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Kuna's Improbable 2019 Turnaround
The undefeated Kavemen, once SIC also-rans, look well-equipped to take home a 2019 title
Published: 11/1/2019 1:04:46 PM
 

It was unthinkable. Unimaginable. Unpredictable. 

And yet it happened all the same.

The Bishop Kelly High School scoreboard late into the night of Oct. 11 illuminated an improbable sight: a running clock. And in front of a Kaveman class which had never seen such a feat, the Kuna football team exited the field with a Southern Idaho Conference title in hand after resoundingly defeating rival Bishop Kelly for the first time in 12 years. 

But for the players on the field, the victory was just another “Super Bowl moment" in a season filled to the brim with memories.

“Each week, our opponent is entering that game as someone that wants to knock us down,” said Kuna Head Coach Sherman Blaser. “The phrase we use around here for that is ‘each week is our Super Bowl.’ No one wants to lose the Super Bowl.”

If every week for the Kavemen was the Super Bowl, Kuna would have more rings than every NFL team, as the 4A SIC champs went undefeated in 2019, stringing together nine wins over conference contenders like Vallivue, Middleton, Nampa and Bishop Kelly. 

But what happened this past offseason that sparked such a change? What transformed the Kavemen from SIC also-rans into a dominant force in the Treasure Valley?

Kuna’s momentum heading into 2019 began to build more than a year ago. In an 8-8 season, the bulk of Kuna’s wins came late, with the Kavemen winning their last four of five games. That one lone loss down the stretch? A 32-14 defeat at the hands of Bishop Kelly. 

“At this point, we are 13-4 over the last two seasons,” Blaser said. “That gives our kids something to be proud of and provides momentum and confidence each week.” 

Blaser said he and his coaching staff adopted a plethora of mantras they preach week in and week out. But none seemed to stick quite like “1% better,” which quarterback Sean Austin said was on his mind every summer morning at 5 a.m. 

“This offseason, everybody went to weights and got better. Waking up at 5 a.m. on summer mornings is not very easy,” Austin said. “But everybody stayed persistent and it’s showing in this season.”

Now with a playoff game on the horizon, Kuna’s first in years, Austin and Blaser will look to capitalize on the working relationship that began since Austin stepped foot in Kuna High. 

Blaser earned the Kaveman head coaching gig three years ago, the same year Austin started high school. But while the talented young quarterback would win the starting job for 2019, he had to wait a year behind brother Matthew before getting first-team snaps. 

“Sean is a special player. He is the ‘point man’ that makes our offense as explosive as it is,” Blaser said. “Matthew is great too, but Sean is something special.”

But it's not just Austin who Blaser has connected with during Kuna’s nine-game run. Austin’s favorite target, receiver Koltin Teater, said Blaser’s relationship with players extends beyond afternoon practices and watching film. 

Teater, who recently received an invitation to the 2020 National Combine, said Blaser helped in his recruiting effort. It’s not just football, he said. It’s a family business. 

Quarterbacks Coach Brian Luekenga, Teater said, is no exception to the exceptional Kuna coaching staff. According to Teater, Luekenga is a master of film analysis and isn’t afraid to take every possible chance to break down a play. 

“The biggest thing that Brian has helped me, and the team, with is breaking down film, whether it's at his house Sunday evening eating dinner and dessert or on the TV on the sidelines after each drive,” he said. 

But according to Blaser, the prolific Kuna offense would not have made the strides it did without a host of underclassmen taking the reins on defense. Combined with a stout offensive line that’s paved the way for an average of 200-plus yards rushing and passing per game, Austin said the Kavemen have played with a chip on their shoulder all year and are ready to prove how dangerous his team can be in the playoffs. 

“This whole team has been amazing to play with. I trust every single person, offense and defense,” Austin said. “I can’t wait to go into the playoffs with this team. I know, and they know, we can do a lot of damage.”

Kuna hosts Pocatello 7 p.m. Friday in the opening round of the 4A state tournament. 

 

 
 


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