Written by: Lucas Gebhart
3A Southeast Idaho Conference
PRESEASON COACHES POLL
1. Marsh Valley
2. Snake River
3. American Falls
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Buxton Dawson, Senior, Snake River
Tate Gilbert, Senior, Snake River
Aaron Marshall, Senior, Marsh Valley
Jacob McNabb, Senior, Marsh Valley
Peyton Campbell, Senior, Marsh Valley
Gabe Fehringer, Senior, American Falls
Braeydon Ralphs, Junior, American Falls
Alex Martinez, Senior, American Falls
The only team not returning a heavy load of varsity experience to the 3A Southeast Idaho Conference is Snake River, the same team that’s seeking a fourth consecutive conference title.
Snake River has won at least 15 games in each of the last three seasons and more than 20 in two of the three. The last team to make it to the state tournament from the 3A Southeast Idaho Conference not named Snake River was when Marsh Valley went two-and-out in the 2015 tournament, losing to South Fremont and Fruitland.
Despite this, the conference may see a changing of the guard this season.
The Panthers, led by head coach Robert Coombs, now in his 26th season, lost all five starters and six seniors from last year’s team. Among the notable departures was Clancy Thomas, who is now playing collegiately at Colorado Mesa, a Division II team in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference, where he joins Kelsey Higginson, a former star on the Snake River girls’ team.
Last year Snake River went 22-3, winning its first 13 games and making a run to last year’s state semifinals before eventually falling to state champion in Fruitland, forcing the Panthers to settle for a third-place trophy. Two years ago, Snake River fell to Sugar-Salem in the state title game.
This year, Snake River will look to reload its roster with a set of players who were varsity role players or who played junior varsity last season. Marsh Valley head coach Jason Brower says the Panthers will still be a tough matchup within the conference.
“Snake will continue to be tough,” he said. “They always reload and are well coached.”
Buxton Dawson, Tate Gilbert, Creighton McCraw, Ben Isom and Porter Albertson should all see increased roles for the Panthers.
Marsh Valley had its first winning season since the 2014-15 season last year and will return some key pieces to this year’s squad. They enter the season as the favorite to win the conference.
The Eagles return two starters, Aaron Marshall and Jacob McNabb, and will also rely on Peyton Campbell to step into more of a core role this season.
Brower said the upperclassmen leadership will help the team going into the season, giving the Eagles a leg up on a young Snake River team.
American Falls also returns set of varsity-experienced players and could jump into the conference title conversation as the season grows older.
The Beavers went 5-17 last season, but return three starters and six seniors. Gabe Fehringer, Braeydon Ralphs and Alex Martinez return to the starting lineup, while seniors Coleton Howell, Jaxson Kress, Peyton Kress and Andy Fernandez round out the senior expertise of the roster.
Ralphs, Fernandez and Ethan Beutler are players that American Falls head coach Chris Fehringer pointed to as being impact players new to the varsity squad.
“We have a lot deeper of a bench with some players that played for on JV moving up to varsity this year,” Fehringer said. “We want to play an up tempo game with a with aggressive defense. We run the ball well but need to work on being better on the glass to help prevent second chance opportunities.”