Caldwell High School
Conference: 4A Southern Idaho Conference
Head Coach: Zach McGee
Years as Head Coach: 4th Season
Record Last Year: 2-7
State Titles: None
22 Letterman. 9 starters on offense and 8 starters on defense
Returning Players with Honors:
P Braden Swanson (2nd-Team All State); Marton Escobedo (2nd-Team All Conference); Austin Van Horne (Honorable Mention All Conference)
“Key Players” lost from last year:
WR/CB Max Weitz; S Tim Storms; LB David Sio
Incoming “impact” players:
DL/TE Triden Mitchell; OL/DL Manny Sarmiento
Written by: Will Hoenike (@willhoenike)
You can’t really blame people like Zach McGee, the head coach of the Caldwell Cougars, if he’s a little tired of seeing the same three teams atop the 4A Southern Idaho Conference standings.
Four of the past five seasons, the three teams to represent the conference in the 4A state playoffs have been the same – Bishop Kelly, Skyview and Middleton.
For McGee and his Cougars, the challenge is twofold. First, break into that circle. And second, in doing so, win a state football playoff game for the first time since 2004. With 22 returning letterwinners, including nine returning starters on offense and eight more on defense, the Cougars’ fate could be in their own hands.
McGee also has a three-year starter returning at quarterback in Austin Van Horne. The senior signal-caller was honorable-mention All-Conference last fall and is back with another year of experience under his belt. He did lose pass-catching target Max Weitz but, on the other hand, has virtually his entire offensive line back, led by senior Martin Escobedo and augmented by newcomer Manny Sarmiento.
The team also returns its top three ball-carriers, including Jacob Swain, who combined for over 1,100 yards and 16 touchdowns last season. Swain finished the season on a high note, rushing for nearly 200 yards in a season-ending victory over Mountain Home.
“The Cougars should have a solid foundation on which to build,” McGee said. “This team looks to score some points this season.”
Defensively, Caldwell struggled in 2014. The team only held one team below 28 points and allowed an average of nearly 43 points per game over its final five games of the season. No matter how potent the offense, it’s tough to overcome those numbers. Along with eight returning starters, Triden Mitchell will join the fray to help improve those numbers.
“If they rely on each other and play team defense,” McGee reasoned, “This unit could shine.”
A fast start is imperative for Caldwell in 2015. The team opens October with a stretch that sees them play at defending state champ Bishop Kelly, home against Middleton and home against co-conference champion Skyview – the SIC’s three-headed monster – in three consecutive weeks. That puts a premium on early road games at Vallivue and Weiser before coming home to face Canyon County rival Nampa for the 110th time on September 11.
Following the big game with Nampa, the Cougars go to Payette. That’ s three of four on the road to start the season but each could be viewed as a winnable game for the Cougars. If McGee’s squad can come out of that in good shape (both in the win/loss column and health-wise), it sets up a scenario where three of the next four games are at home for a possible playoff push.
“Our goal is to have the first winning season at Caldwell in ten years,” McGee said. “We have our work cut out for us.”