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Sugar-Salem seniors Tanner Harris (left) and Browning Bennion are chasing another state title.

Sugar-Salem celebrated its first state title last season and now the Diggers have the challenge of trying to repeat.

That’s a good problem to have coach Tyler Richins noted, but for a team that lost 20 players, the challenges run deeper.

“Anytime you lose 20 kids off your team you’re going to have some chemistry issues to start,” he said. “We know how athletic we are and how strong and physical we are. We just want to see us come together and play as a team, to play team football, and progress each and every week.”

“I think we have the opportunity to be just as good or better than last year’s team, depending on how much we want it and how the younger guys step up,” quarterback Tanner Harris said.

Despite a losing record a year ago, Teton has a good nucleus returning and could challenge Sugar-Salem and South Fremont in the competitive conference.

Redskins coach Brody Birch noted his young team took some lumps last season, but hopefully patience pays off.

“Some of those guys got experience sooner than we would have liked,” Birch said. “It was hard on us last year, but it should really benefit us this year.”

South Fremont has been knocking on the playoff door, but looks to break through this season.

“We want to get back to the state playoffs obviously,” South Fremont coach Chad Hill said. “We’ve gotten to the quarterfinals a couple times and we’re just trying to break though that quarterfinal limit. We want to break through that and get into the semis and hopefully into that state championship game.”

Snake River struggled last season but has plenty of experience on its roster.

“This is the most excited I’ve been to start a season at Snake River,” coach Jeb Harrison said. “We finally have kids who have been in the program for four years.”

SUGAR-SALEM DIGGERS

The Diggers may have lost 20 players off the championship team, but starting quarterback Tanner Harris and linebacker Browning Bennion lead a solid core of returning players that are expected to make another run at the 3A crown.

“Last year, subconsciously, we thought we were going to be a good football team,” coach Tyler Richins said, noting it took time for everyone to get on the same page. “Again, the same worries we’re having this year. How are we going to gel? There’s a lot of personalities, a lot of good athletes, kids who want the ball. And that’s great stuff … We love the competitive nature of the kids. Last year we may have had more overall depth, but this year I think we have the potential to be as good or better that we were last year.”

SUGAR-SALEM DIGGERS

Coach: Tyler Richins, 6th season

Last year: 10-1, won 3A state title

Returners: Offense 7, Defense 6

Impact players: Tanner Harris, Sr., QB; Kenneth Copley, Sr., OL/DL; Browning Bennion, Sr., LB/RB; Riley Thurber, Sr., Safety.

Schedule

Aug. 30 vs. Declo, 7 p.m.

Sept. 6 at Shelley, 7 p.m.

Sept. 13 at Star Valley (Wyo.), 7 p.m.

Sept. 20 at Marsh Valley, 7 p.m.

Sept. 27 vs. American Falls, 7 p.m.

Oct. 11 at Teton, 7 p.m.

Oct. 18 vs. South Fremont, 7 p.m.

TETON REDSKINS

The Redskins have more than 20 players returning who saw playing time a year ago.

Coach Brody Birch said one of the goals this season is to have a more balanced offense and Teton may have the weapons to do that. Senior quarterback Dusty Hess returns and can extend plays with his running ability, Birch said. Receivers Carson Reiley and Dylan Hatch also provide good targets in the passing game. Spencer Kasbaum returns at running back after missing the second half of last season with a broken wrist.

The one place to watch for improvement is on the defensive side of the ball, Birch said. Linebacker James Fullmer returns.

Teton Redskins

Coach: Brody Birch, 16th season

Last year: 2-7, lost first round of playoffs

Returning starters: Offense 8, Defense 9

Impact players: Dusty Hess, Sr., QB; Carson Reiley, Sr., REC/DB; Dylan Hatch, Sr., REC/LB; Luke Thompson, Jr., TE/LB.

Schedule

Aug. 30 at Jackson Hole (Wyo.), 7 p.m.

Sept. 6 vs. North Fremont, 7 p.m.

Sept. 13 at West Jefferson, 7 p.m.

Sept. 20 at Salmon, 7 p.m.

Sept. 27 at Declo, 7 p.m.

Oct. 4 vs. Snake River, 7 p.m.

Oct. 11 vs. Sugar-Salem, 7 p.m.

Oct. 18 vs. South Fremont, 7 p.m.

SOUTH FREMONT COUGARS

South Fremont came within a point of playing in the state semifinals last year, but a late interception sealed the Cougars’ fate.

For the past decade, the Cougars' progress has been capped at a quarterfinals appearance. In 2016, they lost to Kimberly. In 2015, they lost to Gooding and in 2014, they lost to Snake River.

With more returning starters than graduated players, including some at key positions, the Cougars may have a chance to go further than they’ve gone before.

“We want to focus on the little things like getting aligned and be able to take care of those little tiny responsibilities, those little details that we have in our system and being disciplined enough to focus on those and let the big things take care of themselves,” coach Chad Hill said. “Discipline’s kind of our keyword this year.”

-Koster Kennard/Standard Journal

SOUTH FREMONT COUGARS

Coach: Chad Hill, eighth season

Last year: 6-5, lost in state quarterfinals

Impact players: Jace Neville, Sr., QB; Tristan Olsen, Sr., RB; Talon Maupin, Sr. Rec.

Schedule

Aug. 30 vs. Fruitland, 7 p.m.

Sept. 6 at West Jefferson, 7 p.m.

Sept. 13 vs. Bear Lake, 7 p.m.

Sept. 20 at Firth, 7 p.m.

Sept. 27 vs. Snake River, 7 p.m.

Oct. 4 vs. Marsh Valley, 7 p.m.

Oct. 18 at Sugar-Salem, 7 p.m.

Oct. 25 at Teton, 7 p.m.

SNAKE RIVER PANTHERS

Jeb Harrison may be the second-most informed person alive when it comes to the history of football at Snake River High School. No.1? His father.

So Harrison didn’t have to think for long about the significance of last year’s 2-6 season. He said it was the first year the Panthers failed to qualify for the playoffs since 1988, when the team went winless under first-year head coach Tom Harrison.

But soon after, the elder Harrison built a 3A football kingdom, winning eight state titles between 1990 and 2002. Jeff Dalley added to the haul with blue trophies in 2011 and 2014.

Understandably, expectations are always high, and maybe unfairly so. Jeb understands all of that. If a loss in the 2017 state championship game wasn’t good enough, 2-6 sure wasn’t, either.

“It definitely is not expected or welcomed in Snake River to go 2-6,” Jeb Harrison said. “It’s not acceptable to me or the community. Sometimes, you have down years, and we had a really small senior class that probably wasn’t varsity ready.”

Snake River had 29 sophomores and juniors last season, meaning the team could return close to 30 upperclassmen for 2019.

-Madison Guernsey/Idaho State Journal

SNAKE RIVER PANTHERS

Coach: Jeb Harrison, 4th season

Last year: 2-6, missed the playoffs

Impact players: Treyton Young, Sr., RB; Kolby Cox, Sr., TE; Trey Poulter, Sr., WR.

Schedule

Aug. 30 vs. Kimberly, 7 p.m.

Sept. 6 vs. West Side, 7 p.m.

Sept. 13 vs. Firth, 7 p.m.

Sept. 20 at Gooding

Sept. 27 at South Fremont

Oct. 4 at Teton, 7 p.m.

Oct. 11 at Marsh Valley, 7 p.m.

Oct. 18 vs. American Falls, 7 p.m.

Oct. 25 vs. Preston, 7 p.m.

Allan Steele is Sports Editor of the Post Register. Reach him at 208 542-6772 and follow on Twitter: @asteele12000