Rocky Mountain High School
Conference: 5A Southern Idaho Conference - West Division Pod A
Head Coach: Scott Criner
Years as Head Coach: 3rd Season
Previous Experience: 25 years in college (Boise State, Cincinnati, U of Pacific, Northern Arizona, Sacramento State); 1 year XFL; 3 years head coach at Timberline, 5 years offensive coordinator at Eagle.
Record Last Year: 8-3
State Titles: None
OL Zach Bennett
OL Keegan Freeborn
OL Zach Redd
RB Jake Roper
RB Blake McKernan
QB Christian Blaser
WR Cordell Shelton
DL Denton Wetherell
DL Joey Tuccinardi
LB Kyle Frazier
LB Peyton Pettigrew
LB Talbot Rueppel
DB Tamir Hill
DB Colton Barney
DB Moses Nyiakomini
Returning Players with Honors:
Photo By: Steve Conner - #7 Jake Roper
“Key Players” lost from last year:
OL Connor Vrba
OL Ozzie Carlson
Incoming “impact” players:
Calin Criner (DB/KR/PR)
Carter Kuehl (RB)
Written by: Will Hoenike (@willhoenike)
A key word emerges throughout head coach Scott Criner’s notes about his Rocky Mountain team.
Criner, in his third season atop the Good Ship Grizzlies, returns a lot of players from last season’s team that went undefeated in the Southern Idaho Conference and reached the 5A State Semifinals before falling to eventual state champion Highland.
“We like how we’ve grown through the offseason,” the long-time football coach, including stints in the college and pro game, said of his teams efforts over the summer.
The Grizzlies averaged almost 500 yards of offense per game, had the second-ranked defense in the SIC … and they’ve grown?
The Grizzlies return three key pieces along the offensive line in senior tackle Zach Bennett, junior center Zach Redd and sophomore guard Keegan Freeborn. They’ll protect returning starter Christian Blaser at quarterback, who produced 1,600 yards of total offense as a junior, and open holes for senior running back Jake Roper. Roper picked up an additional 1,700 yards of total offense en route to 1st-team All-State honors, but he’ll continue to have help in the form of senior fullback Blake McKernan and sophomore Carter Kuehl, a transfer from Cole Valley Christian who finished second in the state in the 2A 100-meter dash.
Criner and his staff return eight significant contributors from last fall’s defense, led by All-State defensive tackle Joey Tuccinardi. He produced nine sacks and eight other tackles for loss last fall and will be re-joined along the defensive front by senior Denten Wetherell. Senior Talbot Rueppel and juniors Kyle Frazier and Peyton Pettigrew return to starting spots at the linebacker position. And seniors Tamir Hill, Colton Barney and Moses Nyiakomnini all returns in the defensive backfield.
Add to the mix incoming senior Calin Criner, who intercepted five passes and returned three punts for touchdowns as a junior in Saline, MI, and Rocky Mountain appears to have the pieces in place for a top-flight defense.
Criner would like to see his team pass the ball more effectively on offense and create more turnovers on defense. Areas for, you guessed it, more growth.
The Grizzlies start the season with three consecutive road games, including a season-opening tilt in the panhandle against District I’s Lake City on August 28. Those two teams produced one of the wildest games of opening week in 2014, a 39-37 win for Lake City, and each team went on to reach the 5A state semifinals.
In all, Rocky Mountain will face four of the eight teams that reached the 5A quarterfinals last season – Lake City, runner-up Mountain View, district rival Eagle and SIC power Capital.