Can anyone knock off Sugar-Salem this year? That’s the question heading into 2020 after the Diggers won their second consecutive 3A state title last season in dominating fashion.
With only three teams, the Mountain Rivers Conference typically provides a gritty style of competition, with each matchup carrying added importance with teams just trying to earn a shot at the playoffs.
South Fremont and Teton have to like their chances this year after the Diggers graduated a talented senior class.
Sugar-Salem coach Tyler Richins isn’t waving the white flag just yet.
“I told the boys our goal is the same goal and that is to win a state championship and I don’t think that’s unrealistic,” Richins said. “I think we have the athleticism and the desire and the work ethic in these kids to make that a reality. For us to achieve anything less than a state championship at this point would be disappointing. That’s where we’ve been the last two years and we’re not ready to come down from that high.”
SOUTH FREMONT COUGARS
The tough Mountain Rivers Conference won’t get any easier as all three teams try to make the playoffs and knock off two-time state champion Sugar-Salem.
Kaimen Peebles steps in at quarterback and should have plenty of playmakers around him, including all-conference receiver Dallin Orme. Bridger Paulson is another option.
“We are going to be more of a quick passing game offense,” coach Chad Hill said. “We have a lot of skill guys and we are going to try to get them the ball in space and let them do work.”
South Fremont missed the playoffs by the narrowest of margins last season after falling 17-14 to Teton in the final regular-season game. The Cougars ended the season 3-5 though four of the five losses were by two scores or less.
This season, South Fremont hopes to turn a few of those losses into wins by making a few more plays against a schedule of teams that includes three 2A teams and a far more inexperienced Sugar-Salem team.
Koster Kennard/Standard Journal
South Fremont Cougars
Coach: Chad Hill, 8th season
Last year: 3-5, 0-2
Impact players: River Eddins, sr., OL/LB; Bridger Paulson, sr., WR/DB; Jackson Coverley, sr., DB/RB; Dallin Orme, sr., DB/RB; Kaimen Peebles, jr., QB/DB; Rylan Miller, jr., RB/LB; Cooper Crapo, sr., DB/WR.
Aug. 28 at Timberlake, 7 p.m.
Sept. 4 at Salmon, 7 p.m.
Sept. 11 vs. Aberdeen, 7 p.m.
Sept. 18 vs. Firth, 7 p.m.
Sept. 25 at Snake River, 7 p.m.
Oct. 16 vs. Sugar-Salem, 7 p.m.
Oct. 23, vs. Teton, 7 p.m.
After two straight 3A state championship seasons, the Sugar-Salem football team lost 25 seniors to graduation, including nearly all of its starters on both sides of the ball.
“I think there will be a lot of new faces this fall,” said Diggers head coach Tyler Richins. “We graduated 25 seniors. Any time you graduate that many kids there’s going to be a great opportunity for those younger-aged kids to step in and fill in those spots.”
Senior Kyzon Garner is currently slated to start at quarterback, replacing 2018 3A player of the year Tanner Harris after backing him up last season. Sophomore Daniel Neal could also see time.
Sugar-Salem also loses the 2019 player of the year, Browning Bennion along with a couple of his stellar backfield mates. The Diggers do, however return a couple of rotational backs from last year in Logan Cutler and the versatile Crew Clark.
The biggest challenge for the Diggers may be replacing their entire offensive line. They also graduated their defensive line.
Cutler and Brigham Lee are back at linebacker.
Koster Kennard/Standard Journal
Coach: Tyler Richins, 7th season
Last year: 10-1, won 3A state championship
Impact players: Crew Clark, sr., K/WR/DB; Brigham Lee, sr.,WR/LB; Logan Cutler, sr., LB/RB; Kyzon Garner, sr., QB.
Aug. 28 vs. Crimson Cliffs (UT), TBD
Sept. 4 at Shelley, 7 p.m.
Sept. 11 vs. Star Valley (WY), 7 p.m.
Sept. 18 vs. Marsh Valley, 7 p.m.
Oct. 2 at Preston, 7 p.m.
Oct. 9 vs. Teton, 7 p.m.
Oct. 16 at South Fremont, 7 p.m.
Oct. 23 vs. Mountain Home, 7 p.m.
Teton has a new mascot and plenty of returners to challenge for another playoff berth. Reid Nelson is the new quarterback, taking over for all-conference pick Dusty Hess. Luke Thompson returns as one of the conference’s top two-way players, earning all-conference at tight end and linebacker.
With 20 returners, including a solid core on defense, coach Brody Birch said that might be the strength going into the season. The offense averaged just over 18 points per game, the lowest mark in the conference.
Coach: Brody Birch, 17th season
Last year: 5-5, lost first round of playoffs
Impact players: Luke Thompson, sr., LB/RB; Reid Nelson, sr., QB/DB; Hyrum Heuseveldt, sr., RB/DB; Nathan Miller, sr., DL/TE; Spencer Kasbaum, sr., RB/DB; Xander Vontz, sr., OL/DL; Connor Kunz, sr., WR/DB.
Aug. 28 vs. Jackson Hole (WY), 7 p.m.
Sept. 18 vs. Salmon, 7 p.m.
Sept. 25 vs. American Falls, 7 p.m.
Oct. 2 at Snake River, 7 p.m.
Oct. 9 at Sugar-Salem, 7 p.m.
Oct. 23 at South Fremont, 7 p.m.