telling you now, Cole Leukenga is the real deal. He's one of the smartest players I've ever worked with, understands what we're trying to do offensively, understands what other teams are trying to do defensively and he can pick you apart," Schank said.
"On the field, I like to break down defenses a lot. I really like to study the game and find ways to pick apart the defense week to week, so I like to beat them with my mind," Leukenga said.
Leukenga will team up with running back Isaac Garcia to form a talented backfield, hoping to carry Kuna to a better finish than what preseason polls are saying about the Kavemen this fall.
"I mean you've seen the polls. We are either last or second to last depending on which poll you're looking at. I think we are going to surprise a lot of people, I really do," Schank said.
2020 season record: 4-3
Note: Lost 42-28 to Highland during the first round of the 2020 5A state playoffs.
The Meridian High School football program has been waiting three years for this specific fall. When head coach John Zamberlin took over the program in 2019, he wanted to rebuild this one-time powerhouse the right way.
At the time, a small sophomore quarterback accepted that challenge and others around him followed.
After securing their first winning season since 2012 last season, the bond the Warriors benefit from on the field is actually a byproduct of the chemistry they've created in the classroom.
The only question that now remains for the Warriors is can they finish what they started three seasons ago?
Previously considered small, their starting quarterback is a study 6-feet tall, and he now possesses one of the most gifted arms the Treasure Valley has ever produced.
With two years of starting experience under his belt, Malaki Martinez is surrounded by some of the most talented skill players in the 5A SIC.
Quinten Riley will team up with Davis Thacker at wideout, meanwhile, Kross Antonnacchi will look to build on his all-conference campaign as a junior last season.
If the Warriors are serious about contending in a loaded Foothill Division, they'll have to overcome one of the more difficult schedules in the league.
Meridian's toughest games all come on the road this season, a daunting task this record-setting, program-changing, tested-bunch of veterans view as an opportunity.
Mountain View Mavericks
2020 season record: 5-4
Note: Lost 26-19 to Rigby in semifinals of the 2020 5A state playoffs.
The 2020 season was a strange one for the Mountain View football team. A perennial 5A SIC powerhouse found themselves in a position they had never been in before - 0-3 right out of the gates.
Over the course of the off-season, the disappointment from the 2020 season dissolved and the team's main motivator became the upcoming season.
With the team's chemistry now clicking, an additional dose of hope has arrived in the shape of Dawson Wahl, a promising 6-foot, three-inch junior quarterback. Wahl has been compared to Tucker Rovig, the only quarterback to lead the Mavericks to a state title.
Last year's trials and tribulations also revealed that senior-to-be Quintez Evans' mid-season position change would lead to an offensive explosion.
On defense, the Mavericks are loaded and especially so in the front seven. With balance front to back, this group will enter the upcoming season with a noticeable edge.
Much like last year, it won't take long for the Mavs to define their season. In week one, they take on Meridian and Rocky Mountain in week two.
It'll be an opportunity for Mountain View to swap their 2020 foes for 2021 success.
2020 season record: N/A
Note: Owhyee High School is the newest school in the West Ada School District. 2021 will be Owhyee's first season.
Sherm Blaser has no shortage of experience turning around programs. He turned Melba into an annual playoff contender, before doing the same at Kuna, eventually leaving the Kavemen to the 2019 4A state title.
"Huge opportunity. To be able to come in and open a brand new school, set all the foundation and tradition, the way we do things and the culture we want to build here is crazy fun. It's a lot of work, but I'm enjoying it, I felt a little bit of the natural progression in my career," Sherm Blaser told KTVB.
However, he's never built a program from scratch like he is now at the brand new Owyhee High School. While the program is in the infant stage of its history, tradition and experience, they aren't starting with an entirely empty cupboard.
Owyhee's current roster is primarily made up of players that played last season at Rocky Mountain, the defending 5A state champion, as well as playoff teams Eagle and Meridian.
"It helps a ton, it helps a lot, because we're not necessarily teaching how to win, in terms of expecting to win or not expecting to win, what we're having to teach is our way of doing it," Blaser explained.
Sophomore Matt Irwin will start at quarterback, running back Cooper Hiatt arrives from Rocky Mountain, while junior Titus Bailey will lead a talented wideout group. The skill position guys have the fortune of leaning on an absolutely massive line as well.
"They're as big as me. Yeah, they're big. It's the first school that I've been at where I feel like I have lineman everywhere, and few skill guys," Blaser said.
For Blaser, the inaugural season at Owyhee is all about laying the foundation for the future.
"I think everyone across the valley and across the state probably has the same goals, right?" he said. "Win conference, play for a state championship, and then our third one that is maybe a little different is that we're trying to establish our culture. Energy, attitude, toughness and family are driving everything that we do to build that culture."
Rocky Mountain Grizzlies
2020 season record: 9-0
Note: Beat Rigby 17-14 to win the 2020 Idaho 5A state championship.
2020 season record: 4-3
Note: Lost to Timberline 27-20 in the first round of the 2020 5A state playoffs.
"We are the smallest 5A school in the state of Idaho, but we don't use that as a crutch or an excuse, we use that as a chip on our shoulder," Hawks head coach David Young said.
Skyview might be the smallest 5A school in the state of Idaho, but don't tell the team that, the "Dirty 30" has heard that one before.
"People look at us like, especially in the 5A, as a small, dirty school. "Dirty 30, everyone's heard that," Camdyn Young said.
"The Dirty 30. We have dudes that are just grimy, gritty type dudes," Charles Judy added.
The Hawks value quality over quantity and this year's senior class is loaded with quality, starting with tailback Antonio Fifita.
"He brings a lot. Antonio is a special kid, he has always been the biggest kid or best player in his age group. He's one of our best, he's going to be our number one running back, he's going to be one of our number one outside linebackers," David Young said.
Skyview must replace dual-threat Clayton Fransen, but coaches and teammates have high expectations for Max Cutforth, who is more of a traditional pocket passer.
"We have high expectations of Max, and Max has those of himself," Young said.
"We got a new quarterback. Clay, he could run it, but our new guy, he's got an arm. He's fit in really well," Camdyn Young said.
He'll have a go-to weapon on the outside in three-year starter, playmaking wideout Camdyn Young, youngest son of Coach Young.
Defensively, Skyview looks to be stout up front, anchored by a veteran defensive line that includes Dallas Currin and Charles Judy.
"In my opinion, we are going to have maybe a top three, maybe top one defensive line in the state," Judy said.
Skyview looks to continue their outstanding consistency yet again this fall, trying to make it 11 trips back to the playoffs in the last 12 years.
"Leaving with potential is a bad thing, so we need to live up to our potential," Judy said
"When we live up to our own expectations and shatter everyone else’s opinion of what Skyview is," Young said.
2020 season record: 3-4
Note: Lost to Coeur d'Alene 56-7 in the quarter-finals of the 5A state football playoff.
Hard to believe, but three years ago, Timberline finished 0-9. They've since followed that up with back-to-back playoff appearances under head coach Ian Smart, winning games at the state playoffs for the first time in program history in the process.
"We are so proud of what they've done to get into the top eight every year, the last two. To make that next step, that's tough," Smart said.
The younger guys on the 0-9 team are now the pillars of the program, starting with star running back Taylor Marcum, the future Montana State Bobcat might be the fastest player in the state of Idaho.
"Getting into open space. Once I get past that first line, there's just green field in front of me and I'll out-run anyone," Marcum said.
"He really has this uncanny speed that I haven't seen around this area in a long time," Smart said.
"When he's in open space, there's no one that's going to catch him, so it's pretty special to see," Wade Zenner said.
Adding more speed to the backfield is senior quarterback Wade Zenner, who is a top athlete that can get it done with his arm and his legs.
"Wade is a cerebral giant, I think that that kid, whatever you throw at him, he's going to maximize his opportunities and he's going to do phenomenal things. He can see things that most high school kids can't see," Smart said.
The Wolves have a three-headed monster on offense when adding in three-year starting wide receiver Garrett Lavin.
"Special talent. Route running, speed, strength, catching, he's got all of it, in my opinion," Zenner said.
The Wolves will lean on that trio in hopes of taking yet another next step in the program under Smart.
"I think the next step is continuing to move, and we talk about that as a program, the goal would be to get into the top four. The reality is, we talk to these guys, the next step is the hardest and that's something we talked a lot about at Boise State, to get to the top, it's hard, to stay there, is harder," Smart said.
"We've changed the culture at Timberline since we were freshman, last two years, winning a playoff game, which has never happened in the past, just hoping to keep that going and make it even farther than the last two years," Marcum said.
"Coming off an 0-9 season and then building off of that, two playoff wins in a row these last two years, has taken us to wanting that next step, semis, even deeper, state championship, it's our last year, might as well do something special," Zenner said.
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