South Fremont High School
Conference: 3A Mountain Rivers Conference
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Head Coach: Chad Hill
Years as Head Coach: 5th Season
Previous Experience: Assistant coach at South Fremont for 10 years
Record Last Year: 6-4
State Titles: None
Rod Coverley (DC)
Zach Goulding (OC)
Drew Stoddard, OL/MLB, 12
Blake Bartschi, WR/DE, 12
Bryson Stoddard, WR/DB, 12
Returning Players with Honors:
Blake Bartschi - 1st Team All-Conference Wide Receiver & Defensive Line
Drew Stoddard – 1st Team All-Conference Linebacker & 2nd Team All-Conference Defensive Line
James Bagley - 2nd Team All-Conference Defensive Line
Bryson Stoddard – Honorable Mention All-Conference Defensive Back
Nick Trost – Honorable Mention All-Conference Offensive Line
Key Players lost from last year:
Alec Pope, RB/DB
Cody Tucker, QB
Tyler Barney, WR/DB
Tucker Olsen, RB/LB
Incoming impact players:
Steven Zundel, WR/DB, 11
Reece Yancey, QB, 11
Daniel Coverley, WR/DB, 11
Conner Johnson, WR/SS, 12
Written by: Matt Harris (@IdahoSportsMatt)
It’s been a steady, upward climb for the South Fremont Cougars football program under head coach Chad Hill. From posting a one win season in 2012 to now back-to-back state quarterfinals appearances, the Cougars are looking for more.
After coming up painstakingly short in heartbreaking fashion in last year’s state quarterfinals against eventual state runner-up Gooding, South Fremont is hoping to improve on their 6-4 overall record and continue with the momentum that has been built in the program over the last four seasons.
“Next Level is our motto for this year,” said Hill, now in his fifth season as the Cougars head coach. “For us, it means we have steadily been climbing over the last four seasons, but we want to get to the next level where we are competing for a state championship.”
South Fremont will have to replace a few key leadership roles from last season’s squad. Quarterback Cody Tucker has graduated, along with running back Alec Pope and wide receiver/defensive back Tyler Barney. Leading tackler Tucker Olsen also graduated, leaving a gap on defense.
“We will miss Alec’s leadership and competitive desire. Cody ran the ball effectively for us last year as well and Tyler came up with a lot of big time clutch plays,” said Hill.
But with change comes opportunity for new players to step up and fill roles. And, according to Hill, his players have done an excellent job of that during the offseason.
“It’s always great to see new kids step up into new roles, especially leadership roles, and we have had a lot of our seniors really fill in that role during the summer,” he said. “We have a core group of guys that are working hard and putting in a lot of time to get better.”
Offensively for the Cougars, they bring back quite a bit of experience up front on the line from last season and should be a great strength to the team – especially when it comes to breaking in new skill position players to an offense that averaged 30.9 points per game in 2015.
“A lot of our offensive line is back,” Hill said. “Drew Stoddard, Nick Trost, Joey Mockler, Hansen Curtis and James Bagley are all returning this year. I believe they will provide our quarterback and skill players time to develop and improve quickly for us.”
Taking over the signal-calling reigns this year is junior Reece Yancey. He will have good weapons to work with on the outside with senior wide receiver Blake Bartschi, senior wide receiver Conner Johnson, and junior wide receivers Steven Zundel and Daniel Coverley. South Fremont’s strength last season was their passing ability and they have the pieces in place to continue that this season. Hill said the development of Yancey will be key to their success this season.
“Quarterback development is an ‘X-Factor’ to our season. If we can be confident and make good decisions we will be very tough this year.”
However, Hill said would like to see more of the run game integrated in 2016. Last year, the Cougars relied quite a bit on Cody Tucker to pick up yards on the ground, either through designed plays or scrambling. Tucker gained 928 yards on the ground for the season, while the rest of the team combined for 878 total rushing yards – an average of 97.5 yards per game.
“We hope to be very balanced this year which we hope will make us be more consistent, sustain drives, and keep our offense on the field longer,” he said.
On the defensive side of things, the front seven are poised to have an excellent season. Bartschi, Bagley and Fabian Morillon are all returning to the defensive line. One rival conference coach said that they should “be a force up-front” for the Cougars defense, which gave up an average of 20.7 points per game last year.
“Our defensive line is our strength,” Hill said. “Having Bartschi, Bagley and Morillon back will allow Drew Stoddard at middle linebacker to roam around and make plays for us.”
Senior defensive back Bryson Stoddard returns for South Fremont and is joined by Johnson, Zundel, and Coverley to anchor the secondary. While that crew certainly can defend downfield, Hill’s hope is that they won’t have to be constantly under siege like they were last season.
“We hope to be able to pressure teams more and not give them as much time to throw the ball,” he said. “We don’t want our cover guys to be spending so much time in coverage.”
The defense will be looking to replace graduated seniors Tucker Olsen and Alec Pope, who were two of the top three tacklers last season. Hill hopes the new starters can find their niche quickly, as the Cougars open up the season this year the same way they ended it – in Gooding.
Indeed, it was one of the more talked about matchups last season and the two teams will tussle once again in Gooding. The Cougars then return home for a home game against Nuclear Conference champion West Jefferson before travelling down to District 5 to take on the vastly improved Bear Lake Bears. Then, on September 16th, South Fremont hosts Firth in what’s been dubbed the ‘Cougar Bowl’. They then travel to Snake River the next week, followed by a trip to Marsh Valley on September 30th.
The ever-important Mountain Rivers Conference opens up play to kick off October. The Cougars will start on the road against traditional power Shelley before hosting Teton and archrival Sugar-Salem in the ‘Cold War’ to end the regular season.
“Anytime South and Sugar get together there is a lot of excitement and, really, anything can happen,” said Hill.
If the conference is anything like it was last year, it’s going to be a wild ride to see who makes the playoffs. Both Shelley, South Fremont, and Teton tied for second place last season, resulting in a win-or-go-home Kansas City playoff to determine who went to the playoffs last season.
“All four teams in our league are very competitive and it’s very tight overall,” Hill said. “Who knows, maybe there will be a tie again. I believe that Sugar-Salem is the front runner, especially since they won it last year. But I think that the Mountain Rivers Conference is always one of the toughest, if not the toughest, leagues in the state year-in and year-out.”
The road is long, but the lessons learned and memories made along the way is what makes coaching high school football worth it to Hill.
“The time you get to spend with these young men and watch them develop and mature is what makes it all great for me, personally,” he said. “It’s awesome to see the amazing things that they do. It seems like you lose so much each year, but then there is always someone new to step up into a role you would never expect them to do. We have some great players and I love spending time with them and our coaching staff. I’m excited most about seeing our seniors taking over new leadership roles and watching them all develop into great young men.’
The foundation for success has been laid by those previously in the program. They have paved the way for where South Fremont is today. It’s now up to today’s Cougars to go ‘Next Level’ and achieve the goal that has eluded the school in St. Anthony: a state football championship.
Cougar Nation awaits the journey.