Written by: Lucas Gebhart
2A Southeast Idaho Conference
PRESEASON COACHES POLL
1. Bear Lake
3. West Side
5. Soda Springs
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Trey Shaul, Senior, Bear Lake
Zack Petersen, Senior, Bear Lake
Ashton Carlsen, Junior, Bear Lake
Stockton Brown, West Side
Ryan Beckstead, Junior, West Side
Dillion Robinson, Senior, West Side
Trevor Howe, Senior, Malad
Bodee Ekstrom, Senior, Malad
Tom Simpson, Sophomore, Malad
Alec Feld, Senior, Aberdeen
Mitchell Spence, Senior, Aberdeen
Peyton Foster, Junior, Aberdeen
Brock Thompson, Soda Springs
The talk of the 2A Southeast Idaho Conference the past two seasons has been Bear Lake, a team that won the last two state titles in 2A.
But that could change this season, as what was a six-win Malad team returns all five starters and is poised to make a run in the 2A classification.
Despite this, the conference coaches still picked the Bears as favorites to win a third consecutive crown, but they will have to do it without some key pieces.
Gone are the Peterson twins, Hayden and Houston, who, alongside Avery Carlson and Walt Schwarting, helped carried the Bears on a 16-game win streak to close last season, ending with a 68-60 win over Ririe at the Ford Idaho Center in the state championship game. The four were all three-year starters for Bear Lake who helped the Bears to a combined 54-24 record the past three seasons, two of which were 20-plus win seasons.
“A year ago, we returned players that had all played varsity,” said Brandon Carlsen, Bear Lake head coach. “We are young in spots, but the potential is there.”
Bear Lake does return Trey Shaul, a Second Team All-State selection last season. Shaul played a vital role in the Bears title run, as he was selected First Team All-Tournament last season. Zack Petersen and Ashton Carlsen also return and will be asked to play larger roles.
“We have some guys with a lot of experience and some new to varsity,” Brandon Carlsen said. “It’s going to be fun to see us come together.”
Malad looks to be the Bears biggest challenger this season, as the Dragons return most of their varsity experience from a season ago, including Bodee Ekstrom, Trevor Howe and sophomore Tom Simpson. The returning experience has created buzz around the program, which has not had a winning season since 2013-14, with the Dragons won a combined two games during the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons.
Despite this, last year’s Dragons bare similarities to a 2015-16 Bear Lake team that won seven games before winning the next two state titles.
Aberdeen was the second bid to state out of the conference last season, but the Tigers have some rebuilding to do as they lost key contributors in Jake Hall, Dallon Elliot and Jaxson Wahlen from a team that won the consolation championship last year.
The Tigers return guard Alec Feld and post Mitchell Spence, which could keep the Tigers relevant if Aberdeen finds ways to score and avoid turnovers.
“I’m excited to see how my two returners from last year’s state team mature into leaders,” said Joe Ingersoll, Aberdeen head coach, now in his eight season overall and second of the current stint.
The Tigers finished 16-11 last season, their second consecutive winning season. Aberdeen won four games in the 2014-15 season and finished with a 9-14 record in 2015-16.
West Side finished 14-10 last season, but a loss to Aberdeen in the district tournament prevented the Pirates from making a state tournament appearance.
The last trip to state was in 2016, a trip that saw West Side make a run to the state title game where it lost to Firth, 42-36. That was also the last year West Side won the conference.
This year, the Pirates will look to reclaim the throne with a smaller lineup than it possessed a season ago. West Side returns Stockton Brown, Ryan Beckstead and Dillon Robinson, but loses most of its post presence alongside Zac Hobson and Dillion Lemmon.
“For us to be successful, we’ll have to rebound,” said West Side head coach Tyler Brown. “We have very little experience. Hopefully, we have a few [kids from JV] step up.”
Soda Springs enters the new year as the underdog. The Cardinals went 8-15 last season, but only won two conference games, both of which were against Malad. Greg Bergholm, who enters his 15th season at the helm, will look to get back to the state tournament for the first time since 2016 where they won the consolation championship, 56-52, over Melba.