North Gem High School
Conference: Sawtooth Conference East Division
Classification: 1A D2
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Head Coach: Dana Strong
Years as Head Coach: 2nd Season
Previous Experience: Hansen High School, Timberline Middle School
Record Last Year: 7-3
State Titles: 1988, 1996
Logan Strong, End/DE, 12
Walker Davids, QB/DE/S, 12
Bridger Jensen, RB/LB, 12
Jacob Lish, C/DT, 12
Trenton Thompson, G/LB, 12
Dylan Low, RB/DE/DT, 12
Kade Hatch, G/RB/LB, 12
Brandon Lloyd, End/G/DE, 12
Hunter Delbridge, RB/LB/DE, 11
Nathan Christensen, End/S, 11
Dawson Barfuss, QB/End/S, 11
Tucker Swenson, C/G/DE, 11
Bronx Holbrook, QB/End/DE, 10
Bennett Cooper, End/DE, 10
Chance Williams, RB/LB, 10
Jarrett Skeem, G/RB/LB, 10
Returning Players with Honors:
Bridger Jensen – All-Conference
Key Players lost from last year:
McKay Wadsworth, All-Conference OL
Dallin Lloyd, All-State Safety
Tyler Perkins, All-Conference DE
Karson Lloyd, All-Conference DE/WR
Photo By: Willy Harris - $10 Bridger Jensen
Written by: Matt Harris (@IdahoSportsMatt)
The North Gem Cowboys had one of their best seasons in recent memory in 2015. With a stellar senior class, the Cowboys went 7-3 with a trip to the 1A Division-II state quarterfinals – and now they are ready to take the Sawtooth East Conference by storm.
Led by second year head coach Dana Strong, North Gem is in position to make a run at the conference championship and potentially the deepest playoff run the team has seen in quite some time. However, the Cowboys are mixing in a good amount of young talent that will need to adjust to the varsity level to help make their goals possible.
“We lost a lot of size and talent from both lines of scrimmage,” said Strong, noting that the younger players will need to fill large shoes and mature quickly. “We have the potential to have a deep and talented team.”
Gone from the 2015 squad are standouts McKay Wadsworth, Dallin Lloyd, Tyler Perkins, and Karson Lloyd, all of whom made big impacts on both sides of the ball. However, with change comes opportunity for North Gem. Strong said that he saw great strides from his team in the offseason.
“We are faster this season,” he said. “The players are more committed to our passing game and to conditioning.”
Offensively, the Cowboys will look to incorporate more of the aerial attack this year, whereas they primarily ran a run-oriented offense in 2015. That offense averaged 40.0 points per game last season.
“We want to have a more balanced approach,” said Strong. “Dylan Low and Bridger Jensen will highlight a strong rushing attack for us. We will use a large number of receivers and as many as three quarterbacks this year: Walker Davids, Bronx Holbrook, and Dawson Barfuss. Having them play at a high level and avoiding turnovers is going to be key for us.
Strong hopes that the offensive line will gel and form a cohesive unit quickly, especially with so much turnover personnel-wise.
“We lost almost our entire starting offensive line, so we will be looking to rebuild with a quicker line,” he said. “We are going to employ a more diverse and hopefully more potent passing attack.”
On the other side of the ball, the Cowboys bring back a talented defense that is strong in shutting down the pass and the run. In 2015, North Gem gave up an average of 24.9 points per game.
“Trenton Thompson, Bridger Jensen, and Chance Williams will highlight a talented linebacking core,” Strong said. “We are strong up front and on the edges as well. Our safeties are experienced and strong.”
Strong acknowledges one major aspect of the defense that could use some tuning up.
“We have to cut down on the big play and big plays off of broken plays,” he said. “We also want to tackle better at the second level.”
The Cowboys open up the 2016 season on the road as they face the Raft River Trojans in Malta on August 26th. Their home opener will be September 2nd as they face the same team that eliminated them from the playoffs last year, the Carey Panthers.
“That’s a must-see game for us. They will be a real test as they are talented and well-coached,” said Strong, who also said the same of conference newcomer Butte County whom they face at home on September 16th.
As of this writing, North Gem’s game in Richfield on September 16th is potentially in doubt as the Tigers are struggling with numbers. They then face District 3 opponent Horseshoe Bend at home on the 23rd. The Cowboys will then travel up I-15 to face the Clark County Bobcats in Dubois on the 30th. They then host the Malad 8-man squad on October 7th before visiting Rockland on October 14th and hosting Watersprings on October 21st.
“We have a very tough schedule at the beginning of the season, but we should continue to improve and gain momentum as the year progresses,” said Strong.
As for conference play, Strong feels that new addition Butte County should be a favorite to contend for the league crown along with Clark County.
“Clark County is very well coached and will be tough again,” he said. “Each conference game is an emotional contest and will be a challenge.”
The challenge is what has Strong and the Cowboys eager to begin the season. Their motto this year is ‘Pay The Price’, meaning that championships are won at the price of dedication, hard work, and commitment.
“I love to see a team come together and develop their own identity,” Strong said. “Watching players progress and develop as individuals is really fulfilling.”