Butte County High School
Conference: 1AD1 High Desert Conference
Classification: 1A D1
Head Coach: Sam Thorngren
Years as Head Coach: 9th Season
Previous Experience: One year as offensive coordinator at Butte County
Record Last Year: 9-1
State Titles: None
Russell Cummins (Defensive Coordinator)
Rye McAffee (Line Coach)
John Waymire (Conditioning Coach)
Cougar Coburn, K/P, Sr.
Jeremie Hjelm, RB/DB, Sr.
Zac Harrell, RB/LB, Sr.
Keller Lambson, OL/DL, Sr.
Gerrett Blattner, OL/DL, Sr.
Zane Danz, OL/LB, Sr.
Returning Players with Honors:
Cougar Coburn: 1st Team All-State Punter, Conference Special Teams Player of the Year
Jeremie Hjelm: 2nd Team All-State RB, All-Conference RB & DB
Zac Harrell: All-Conference RB
Keller Lambson: All-Conference DL
Gerrett Blattner: Conference Defensive Player of the Year, All-Conference OL
Photo By: Brad Barlow - #24 Jeremie Hjelm
“Key Players” lost from last year:
Kaydon Beard, OL/DL, All-Conference OL, high motor and emotional leader of the team.
Kent Cummins, RB/LB, on field leader of our defense, made all the calls.
Jon Isham, QB/DB, All-Conference DB, on-field leader of our team, sound decision maker.
Schooner Collins, RB/LB, All-Conference LB, impact player on both sides of the ball.
Incoming “impact” players:
Landen Gamett, QB/DB, 11
Aaron Mays, OL/DL, 11
Matt Isham, RB/DB, 11
Bryant Webb, RB/LB, 11
Kalib Hawley, OL/DL, 10
Brett Waymire, RB/DB, 10
Written by: Matt Harris (@IdahoSportsMatt)
Overtime can be such a heartbreaker. Just ask the Butte County Pirates.
Last season, they held a 36-22 advantage with five minutes left in the fourth quarter of their 1A Division-I state quarterfinal game at home against Kamiah. But a few simple mistakes led to a Kubs comeback and eventual 42-36 win in overtime, ending the Pirates perfect season.
This year, Butte County hopes to learn from the failures of last season and advance further in the state brackets.
“We’re a veteran team that should be poised to make a deep run,” said Sam Thorngren, now in his 9th season as the head coach in Arco.
The offense looks to keep on humming at the same rate from 2014 as many starters return. Senior running backs Jeremie Hjelm and Zac Harrell are back to power the Pirates power rushing attack. Hjelm rushed for 1,579 yards last year while Harrell collected 1,142 yards on the ground. Overall, Butte County rushed for 4,027 yards in 2014, an average of 402.7 yards per game.
“We run the Wing-T offense and pride ourselves on running the football,” Thorngren said. “Along with Hjelm and Harrell, we have a stable of runners that provide outstanding depth for our offense.”
That stable includes juniors Matt Isham and Bryant Webb along with sophomores Matt Isham and Christian King. They will have to help carry the heavy workload of the Pirates rushing attack. But it’s a load that Thorngren knows can be handled well thanks to their offensive line.
“We have quality blockers up front with returning players in Gerrett Blattner, Keller Lambson, and Zane Danz,” he said. “We’re adding Aaron Mays and Kalib Hawley to the line this year and they should be able to step in and make sure that things continue to run smoothly up front.”
As is with many small schools, graduation can be a momentum killer in view of team sports. This season, Butte County replaces four seniors who all played an integral part on the team, including QB/DB Jon Isham, OL/DL Kaydon Beard, RB/LB Kent Cummins, and RB/LB Schooner Collins.
“Jon was the on-field leader of our team and made sound decisions,” said Thorngren. “Kaydon was the emotional leader, Kent led our defensive calls, and Schooner made a huge impact on both sides of the ball.”
With a total school enrollment sitting at 100 students, how do you replace those types of key players? At Butte County High School, it’s the ‘next man up’ mentality.
Replacing Jon Isham at QB/DB is junior Landon Gamett, a talented athlete that played significant minutes on defense last season. Brett Waymire can also step in and play the quarterback position as well.
With as much success as Butte County has in the rushing game, they are constantly trying to improve their passing game too.
“We threw for 868 yards last season,” Thorngren said. “We want to continue to improve in that area for balance.”
Defensively, the Pirates hope to maintain the stout defense that has led them in tough spots.
“We feel we have had one of the better defenses in 8-man football during the past three seasons,” said Thorngren, “and there is no reason for that to change. We are very good at stopping the run and not giving up the big play. We have talent at all three levels of the defense.”
Thorngren pointed to the defense’s overall speed as a huge strength for his ball club, which can be seen in all facets of their scheme. Having returning players with experience should only help Butte County this season.
“Gerrett Blattner and Keller Lambson should control the front line for us,” he said. “Zane Danz will step up as our leader at linebacker and Jeremie Hjelm and Landen Gamett are proven talents for us in the secondary.”
The Pirates hope to utilize all of that talent to achieve two common goals on defense this season: forcing more turnovers and creating a more effective pass rush.
There is one aspect that is often overlooked in the 8-man game: special teams. Thorngren believes that Butte County’s excellent special teams execution is a driving force behind their success.
“Our special teams gives us a big advantage in most games,” he said. “We may have the best kicker and punter in the state on our side.”
Just who is that kicker and punter? Look no further than incoming senior Cougar Coburn, who in his first season playing football in 2014 took home 1st Team All-State Punter honors. As a junior, Coburn averaged 51.17 yards per punt, consistently hit PAT’s, and was 2-of-3 on field goal attempts.
“In pre-game warmups, you can see him consistently hit 40 and 50 yard field goals,” said Thorngren.
Not a bad card to have in your back pocket should the need to play one arise.
Butte County looks to pick up where they left off in 2014. With the wealth of talent at their disposal, the Pirates are poised to contend for another High Desert Conference championship and, potentially, their first ever state title.