Photo by Andrew Ottoson
The 2018 football Bulldogs are (back row, from left) Taylor Bostick, Noah Kaschmitter, Brandon Stump, Colby Kennedy, Nathan Lothspeich, Jacob Vanderwall and Jessie Cornia; front row, Justin Fogleman, William Nichols, Jaize Norman, Booker Bush, Blake Darr, and Adam Wonnacott.
The Central Idaho League hasn’t won a state football championship in many, many years.
But it seems like an eternity since Grangeville won the title way back in…2015?
The truth is, it only seems to have been an off-year for District I-II because, for the first time since 2013, none of the three North Central Idaho 11-man teams reached the semifinal. That season, like last season, saw the northern hope eliminated by Declo in an early round.
Even so, the CIL’s reputation as one of the classification’s premier leagues remains well-defended.
And the Bulldogs – who have a 2017 league title to defend this fall – look like one of 2A Idaho’s leading contenders in 2018.
Grangeville’s football roster is short on head count, with 35 committed to the gridiron this fall, but a large senior class nevertheless has the Bulldogs in the mix. A preseason poll of statewide media listed GHS outside the 2A top five, and put St. Maries slightly ahead, in fifth.
Grangeville has upperclassmen listed up and down the roster, including a whole bunch of bread-and-butter players who are perhaps less recognized than the four returning first-team all-state players who put up big numbers last fall.
Among the Bulldog bruisers, Zach Forsmann may have been less visible to fans in the stands, but he and Justin Fogleman drew all-state second-team recognition from those in the know, as revealed in the annual post-season coaches poll by the Idaho Statesman.
Another of the Grangeville big thumpers, Kyle Frei, drew even less attention.
No doubt Declo – which returns a legion of players having run over Firth in the championship game – has underheralded players to field. But only Declo can boast a returning “player of the year.” Running back Keegan Duncan is poised to return for his senior season having scored 42 touchdowns as a junior, and Grangeville is one of the few teams known to return the playmakers any team would need to put the defending state champions to a test.
Even with fearsome competitor and field marshal Fogelman sidelined by off-season injury, Grangeville has the toughness it will take to contend for another CIL title.
“Losing him just made me sick to my stomach, but that camp was awesome,” said head coach Jeff Adams. “It was the perfect place to go. We got after it. We were the toughest team there, no doubt. If it was a fistfight, we’d win, no doubt. We’ll tone it down, but these guys aren’t going to take anything from anybody. We’ve got to get it figured out, because last year, we were like the ’76 Oakland Raiders for penalty yards, and it killed us.”
Even before a non-contact fall at the summer camp put Fogelman out with a leg injury, GHS coaches were grappling with how to balance the workload of three first-teamers who return as seniors having played difference-making roles on both offense and defense. Those three – Noah Kaschmitter, Booker Bush and Brandon Stump – might end up in a very different defensive alignment than what the Bulldogs fielded last season.
But their offensive skillsets are known quantities. Tight end Stump makes great catches, and gets open in part because opponents have to commit heavily both to covering wide receiver Bush and jamming the lanes the heavies clear for running back Kaschmitter.
Quarterback — a position of apparent stability due to the presence of 25-touchdown passer Tescher Harris having received the nod for the all-state offense as a sophomore — may turn out to be one of Grangeville’s most dynamic slots on offense.
That’s because Colby Kennedy — tall and blessed with basketball ability — will contend for playing time in the offensive backfield.
With longtime offensive coordinator Jeff Adams in his second season as the honcho, look for Grangeville to challenge opposing defenses to reckon with both Harris and Kennedy — but not at the same time.
“I’m going to put in one run-heavy offense and one that’s more of a spread look,” Adams said. “I’m going to mix it up — two different offenses, but I’m going to make it super-simple.”
Grangeville’s home opener, Aug. 31 against Nampa Christian will mark the first time many Bulldog fans get to see for themselves what Adams means by that, but some of the 2A titans — Declo, Aberdeen, West Side, Firth — may have to wait quite a while longer.
For the first time since 2015, Grangeville doesn’t have a road game scheduled anywhere south of McCall.
For GHS, league play begins with Grangeville’s homecoming Oct. 5 against St. Maries, and the Bulldogs visit Orofino Oct. 12.