Snake River High School
Conference: 3A South East Idaho Conference
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Head Coach: Jeb Harrison
Years as Head Coach: 2nd Season
Previous Experience: Assistant at Snake River – 2001
Assistant at Firth – 2002
Assistant at Pocatello – 2003-2014
Assistant at Century – 2015
Record Last Year: 4-5
State Titles: Ten total
Ceaton Howell, RB/LB, senior
James Clegg, G/MLB, senior
Jace White, LT, senior
Larry Hubler, RT, senior
Kade Mortensen, RB/OLB, senior
Coby Young, QB, senior
Austin Jensen, RB/SS, senior
Nathan Miller, WR/DB, senior
Returning Players with Honors:
Jace White – All-Conference OL
James Clegg – All-Conference MLB
Ceaton Howell – All-Conference LB
Austin Jensen – All-Conference SS
Nathan Miller – All-Conference DB
Key Players lost from last year:
Angel Garza – Conference Player of the Year
Bransen Walker – All-State P
Kace Martin, TE
Luke Clark, DE
Incoming impact players:
Carson Dance, WR, senior
Clancy Thomas, TE/WR, senior
Gunner Ramsdell, RB, junior
Treyton Young, RB, sophomore
Written by: Matt Harris
What a difference a year makes.
At this time last year, Snake River head coach Jeb Harrison had been in his new position at the school for a grand total of one month. Being hired in mid-July didn’t give him much time to organize prior to the start of fall camp.
This time around, everything is in place and the Panthers are ready to roll – and they are doing so with significantly more numbers on the field.
“Our numbers have improved dramatically,” said Harrison, now in his second season as head coach. “Last season started with 63 players between our three teams (varsity, junior varsity, and the C-team). This season’s numbers hover right around 90, including five seniors who return after not playing last year.”
Snake River compiled a 4-5 record in Harrison’s first year at the helm, including a state quarterfinals appearance against eventual champion Fruitland. It was like a tale of two seasons for the Panthers – they began the year with losses to Blackfoot, Shelley, Sugar-Salem, and South Fremont. However, the purple-clad squad found their footing and rattled off four straight wins over Teton, Marsh Valley, American Falls, and Preston to end the regular season. Some of that momentum should carry over into the 2017 season.
With the graduation of quarterback Bransen Walker, the Panthers will turn to senior Coby Young to take over the signal calling duties under center. Harrison said Young is showing encouraging signs.
“Coby is inexperienced as a quarterback on the varsity level, but did play wide receiver for us last season,” he said. “He has performed well throughout the offseason and in scrimmages.”
Harrison hopes Young’s progress only continues heading into the season, as the aerial attack was not a major part of their offense last year.
“Our passing game struggled, we threw too many interceptions and only averaged 21 points per game,” he said. “We need to be more consistent.”
He added that quarterback play would be Snake River’s X-factor to success this season.
“Coby can run well and can throw. If he stays healthy, we can make a championship run.”
Of course, it’s not just a one man job to improve the passing game. It takes a group working cohesively together to achieve it. And Harrison believes that they have the right pieces in the right place to make it happen.
Senior linemen Jace White, Larry Hubler, and James Clegg will lead the protection up front for the Panthers. Overall, Harrison said that they return four of five starting linemen from last year’s team.
Add in to the mix senior running backs Ceaton Howell, Kade Mortensen, and Austin Jensen, along with junior Gunner Ramsdell and sophomore Treyton Young. The Panthers will also feature senior wide receivers Carson Dance, Nathan Miller, and Clancy Thomas, giving them the options in the passing game they need to help it improve.
“We have a couple of deep threats with us this year,” said Harrison. “Carson Dance didn’t play for us last season, but is a great playmaker and very fast. And Clancy Thomas runs well, blocks well, and can catch.”
If Thomas’ name sounds familiar, it should. He is the reigning 3A All-State Basketball Player of the Year and can jump out of the gym at 6’5”, 200 pounds. He returns to the team after not playing last season.
“We have improved tremendously in our passing game with the addition of both Carson and Clancy,” Harrison said.
Defensively, the Panthers will bring back a number of returning starters, including the duo of Clegg and Howell at linebacker. Harrison called Clegg “the heart of the team”. Mortensen will also see time at outside linebacker. In the secondary, Miller will be looked upon to help anchor the defensive backs along with Jensen at safety.
Unfortunately for Snake River, they will be without the services of senior All-Conference defensive end Luke Clark, who will not suit up this season.
“We lost Luke to an off season injury,” Harrison said. “We were really excited for him to have a great senior year.”
The focus for the defensive unit comes down to simplifying the schemes and personal improvement.
“We were too complicated last year, which led to confusion,” said Harrison, who added that they gave up way too many points last season. “We need to put more pressure on the quarterback and be more sound in our coverages.”
The Panthers will get to showcase their improvements against a rival right off the bat on Aug. 25, when they play host to the Blackfoot Broncos. The team then heads north to another part of Bingham County when they face another rival in the Shelley Russets on Sept. 1, in a game that Harrison said is “always a battle”. The following week, the Panthers return to Harrison Field to face the Sugar-Salem Diggers.
After a bye week on Sept. 15, Snake River hits the road for three consecutive games starting on Sept. 22 when they travel to St. Anthony to face South Fremont, followed by a trip to Driggs to take on Teton on Sept. 29. The Panthers play their final regular season road contest on Oct. 6 at Marsh Valley, which opens the conference schedule.
The purple-and-black then return home for the final two games of the regular season. They’ll face American Falls on Oct. 13 in the Armed Service Appreciation Bowl and then complete the schedule against Preston on Oct. 20.
In a conference that the Panthers have owned for quite some time, Harrison was quite complimentary of the other teams in the league.
“Marsh Valley has improved tremendously under Coach (Doug) Armstrong. Their underclassmen teams have been special the last couple of seasons,” he said. “Our game with Marsh Valley will be a battle this year that could go either way. And American Falls gets a ‘new’ head coach in Jim Giulio that has coaches this group of kids for years. They return most of their best players from last season and gave us all we could handle last year. The kids will play hard for Coach Giulio. It should make for tough conference games.”
Every game is important to Snake River, but none more-so than their conference games against Marsh Valley and American Falls. Expect to see the Panthers in full form once the league schedule begins. And don’t be surprised if they are ready to make a run at the state title.
“We have 22 seniors on the roster who are hungry to play for a championship,” said Harrison.
At Snake River High School, playing for a championship isn’t just an opportunity. It’s an expectation.