Head coach: Jeff Marshall, fourth season
Returning starters: 6(4 offense, 2 defense)
Last year: 5-4, missed 5A state playoffs
Hillcrest High School football coach JeffMarshall knew exactly who to turn to whenhe needed a big play last year.
If quarterback Bridger Blakeslee wasn’tfinding the end zone (13 total TDs, 1,095yards passing, 1,016 yards rushing), runningback Porter Empey was (604 yards rushing,13 TDs).
“They were dynamic players,” Marshall said.
Even with just four starters returning on anoffense that averaged nearly 29 points pergame, Marshall expects to find thoseplaymakers this fall. It’s just that right now,he’s not sure who they’re going to be.
“We have to find the talent,” Marshall said. “We have some talented guys, but who can makethings happen on the field?”
The challenge is made harder by the Knights’ youth. Seven sophomores are expected to play upon the varsity roster this fall, five of them on offense.
“We’ve got a lot of young kids,” Marshall said. “But Skyline played with a lot of youth last year andthey were pretty good.”
Marshall was still sorting things out during the first week of practice, rotating three quarterbacksand several running backs with the first team with mixed results. The offensive line will alsofeature three new starters, to go along with seniors Cooper Williams and Sam Duffey.
Bowen Oswald is back at receiver and Tyler Johnson returns at tight end, where he was an all-conference selection in 2015.
The defense is even more inexperienced, returning just safety Sam Hernandez and linebackerDylan Prestwich. But Marshall said that unit has looked good early in camp.
“They’re scrappy,” he said. “They’re actually ahead of the offense at this point.”
The Knights were just a win away from reaching the playoffs last year, and despite their youth andinexperience they’re focused on taking the next step this fall.
“We don’t want to have to wait for the young guys to get ready,” Marshall said.
Position: Wide receiver
Height/weight: 6-foot-1, 185 pounds
Lowdown: When Jeff Marshall was the offensive coordinator at Blackfoot, he often used dynamicreceivers (Josh Hill, Colby Pearson, etc.) to make big plays or create one-on-one matchups for hisother wideouts. Marshall thinks he’s got that kind of weapon in Oswald, who should see plenty ofaction if he draws single coverage.
Aug. 26 at Skyline, 7 p.m.
Circle this date: While this is no longer a conference matchup, it could tell us a lot about the2016 Knights. Skyline returns the bulk of an explosive offense; Hillcrest returns just six starterstotal. A win, or even a close game, could get the season started off right.
Sept. 2 at Blackfoot, 7 p.m.
Sept. 9 vs. Bonneville*, 7 p.m.
Sept. 17 vs. Lake City, 1 p.m.
Sept. 23 at Madison*, 7 p.m.
Sept. 30 vs. Twin Falls, 7 p.m.
Oct. 7 at Rigby*, 7 p.m.
Oct. 14 vs. Idaho Falls, 7 p.m.
Oct. 20 vs. Highland*, 7 p.m.