4A District 6

Classification 4A: The Great Mess.

With the addition of three new teams — and just 1.25 playoff slots — someone is bound to get their feelings hurt in this year’s District 6, 4A classification.

It doesn’t help so many teams are shaping up to be good (on paper, ofcourse).

Hillcrest, even with a new coach, Kevin Meyer, has running back Jordan Neuerburg returning. Neuerburg was impressive his junior season, and opposing defenses will certainly know Neuerburg's number as the Knights plan to run out of the “I” formation. They’ll also have Oakley Hussey, Kyle Austin and an impressive line.

For Idaho Falls, the pieces are in place for a deep playoff run. With the Tigers’ zone-blocking scheme, another running back will be well known in District 6: Cameron Conrad. The impressive All-Area running back rushed over 1,600 yards as a junior. He’s aiming for more his senior year. The Tigers also return senior quarterback Cannon Thompson, tight end Carson Fugleberg and 17 other seniors.

Skyline — the two-time 4A state champion — will have a new look. The Grizzlies’ largest strength a season ago was their offensive line, who had three All-Area first teamers. Now, they’ll be leaning on Cruz Taylor and some RPO to get back into the 4A playoffs. Skyline’s identity may be different, but its coaching staff (led by head coach Scott Berger) will have it ready come Aug. 24.

Bonneville will be more competitive; so will Blackfoot. Bonneville has a junior-heavy program, as coach Matt Virgil said “the pieces are finally falling into place." Willie Nelson will make the transition from linebacker to quarterback. Wide receivers Kaleb Coles and Colton Reifschnieder are players to watch, as will Jordan Perez.

Blackfoot will look to bounce back from a 3-7 season to return to former glory. A junior-heavy class, the Broncos will look to stampede back into the playoffs after missing them for the first time since 2013 a year ago.

Finally, Shelley joins crowded 4A. Don’t believe the old saying: size truly doesn’t matter. Shelley, despite having half the student enrollment of Skyline and Idaho Falls, will be competitive thanks to speed. Yes, depth is a concern, but the Russets have players like Brandon McBride, Jake Wray and Wyatt Remington and Corey Killpack.

4A is anyone's for the taking. It will be one of the most exciting conferences to track.

BLACKFOOT BRONCOS

Coach: Stan Buck, 27th season

Last year: 3-7, missed playoffs

Returning starters: four offense, five defense

Season outlook: Last year was out of the norm for Blackfoot.

A school with a rich winning tradition over the past decade, the Broncos faltered throughout the season due to injuries and some inexperience on both sides of the ball.

In 2018, Blackfoot will try to return to former glory — with multiple juniors and some talented returning seniors.

“Every year is a good year because you have new faces and you try and develop those young players,” coach Stan Buck said.

Buck said Blackfoot is still dealing with injuries, but hopes to return to the 4A playoffs in 2018. The Broncos have not missed back-to-back playoffs in at least 20 years, which is far back as Post Register digital records go for football.

“How well we can gel together on both sides of the ball,” said Buck, when asked his team’s “X-factor” this fall. “We have a lot of young faces, and it’s about how quickly the can develop.”

Buck said the Broncos will use multiple sets on offense. The offense will be ran by junior quarterback Craig Young. Defensively, running an odd front, senior linebacker Jose Aguayo and defensive back Dexter Hale could make an impact.

“(Craig) is very coachable,” Buck said of his junior quarterback. “He wants to do well and he’s committed.”

According to last year’s Blackfoot roster, the Broncos could have close to 20-plus seniors on this year’s team. Buck said the Broncos will start “five to eight juniors” this fall.

Regardless, they'll be a dark horse in this year's 4A conference playoff race.

Impact players: senior linebacker Jose Aguayo, junior quarterback Craig Young, senior offensive lineman Jerod Gough

Aguayo — Received all-conference recognition a year ago, Aguayo’s 6-foot, 190-pound frame could be the key to Blackfoot’s odd front defense.

Young — A junior quarterback, Young will take over for Rayce Shelley (who graduated). Buck mentioned how coachable Young is and his “good attitude”.

Gough — The team’s only listed center a year ago, Gough will be responsible for opening holes and anchoring Blackfoot’s offensive line.

Schedule:

Aug. 25 vs. Lethbridge Collegiate Institute (AB), 1 p.m. at Holt Arena

Aug. 31 at Star Valley (Wyo.), 7 p.m.

Sept. 7 vs. Thunder Ridge, 7 p.m.

Sept. 14 vs. Skyline, 7 p.m.

Sept. 21 at Madison, 7 p.m.

Sept. 28 vs. Idaho Falls, 7 p.m.

Oct. 5 at Bonneville, 7 p.m.

Oct. 12 vs. Hillcrest, 7 p.m.

Oct. 19 at Shelley, 7 p.m.

BONNEVILLE BEES

Coach: Matt Virgil, third season

Last year: 2-7, missed playoffs

Returning starters: seven offense, six defense

Season outlook: Bonneville’s enrollment took a dip this year due to the opening of Thunder Ridge High School.

Not only a dip in enrollment, but the Bees lost some key players from a year ago. Dillon Sorenson, Brock Saxton, Austin Ford, Gerohm Rihari are All gone.

Sorenson, Saxton and Ford graduated. Rihari transferred to Sugar-Salem.

Now in 4A, the Bees will have a new slate. The third time for Bonneville coach Matt Virgil may be the charm, as the Bees have a junior-laden group ready.

Willie Nelson will make the transition across the line of scrimmage from linebacker to quarterback to lead the Bees’ spread offense.

On the outside, Kaleb Coles and Colton Reifschneider will be receivers to watch. Jordan Perez and the Bees’ 4-3 defense will try and halt some of the best playmakers (Neuerburg, Conrad, Cruz Taylor) in 4A District 6.

“We finally have some consistency,” Virgil said. “We’re building instead of training.”

Impact players: Wide receiver Kaleb Coles, Defensive back Jordan Perez, quarterback Willie Nelson

Coles — A solid wide receiver who will look to thrive in Virgil’s spread offense.

Perez — A two-way player (Perez will play running back), Perez brings swagger and tenacity at the defensive back position.

Nelson — Making the transition from linebacker to quarterback, Nelson will be key in the Bee’s RPO system.

Schedule:

Aug. 24 vs. Thunder Ridge, 7 p.m.

Aug. 31 at Canyon Ridge, 7 p.m.

Sept. 7 at Rigby, 7 p.m.

Sept. 14 vs. Hillcrest, 7 p.m.

Sept. 21 vs. Preston, 7 p.m.

Sept. 28 at Shelley, 7 p.m.

Oct. 5 vs. Blackfoot, 7 p.m.

Oct. 12 vs. Skyline, 7 p.m.

Oct. 18 at Idaho Falls, 7 p.m.

HILLCREST KNIGHTS

Coach: Kevin Meyer, first year

Last year: 5-4, missed playoffs

Returning starters: six offense, four defense

Season outlook: Hillcrest is gonna run the football down the opponents’ throat. Simple as that.

Teams should know who running back Jordan Neuerburg is. The Knights, utilizing “I” and “strong I” formations, will be giving the senior the ball often.

He is ready.

“He’s as good of a back as there is,” Hillcrest coach Kevin Meyer said of Neuerburg.

With a new coach at the helm, Hillcrest remains mostly intact despite the recent opening of Thunder Ridge. 

The Knights have 20-plus seniors, Meyers said, setting the foundation for Hillcrest to make a serious push in 4A District 6.

Other than Neuerburg and swinging guards like Ed Carle and Dakota Yorgensen, Hillcrest has skillful playmakers. Senior receiver Oakley Hussey, Taylor Sloan Trae Henry and quarterback Kyle Austin will also be players to watch.

“We have high expectations, we’re glad most of the seniors stayed,” Meyer said. He also thanked former coach Jeff Marshall, who is now head coach at Thunder Ridge after four years at Hillcrest, for setting a foundation with the Knights.

“It’s been a good summer and we’re hoping to build on that,” Meyer said. “The kids have been really good. They’re super coachable. I think they’re hungry.”

With a difficult schedule during the first half and a lighter schedule in the back half, expect the Knights to be in the mix late.

They’ll return three-year players and have close to 20 seniors.

Impact players: senior running back Jordan Neuerburg, wide receiver Oakley Hussey, quarterback Kyle Austin

Neuerburg — A must-watch player this fall. Neuerburg rushed for over 750 yards and 12 touchdowns a year ago. He’ll be a key cog this fall in Meyer’s system.

Hussey — A big-body receiver, Hussey’s build is what college coaches dream of. He’ll be the Knights’ go-to receiver.

Austin — Impactful at the corner position a year ago, Austin returns… this time at QB.

Schedule:

Aug. 25 vs. Star Valley (Wyo.), 10 a.m. at Holt Arena

Aug. 31 at Madison, 7 p.m.

Sept. 7 vs. Idaho Falls, 7 p.m. 

Sept. 14 vs. Bonneville, 7 p.m.

Sept. 21 at Rigby, 7 p.m.

Sept. 28 vs. Skyline, 7 p.m.

Oct. 4 vs. Shelley, 7 p.m.

Oct. 12 at Blackfoot, 7 p.m.

Oct. 19 at Thunder Ridge, 7 p.m.

IDAHO FALLS TIGERS

Coach: Pete Molino, fifth season

Last year: 6-4, lost to Skyview in 4A quarterfinals

Returning starters: 10 offense, 6 defense

Season outlook: After rebuilding seasons in 2014, 2015 and 2016, the Tigers broke through last fall by reaching the 4A state quarterfinals. Utilizing a junior-heavy backfield led by running backs Cameron Conrad and Aaron Gravelle, the Tigers reached the playoffs for the second time since Molino took the program over in 2013.

That’s just how the world of high school sports works: it ebbs and flows. And after two seasons of bad luck, the Tigers look to dominate in 2018.

Despite losing Gravelle, who moved to West Virginia, in the offseason, the Tigers will be competitive in a crowded 4A thanks to a zone-blocking scheme that’s going to open holes for Conrad. They also have 20 seniors, with guys like Kalvin Bowen, Cannon Thompson, Carson Fugleberg and Chase Baker looking to make an impact.

“If we play the way we should play, we should have a good season,” Idaho Falls coach Pete Molino said. “I don’t mind the new conference. I think it’s smart to start grouping those 4As like they did. I think there’s some issues in 5A that need to be addressed with the population base over in Boise, but that’s not here nor there.

It’ll be good. It’ll be exciting,” Molino added.

Impact players: Senior running back Cameron Conrad, senior quarterback Cannon Thompson, senior tight end/defensive end Carson Fugleberg

Conrad — A north-south runner who compiled over 1,600 rushing as a junior. Conrad is a must-watch this fall.

Thompson — Now two-year starter, Thompson looked more comfortable, confident this past summer than a year ago.

Fugleberg — A first team All-Area defensive player a year ago, Fugleberg provides a solid pass rush off the edge. Will also play tight end for the Tigers.

Schedule:

Aug. 24 at Lewiston, 7 p.m.

Aug. 31 vs. Century, 7 p.m.

Sept. 7 at  Hillcrest, 7 p.m.

Sept. 14 vs. Thunder Ridge, 7 p.m.

Sept. 22 vs. Skyline, 2 p.m.

Sept. 28 at Blackfoot, 7 p.m.

Oct. 5 at Columbia, 7 p.m.

Oct. 12 vs. Shelley, 7 p.m.

Oct. 18 vs. Bonneville, 7 p.m.

SHELLEY RUSSETS

Coach: Jake Monahan, fourth season

Last year: 8-2, lost to Fruitland 19-14 in 3A semifinals

Returning starters: seven offense, four defense

Season outlook: It’s been seven years since the Shelley Russets last played at the 4A level.

But in 2018, the Russets and head coach Jake Monahan are part of a revamped 4A District 6.

“I was on the staff the last time we were 4A in 2010 and 2011,” Monahan said. “We have been here before as a program and been successful. I have preached to the kids that we can be successful again at this level.”

The Russets bring back a tough group of core players from the 2017 team, led by senior quarterback Jake Wray.

“Jake had a heck of a season last year,” Monahan said. “This year we are going to expect him to run our offense that will feature some different looks to it.”

Going against quicker, bigger and faster competition that a year ago, Monahan said the Russets will employ some different formations to get the ball into the hands of Wray’s playmakers.

Those playmakers include Wyatt Remington and Brandon McBride. Both will be moved all over the field to create match-up headaches for the defense.

The Russets also feature four returning offensive lineman, led by senior Corey Killpack.

Defensively, Shelley returns just four starters, but they do feature a handful of players who played significant time last season. Remington, McBride, Killpack, Parker Hanson and Stetson Haycock all return with experience on defense.

“Our defense will need to grow as the season moves on,” Monahan said. “Our defensive line will be solid and will need to control the line of scrimmage if we want to have success.”

The biggest issue facing Shelley heading into the season is numbers. They don’t have the number of players that Skyline or Hillcrest have, so being healthy is a big key to the season.

“We need to stay healthy, that’s huge for us,” Monahan said.

Impact players: senior quarterback Jake Wray; senior running back/linebacker Brandon McBride; senior running back/linebacker Wyatt Remington

Wray – Wray burst onto the scene in 2017 both with his arms and legs. He will counted on to lead the new-look Russets success in 2018.

McBride – McBride is an all-around athlete. Monahan expects to get the in his hands as much as possible out of multiple formations.

Remington – Another playmaker. Remington is a versatile player who will line up all over the Russets’ offense. He will see time in the backfield and is a force at linebacker.

Schedule:

Aug. 24 at Preston, 7 p.m.

Aug. 31 vs. Rigby, 7 p.m.

Sept. 7 at Skyline, 7 p.m.

Sept. 14 vs. Madison, 7 p.m.

Sept. 22 at Pocatello, 7 p.m.

Sept. 28 vs. Bonneville, 7 p.m.

Oct. 4 at Hillcrest, 7 p.m.

Oct. 12 at Idaho Falls, 7 p.m.

Oct. 19 vs. Blackfoot, 7 p.m.

SKYLINE GRIZZLIES

Coach: Scott Berger, 10th season

Last year: 10-2, won 4A state championship 40-14 over Minico

Returning starters: five offense, five defense

Season outlook: Two weeks into the 2017 season, the defending 4A state champion Grizzlies found themselves 0-2 and panic was abound in the Grizz faithful.

After a home loss to Rigby, head coach Scott Berger gave a quote in just how confident he was in his squad.

“At the end of the season we will be right where we want to be,” Berger said. “Everything we want is right in front of us. We just need to go out and grab it.”

Skyline proved Berger right. The Grizzlies went on to win 10 straight games and their second consecutive 4A state title thanks to a stout offensive line and power running game led by Kyler Morgan.

But in 2018, Skyline will have to win games in vastly different ways in comparison to the 2016 and 2017 championship teams.

Senior Easton Taylor slides into the starting lineup at quarterback after being a backup last season.

He will have plenty of weapons at his disposal led by junior seedster Cruz Taylor.

Sophomores Eli Ames and Conner Maloney each also excite Berger and are ready to contribute.

“We have weapons all over the field,” Berger said. “We need to make sure we control the line of scrimmage and protect the football.”

Parker Reynolds is one of the lone returners on the offensive line.

Berger was most excited about his defense. Berger being a defensive coach, no one is really surprised.

Seniors Joel Cortez and Scooter Collins both return to anchor the defensive line.

“I am so excited about this group,” Berger said. “We have playmakers all over the field and guys are flying around everyday in practice.”

External expectations won’t affect the Grizzlies, as Berger tells his players everyday at practice “all we can do in to control ourselves."

With the new look High Country Conference ahead, the Grizzlies are excited for the season.

Impact players: Senior quarterback Easton Taylor, junior wide receiver Cruz Taylor, senior defensive lineman Joel Cortez

Taylor — Will be trusted to run the Grizzlies spread offense with quickness and accuracy.

Cruz Taylor — The diminutive speedster will be a main weapon for Taylor. He will line up all over the field and see the ball in his hands often.

Cortez — A defensive presence last season, Cortez returns to anchor a Skyline defense that surrendered just 75 points in the final seven weeks in 2017.

Schedule:

Aug. 25 vs. Skyline (Utah), 4 p.m. at Holt Arena

Aug. 31 at Thunder Ridge, 7 p.m.

Sept. 7 vs. Shelley, 7 p.m.

Sept. 14 at Blackfoot, 7 p.m.

Sept. 22 vs. Idaho Falls, 2 p.m.

Sept. 28 at Hillcrest, 7 p.m.

Oct. 5 vs. Rigby, 7 p.m.

Oct. 12 at Bonneville, 7 p.m.

Oct. 18 vs. Madison, 7 p.m.

Luke O'Roark is a sports reporter for the Post Register. He can be reached at 208-542-6772. You can also follow him on Twitter: @LukeORoark 

Education Reporter

An education reporter interested in a variety of topics — basketball, television, hip hop, philosophy. Has been working at the Post Register for close to two years.

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