West Jefferson High School
Conference: 2A Nuclear Conference
Head Coach: Jason Taylor
Years as Head Coach: 2nd Season
Previous Experience: 13 years overall, including time at Marsh Valley
Record Last Year: 5-5
State Titles: 2007
Cory Hollingsworth, Juan Calunga, Chase Beckman, Kory Kay
Written by: Matt Harris (@IdahoSportsMatt)
Five coaches in five years. A 15-game losing streak entering the 2014 season.
It felt like miles and lightyears away from the 2007 season where the West Jefferson Panthers took over the world of 2A football en route to their only state football championship in school history. Would the program ever find any sort of continuity?
Enter Jason Taylor.
The veteran head coach that took the Marsh Valley Eagles all the way to the 3A state title in 2004 entered through the revolving door of head coaches at West Jefferson, hit the off switch to that door, and brought in a sense of toughness and urgency to the small school in Terreton.
The result? A 38-0 trouncing of Soda Springs at home on the opening weekend of the season, leaving many to wonder just what was happening at West Jefferson. It certainly opened the eyes of the fans and media around the state, while at the same time opening the eyes of the players who made it happen. That game is one that Taylor won’t be forgetting any time soon.
“The kids sprinted to the middle of the field and they got a brothers cheer going and ran to the sideline which was pretty exciting,” he said to the Post Register last August. “Helmets in their hands and they sang the school song… it was a proud moment.”
The school that didn’t have much to cheer for on the field finally found themselves in the winner’s column and spring-boarded themselves mentally into a place that would lead to more success later on. Their 5-5 overall record in 2014 was their best since the Panthers went 5-4 in 2010.
So what was it exactly that led to the big turnaround in Terreton? Taylor took his players’ skills and built around them. He saw two things: size and more size. And that fit perfectly into his Double-Wing offense that worked for so long at Marsh Valley.
“We believe in a physical, run first approach,” he said. “We hope to increase the physicality of our play and execution in all areas of offense. We are also working hard to improve ball security.”
The Panthers averaged 29.6 points per game in 2014, a stark contrast from their 8.8 points per game average the year prior. Defensively, West Jefferson improved from a 34.9 points against per game mark in 2013 to a 24.0 points against per game mark in 2014. Taylor hopes that number continues to improve.
“We want to improve our eye discipline, fundamental techniques, and we want to limit the big plays,” he said.
Those keys on defense will certainly be tested throughout the Panthers somewhat difficult schedule. West Jefferson opens up on the road against new-look Soda Springs, followed by a three-game homestand against 3A South Fremont, defending 2A state champion West Side, and 2014 Nuclear Conference champion North Fremont. The Panthers then hit the road for games at Ririe and Firth to open up October before returning back to Terreton for their final conference game of the season against Salmon. They round out the schedule on October 23rd on the road at Wendell.
Just as other Nuclear Conference head coach have remarked, Taylor says that the conference schedule is no walk in the park.
“I’m not sure if there is a ‘must-see’ game on our schedule, but our league is very tough,” he said. “I hope we can compete and that those will be good games to see.”
Taylor continued on saying that he hopes his team’s senior leadership steps up and helps lead them to success, calling it his ‘X-Factor’ to the season.
“We have some experienced players to build on,” he said. “I have great coaches to work with to aide in the building of the program.”
Indeed, it’s a new regime and a new, fresh style at West Jefferson. Taylor loves being a part of the entire experience.
“I love the strategy of the game, the challenge, and the brotherhood of players,” he said. “We have great kids, a great facility, and a great community.”
After making an appearance in the state quarterfinals in year one of the Jason Taylor era, expectations are optimistic and cautiously rising in Terreton.
With the program now organized and the mental shackles of failures past in the rearview mirror, the Panthers will look to continue their climb to the peak they visited in 2007 – the state championship.