North Gem High School
Conference: Sawtooth Conference East Division
Classification: 1A D2
Head Coach: Dana Strong
Years as Head Coach: 1st Season`
Previous Experience: 10 years
Record Last Year: 5-4
State Titles: 1988, 1996
Brent Lish, Jason Perkins
Colton Lloyd, OL, Senior
McKay Wadsworth, OL/DL, Senior
Stele Parker, OL/DL, Senior
Alex Toly, OL/DL, Senior
Bryce Wilder, OL/DL, Senior
Walker Davids, QB/LB, Junior
Trenton Thompson, C/LB, Junior
Dylan Low, RB/S, Junior
Bridger Jensen, End/S, Junior
Jacob Lish, RB/C/LB, Junior
Kade Hatch, RB/LB/S, Junior
Brandon Lloyd, OL/DL, Junior
Logan Strong, RB/End/DE, Junior
Hunter Delbridge, RB/LB, Sophomore
Dawson Barfuss, QB/S, Sophomore
Nathan Christensen, End/S, Sophomore
Tucker Swenson, C/LB, Sophomore
Returning Players with Honors:
Dallin Lloyd, All-Conference S
McKay Wadsworth, All-Conference OL
Alex Toly, All-Conference OG
“Key Players” lost from last year:
Tucker Lish, RB – Team leader and leading scorer.
Incoming “impact” players:
Jarrett Skeem, End/LB, Freshman
Bronx Holbrook, QB/DE, Freshman
Bennett Cooper, End/S, Freshman
Chance Williams, RB/LB, Freshman
Written by: Matt Harris (@IdahoSportsMatt)
The Cowboys are ready to take the next step.
After finishing 2014 with a 5-4 record and bowing out in the 1AD2 state quarterfinals to eventual state champion Lighthouse Christian, North Gem feels like they have the pieces in place to make a run this year.
Leading the charge is new head coach Dana Strong, a veteran when it comes to Idaho high school sports. The former Hansen Huskies head football coach relocated from Weippe, where he was the head girls basketball coach at Timberline. He’s been coaching in Idaho for 30-plus years and hopes to be able to capitalize on the momentum created in the program the past two seasons.
“I love dealing with young men and the whole process of building a successful team,” Strong said. “I think we have great attitudes, a strong work ethic, and the experience and talent to be successful. And our players are enthused for the season.”
The Cowboys certainly have experience and talent on their side. Running back Tucker Lish is one of the few to move on due to graduation, but the core in large part remains intact.
North Gem returns six seniors to the squad this year, including most of last year’s starting offensive line. Seniors McKay Wadsworth and Alex Toly, both All-Conference offensive line selections, will anchor the front. They are joined by seniors Colton Lloyd, Stele Parker, and Bryce Wilde. Juniors Brandon Lloyd and Trenton Thompson should also see significant time. Strong’s concern however wasn’t about who he has on the line, it’s about how can he keep them fresh.
“We need to build more depth along the line and need to become more disciplined in our assignments,” he said.
The Cowboys bring back several contributors from the skill positions. Junior Walker Davids returns at quarterback with fellow juniors Dylan Low and Bridger Jensen manning the running back positions. Freshman Chance Williams will see plenty of time in the backfield too. Juniors Jacob Lish and Kade Hatch will get touches and sophomore Hunter Delbridge will add depth.
“Dylan, Bridger, and Chance will see plenty of time running the football,” Strong said. “We have some very good team speed and depth at the skill positions. We are striving to have a more balanced attack and quarterback Walker Davids will be key to accomplishing this.”
Defensively, Strong has liked what he has seen so far in his short time in Bancroft.
“Our players are not afraid to hit,” he said. “They thrive on mixing it up. Our speed is going to be a big asset.”
Strong pointed to Thompson as one who should be ‘a tackling machine’. He also mentioned seniors Tyler Perkins and Dallin Lloyd as big contributors at the end position with Low and Jensen controlling the secondary. Despite having a lot of returning pieces, Strong knows there is work to be done.
“We need to work on knowing our assignments at all times,” he said.
There is one commonality between the offense and defense: turnovers.
“We have to limit turnovers on offense and be able to create turnovers on defense,” said Strong. “That’s the X-Factor to having success this season as a team.”
North Gem will play a seven-game schedule this season, opening up at home against Caribou County rival, the Grace Grizzlies, followed by a trip to District IV to take on the Carey Panthers.
“Carey is a big rival of ours, but that game is on the road. The Grace game to start the season will be an intense battle as well,” Strong said.
The Cowboys then take on Richfield at home before a bye week on Sept. 25. They then have a three-game homestand as they host Murtaugh, Rockland, and Clark County. North Gem finishes the season on the road in Idaho Falls against Watersprings.
With a new sheriff in town in Strong and a strong returning cast of characters, the Cowboys hope that they can move forward and learn from the experience of last season while advancing deeper into the playoffs than they have in recent memory.
It will be tough when it comes time for the crossover games against the Sawtooth West Division at the end of October, but North Gem feels that this year is the year to do it.