Madison High School
Conference: 5A District 5-6 Conference
Head Coach: Mitch Buck
Years as Head Coach: 20th Season (25th Season overall)
Previous Experience: Head Coach at Firth HS and Bonneville HS
Record Last Year: 6-4
Conference Record Last Year: 3-2
State Titles: 1980, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1994, 1995, 2012
Konnor Stoneberg, QB, Senior
Connor Wills, RB/LB, Senior
Zach Anderson, WR, Senior
Josh Crane, WR, Senior
Payton Berry, OL, Senior
Justin Palmer, OL, Senior
Casey Erickson, DL, Senior
Zeke Birch, DL, Senior
Bryson Siddoway, DB, Senior
Returning Players with Honors:
Josh Crane (pictured) – 1st Team All-Conference, 1st Team 5A D5-6 All-Region, 2nd Team All-Idaho WR
Konnor Stoneberg – 2nd Team All-Conference, 2nd Team 5A D5-6 All-Region
Connor Wills – Honorable Mention All-Conference, 2nd Team 5A D5-6 All Region
Casey Erickson – 1st Team All-Conference, 1st Team 5A D5-6 All-Region, 2nd Team All-Idaho DL
Zach Anderson – 2nd Team All-Conference, Honorable Mention 5A D5-6 All-Region
Payton Berry – 2nd Team All-Conference, Honorable Mention 5A D5-6 All-Region
Photo By: Steve Conner - #3 Josh Crane
“Key Players” lost from last year:
Nathan Evans, ILB – 2nd Team All-Idaho LB
Mitch South, FS
Brandon Estheimer, DE
Keaton Parkinson, WR
Taylor Williams, DB
Eli Norton, SS
Incoming “impact” players:
Curtis Hathaway, WR, Senior
Written by: Matt Harris (@IdahoSportsMatt)
Back up the mountain they climb.
After reaching the pinnacle of the Idaho high school football world in 2012 by running the table en route to a perfect 12-0 record and the 5A state championship, the Madison Bobcats tumbled down mountain in 2013 after graduating all but two starters from 2012. The youth and inexperience of the Bobcats showed during that 3-6 season, leading some to believe that they were just a ‘one hit wonder’.
Madison would have none of that talk in 2014.
The Bobcats stormed back into the playoffs with a 5-3 regular season record, beating Timberline in the first round to advance on to play Mountain View in the state quarterfinals. While the Bobcats came up just short in a 27-19 loss to the eventual state runners-up, the message became clear: when these Madison kids suit up in 2015 as seniors, the state better be ready for them.
Madison went from the pinnacle to the base of the mountain in one season record-wise. However, the experience gained from 2013 will have lasting effects on this group in 2015. Why? Because most of these seniors played significant roles on the team in 2013, when youth and inexperience prevailed on the roster.
This season, Madison is ready to take on the challenge. They believe they have the players, the experience, and the game-planning to ascend the mountain and reach the top. And head coach Mitch Buck is more than ready to lead them to their lofty goals.
Buck enters his 20th season at the helm of the Bobcats program (his 25th season as a head coach overall) and he knows a thing or two about bringing home the hardware. He has four state titles to his name including three at Madison and one at Firth. And the cupboard at his disposal is overflowing with talent.
The Bobcats return numerous senior players including starting quarterback Konnor Stoneberg, entering his third season as Madison’s starting quarterback. His ability to both pass and run effectively will keep teams on edge again this year.
“Konnor is a dual threat quarterback that can beat you through the air or with his legs,” Buck said. “He’s going to continue to bring excitement to every Madison game.”
Joining Stoneberg in the wide receivers core are seniors Zach Anderson and Josh Crane, who was selected as a 2nd Team All-Idaho wide receiver in 2014. Anderson and Crane combined for over 2,500 yards last season and should continue to be a dominating force against opposing secondaries.
Re-joining the Madison football team this season is senior wide receiver Curtis Hathaway, who took a year off from the game in 2014. The Bobcats expect him to have an impact from the get-go, especially in the kicking game.
The running back position will see new faces this year after the graduation of Garret Stanger and Skyler Buck. But the Bobcats have a host of players to fill the void as Connor Wills, son of Madison athletic director Erick Wills, will take over running back duties along with a host of talented juniors.
If you’ve watched a Madison game recently, you’ll notice that they LOVE to pass the ball. Several times last season, Stoneberg threw for over 300 yards in a single game. But even with the amount of passing seen, the Bobcats approach remains the same: balance.
“We want our running game to take on a bigger role… we want to try to control the time of possession,” Buck said. “The passing game still has its place. But we want that balance.”
Most of the offensive line returns this year and will be anchored by seniors Justin Palmer and Payton Berry. Having most of the line return is a key advantage for the Bobcats – they should gel much quicker than other teams who are replacing their lines.
Defensively, the Bobcats return almost everyone who started last season minus a few key pieces. Inside linebacker Nathan Evans and free safety Mitch South have both graduated from the program. But Madison is ready for the next wave of Bobcats to prove their mettle at those positions. Wills along with junior Briggs Neff will takeover at linebacker and Hayden Leatham will replace South at free safety.
As for everyone else, well, it’s all about building on the momentum of last season. The defensive line should be very difficult to deal with this year, as Casey Erickson and Zeke Birch return to wreak havoc on the outside. With plenty of experience and athleticism on defense, expect Madison to make life miserable for opponents on the line of scrimmage.
The Bobcats gave up 22.4 points per game in 2014 and while Buck would love to get that number in the single digits range, he has another key focus entering the season.
“Turnovers,” he said. “Takeaways are the goal for us. We want to win that battle.”
Madison will get to see early on if their progress is where they want it to be. The Bobcats welcome 5A SIC counterpart Capital to Ferguson Field on August 28, another team that is expected to contend in their conference but also on the state level.
Then comes the contest against the defending 5A state champions on September 18th. The Highland Rams visit Rexburg in what could be the de facto conference championship game. Last season, Highland and Madison finished #1 and #2 in the conference, respectively.
The Bobcats also have another weapon up their sleeve – one that is well-known throughout the state, even if it never steps foot on the field. It’s their fans.
“We have the best fans in the state, no question,” Buck said.
The fan factor has caused crowded stadiums and overcrowded gymnasiums at the state level. In fact, the IHSAA had to rearrange the 2013 State 4A basketball schedule just so that all the fans would have an opportunity to get in to see the action. Whether its football or basketball, Madison fans are willing to travel all over the state to support their team, most times bringing more fans than the home team has.
It’s like a big family at Madison when it comes to its athletic program, which fits in extremely well with their motto for this year: “One Family, One Goal, One Chance.”
The Bobcats know that this season is a great opportunity for them – not only to represent their school, but their community, their peers, and the people who have gone on before them to lay the foundation of the program and culture of success.
Is this the year Madison wrestles superiority of the East Idaho 5A schools away from Highland? Can they bring home their eighth state championship in school history? Will the Bobcats make the most of their opportunities?
For these seniors, this is their last chance at football glory in high school. They know it, they’ve embraced it, and they are ready to take on the challenge.
Back up the mountain they climb.