Snake River High School
Conference: 3A South East Idaho Conference
Head Coach: Jeff Dalley
Years as Head Coach: 9th Season
Previous Experience: Head Coach at Firth, Assistant Coach at Pocatello and Snake River
Record Last Year: 11-1
State Titles: 90, 95, 96, 98, 99, 00, 01, 02, 11, 14
Sean Miller, QB, Senior
Wyatt Vogler, RB, Senior
Luke Albertson, LB, Senior
Brody Young, LB, Senior
Porter Thomas, OL, Senior (pictured)
Israel Vega, OL, Senior
Matt Howell, DL, Senior
Davian Martinez, LB, Senior
Returning Players with Honors:
Wyatt Vogler – 3A All-Idaho Player of the Year
Porter Thomas – 1st Team All-Idaho OL
Photo By: Steve Conner - #75 Porter Thomas
“Key Players” lost from last year:
Tyrel Jensen – 1st Team All-Idaho DL
David Serna – 1st Team All-Idaho DB, 2nd Team All-Idaho WR, 2nd Team All-Idaho K
Damon Dance – 1st Team All-Idaho LB, now at NCAA Div-II Chadron State.
Payden Dalley – 1st Team All-Idaho DB
Cole Hrabik – 2nd Team All-Idaho TE
Chandler Ellis – 2nd Team All-Idaho OL
Written by: Matt Harris (@IdahoSportsMatt)
There is really no other way to describe the play of the 2014 state champion Snake River Panthers.
Outside of a close 14-12 loss to 4A Preston in Franklin County, no one touched the Panthers all year long. Having eight All-Idaho players on their squad may have played a factor in that too.
Every game Snake River won last season was done by at least 14 points. The Panthers scored 40 or more points seven times, including three games of 50-plus points. The boys in purple shut out four separate opponents and held three others to seven points or less. Their average win margin was well over 30 points per game and they held opponents to less than 10 points per game on average.
It’s just a continuation of football excellence in Moreland. Snake River owns 10 state football championships, tied for the most in Idaho in the IHSAA era, which began in 1977 (Highland of Pocatello also has 10 state titles).
Snake River is led by head coach Jeff Dalley, now in his 9th season in Moreland. He doesn’t anticipate the momentum from last year’s championship season slowing down.
“We bring back a great core of linemen and have several skill players coming back,” he said.
The good news for Snake River’s opponents this year? The Panthers lost six All-Idaho players to graduation. The bad news? The Panthers have plenty of firepower returning this year, including the 3A All-Idaho Player of the Year in running back Wyatt Vogler.
The resume from his junior season is rather impressive: as a running back, Vogler had 124 carries for 1,267 yards (10.2 yards per carry) and 15 touchdowns. As a receiver, he caught eight passes for 224 yards (28 yards per catch) and four touchdowns. As a punt returner, he returned 11 punts for 199 yards and one touchdown. And as a kickoff returner, he gained 259 yards on eight kickoff returns with one touchdown.
“Wyatt is an all-around back. He could run with power. He could catch and had the speed to turn any play into a touchdown,” Dalley said to the Idaho Statesman last December.
That ability hasn’t changed. He’s only getting better.
“He’s one of those kids that anytime he touched the ball, there was an opportunity that he could take it all the way,” said Dalley to the Statesman. “We wanted to give him as many opportunities as we could to get the ball in his hands and use the tools that he has to make something happen for our team.”
Vogler isn’t the only player returning to the squad this season. His backfield teammate, quarterback Sean Miller, is also back to defend their state championship. Miller was a key player in Snake River’s ascension last season – calmly and firmly operating the Snake River offense with precision.
Last season, the Panthers decided to open up the playbook and allow Miller to throw downfield. It allowed for more passing in spread situations instead of Snake River’s traditional run-between-the-tackles offense. That change opened up the field for Vogler to succeed in rushing situations and, in turn, also allowed Miller to succeed through the air when the box was stacked against Vogler.
Expect plenty more of that this season.
Another returnee this season includes 1st Team All-Idaho offensive lineman Porter Thomas. He, along with incoming senior Israel Vega will anchor the offensive line, which Dalley believes is a strength to his team, despite the personnel turnover due to graduation.
Lost are the services of All-Idaho wide receiver David Serna and All-Idaho tight end Cole Hrabik. Wide receiver Klay Keller has also moved on, leaving openings on offense. It’s a ‘next man up’ mentality at Snake River.
Defensively, the Panthers return quite a few seasoned veterans. Dalley pointed to his front seven defenders as a strength of his defense for this season. Coming back in 2015 is senior Matt Howell, who will lead the defensive line. The linebacking core expects to be solid once again as Luke Albertson, Brody Young, and Davian Martinez look to lock down the second level.
If the Panthers defense can continue to shut down opponents at the same rate as they did in 2014 remains to be seen, as four All-Idaho starters graduated last season. Defensive lineman Tyrel Jensen along with linebacker Damon Dance and defensive backs David Serna and Payden Dalley (all 1st Team All-Idaho selections) leave large voids in the Panthers defense. But Snake River has more experience to choose from when filling those gaps.
In 2015, the Panthers will play two 4A opponents mid-season in Preston and Jerome with both games being in Moreland. But a big game to focus on is in just the second week of the season: a trip up Highway 91 to Shelley to take on the Russets.
Last season, Snake River beat the Russets twice: a 19-0 shutout in Moreland on Oct. 3 and a 28-14 victory in the state semifinals at Holt Arena. There is no love lost between these two opponents. They (mostly fans) have no problem voicing their dislike for one another. Both programs have been extremely successful in the realm of high schools. While the game is technically a non-conference game, there is a lot of pride and bragging rights on the line.
Of course, for all we know, it could just be a sneak peek at a potential playoff matchup – maybe even of the state championship variety.
Do we see a repeat from Snake River in 2015? What can Vogler and company accomplish this year? Could Snake River bring home a record 11th state championship?
The wait begins.