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Vander Esch claims top 1A honor

With its annual all-state football selections, the Idaho Statesman recognized seven local football players, including one young man whose coach pegged him as a “player of the year” candidate before the season began.

That would be Leighton Vander Esch, who indeed received the Statesman’s top 1A football honor in that newspaper’s Dec. 15 edition last Sunday. Vander Esch posted haughty statistics in all phases of the eight-man game.

On offense he posted 34 rushing touchdowns on 157 carries, on which he averaged nearly 10 yards per carry — and added 28 passing touchdowns on 121 completions at a 61 percent completion rate on his throws.

He booked four defensive touchdowns and two kickoff return touchdowns — to say nothing of the numerous not-so-subtle impacts he made on opposing runners, receivers and quarterbacks during Salmon River’s march to the 1AD2 state championship.

Among Vander Esch’s Salmon River teammates, first-team receiver, end and defensive back Jimmy Shepherd, first-team offensive lineman Fred Taylor and second-team defensive back Terrun Zolman were also noted in the Statesman’s review.

Vander Esch, Taylor and Zolman are seniors at SRHS; Shepherd is a junior there.

Numbered in the 1A ranks was Prairie High senior Matt Schwartz, whose line play earned him second team honors from the Statesman.

For Grangeville, two players were numbered among the elite: senior Josh Dame, a second-team wide receiver, and junior Michael Wilson, who played quarterback for much of the season and was named a first-teamer for his contribution during five games at free safety.

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