Snake River High School
Conference: 3A South East Idaho Conference
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Head Coach: Jeb Harrison
Years as Head Coach: 1st Season
Previous Experience: Snake River assistant coach, 2001
Firth assistant coach, 2002
Pocatello assistant coach, 2003-2014
Century assistant coach, 2015
Record Last Year: 8-1
State Titles: 90, 95, 96, 98, 99, 00, 01, 02, 11, 14
Bransen Walker, QB, 12
Carter Pilster, RB, 12
Payson Anderton, FB/LB, 12
Angel Garza, C, 12
Kace Martin, TE/LB, 12
Key Players lost from last year:
QB Sean Miller
RB Wyatt Vogler
Photo By: Snake River Football
Incoming impact players:
Bransen Walker, QB
Written by: Matt Harris (@IdahoSportsMatt)
Once again, there is a Harrison roaming the sidelines at Snake River High School.
Nearly 14 years after his father, Tom, left the Panthers to take the head coaching job at Pocatello High School, his son Jeb now returns to take the reigns of the 10-time state champion powerhouse program.
However, the younger Harrison will have to begin with a boatload of fresh new faces after Snake River graduated almost every starter from their 2015 team. Only eight seniors are listed on the roster. Add in the fact that Harrison began in mid-July after former coach Jeff Dalley left to coach at cross-town rival Blackfoot and one could assume that the new coach and his team might be swamped before they ever get started.
Harrison, however, says that’s not the case.
“Our weight room has been full all summer long,” he said. “Even when Coach Dalley left, the team leaders held it together and had great turnouts in the summer while our administration was looking for a new coach. The team has unity and camaraderie that shows on the practice field.”
The Panthers will be looking to shake off the disappointment of last season, falling in the play-in round to South Fremont despite coming into the contest with a perfect 8-0 record. Perhaps this could be one of the reasons Harrison and his staff selected “You vs. Yesterday” as their team motto. Regardless, Snake River is ready to work and prove that, despite their lack of experience, they are still the class of the conference.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Panthers will be replacing several players overall, including three-year starters Sean Miller and Wyatt Vogler, the latter being named the 3A Idaho Player of the Year in 2014.
“I think we will be able to run the ball well,” said Harrison. “Senior Carter Pilster should get the bulk of the carries at running back.” The coach mentioned that senior Payson Anderton would line up at fullback, with Kace Martin at tight end.
Snake River also breaks in a new quarterback with senior Bransen Walker.
“He is very athletic and throws really well,” Harrison said. “He’s learning a new offense that started in mid-July. He just needs to get some experience under his belt and then I think he will excel.” The offense averaged 40.7 points per game last season.
The Panthers will be hoping that the offensive line can gel quickly in order to protect Pilster and Walker.
“We only have one returning senior on the offensive line with Angel Garza,” Harrison said. “However, the lack of experience is overwhelmed by a very talented offensive line.”
Defensively, Snake River again loses a lot of experience at most positions, however Harrison says the talent of the incoming players should help their transition. He included some of his focus on the linebacking core.
“Junior James Clegg and senior Payson Anderton are both really good linebackers,” he said. “When I look at Clegg, I see myself in the mirror 16 years ago when I played at Snake River – except he is stronger and faster.” He also mentioned that Anderton is a two-time state champion wrestler.
“We have strong, tough kids at Snake River and I think teams will have a difficult time running the ball on us… we can’t be overconfident and just need to work together as a team.” The defense gave up an average of 19.1 points per game in 2015.
Harrison said that he is expecting growing pains from his young squad, especially with how late he and the new coaching staff were hired. However, he is thrilled with the opportunity to be back at Snake River.
“I’m most excited at being back home and coaching good, smart, strong kids,” he said. “We are still learning a new system with a new coaching staff, but I think we will be very good during the second half of our season once we get some experience.”
The season schedule is definitely competitive for the Panthers. They open up the year on the road at cross-town rival Blackfoot on August 26th. They then head home for four of their next five games at Harrison Field, as they host Bingham County rival Shelley, followed by trip to Sugar-Salem, before hosting South Fremont, Teton, and Marsh Valley in consecutive weeks. Snake River then finishes the season on the road on October 14th at American Falls and at an old 3A South East Idaho Conference rival, the Preston Indians.
“Our out-of-conference schedule is really tough,” said Harrison. “We play 4A perennial powerhouse and cross-town rival Blackfoot right out of the gate and finish with 4A Preston. We play all of the teams in the very tough 6th District (Mountain Rivers Conference). The Shelley game as always been big. South Fremont put us out of the playoffs last year – that’s a tough game to forget. I think we will be well tested when conference play comes around.”
As for the prospects of the conference, Harrison was complementary to league-members American Falls and Marsh Valley.
“Marsh Valley has a new coach and a new attitude just like us,” he said. “I think that Tony Cade is doing some really good things at American Falls and they are getting better every year.”
Panther blood is in Jeb Harrison. He grew up under the wing of and on the field named after his father. He’s been a part of football in some way, shape, or form, for as long as he can remember. His father took him to practice every day, starting when they were at Raft River High School. For all intents and purposes, Jeb is a football junkie.
“The first football play I ever drew was on the back of a church program when I was eight years old,” he said. “I still have it too. No envelope or piece of paper in our house was safe.”
Jeb’s love of coaching was very well fostered by his father’s inclusion of him from a young age on the football field.
“He let me name two plays back in 1993 when I was 11 years old. One was ‘Captain Crunch Pizza’ and the other was called ‘Cowabunga’, a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reference. I had a lot of great experiences and memories at Snake River.”
He mentioned that he still remembers all of the players names and their jersey numbers from 1988-2001, nearly 14 seasons of football. This year, he will get to make that 15 years of numbers and names as he takes the helm of the program and looks to begin his own adventure as a head coach at his alma mater.
And maybe he’ll get to name a few plays too.