Head Coach: Tyler Richins
Years as Head Coach: 5th Season
Previous Experience: Assistant at Hillcrest and Shelley
Record Last Year: 7-3
State Titles: None
Hayden Crapo, QB/DE, 12
Kyle Ostermiller, RB/DE, 12
Grady Rasmussen, WR/LB, 12
Westin Bratt, OL/DL, 12
Brady Blaser, OL/LB, 12
Cole Mace, LB, 12
Ethan Williams, LB, 12
Ethan Warner, WR/DB, 12
Trenton Brower, DL, 12
Gabe Weekes, OL/DL, 12
Wyatt Crapo, OL/DL, 12
Tanner Harris, QB/LB, 11
Browning Bennion, RB/LB, 11
Sam Parkinson, RB/LB, 11
Hadley Miller, RB/DB, 11
Kenny Copley, OL/DL, 11
Returning Players with Honors:
Mountain Rivers All-Conference Selections:
Browning Bennion - LB
Westin Bratt - DL
Kenneth Copley - OL/DL
Hadley Miller - DB/P
Hayden Crapo - QB
Kyle Ostermiller - RB/DL
Brady Blaser - OL/LB
Tanner Harris - LB
Key Players lost from last year:
Dylan Pope, RB/DB, 1st Team All-State Defensive Back, 2017 MRC Player of the Year, 2017 Post Register All-Area Defensive Back, 3 Year Starter at Safety. Montana Western Signee.
Jake Christensen, WR/DB, 1st Team MRC Wide Receiver, 1st Team MRC Defensive Back
Mason Balzen, OL/DL, 1st Team MRC Offensive Line, 2nd Team All-State Offensive Line
Wolfgang Bennion, OL/DL, HM MRC Offensive Line
Chandler Pincock, TE/DL, HM MRC Tight End
Tom Baldwin, TE/DL, HM MRC Defensive Line
Photo By: Patty Theurer - #22 Kyle Ostermiller
Incoming impact players:
Gerohm Rihari, WR/DB, 12
John Lewis, RB/DB, 12
Justice Rammell, OL/DL, 12
Hayden Winward, OL/DL, 12
Kody Leavitt, OL/DL, 12
Riley Thurber, WR/DB, 11
Kyler Handy, TE/DL, 11
McKay Schulties, RB/DB, 11
Kyler Dalling, OL/DL, 11
Brayton Pope, RB/DB, 11
Kaden Malstrom, OL/DL, 11
Written By: Matt Harris
When a team consisting of relatively youthful and inexperienced players takes the field, one may assume that there are major growing pains along the way. But after posting a 7-3 record in 2017 with that youth and inexperience, the now-matured and experienced Sugar-Salem Diggers are ready to make a run at the title.
For a school that has never hoisted the blue trophy in football, that goal could certainly be taken as a boisterous claim. However, the Diggers and head coach Tyler Richins believe they have the personnel and culture in place to make that dream a reality. And, no matter what, they are going to compete until that reality happens.
“We want to develop that blue collar attitude: hard work, dedication, perseverance, and family,” said Richins, now in his 5th season in Sugar City. “The weight room and the football field is our battleground. We compete everyday no matter what we are doing. From the classroom to the football field, we are competitors and we will never quit.”
After coming painstakingly close to ending eventual-champion Fruitland’s season last November in the state quarterfinals, the Diggers feel that the returning talent on the roster will help get them further than they’ve gone before. With several seniors on the squad and a number of promising juniors who saw time on the field last season, Sugar-Salem certainly will be a team in the mix once the state tournament rolls around.
“To say our team is excited for the 2018 football season would be an understatement,” said Richins. “We have had an outstanding summer and are extremely happy with how our summer workouts have gone and how camp ended.”
Hayden Crapo will lead the team under center and have a plethora of talent to work with, including receivers Grady Rasmussen, Ethan Warner, Riley Thurber, Kyler Handy, and Gerohm Rihari, who transferred from Bonneville. Tanner Harris will also see time at quarterback.
Sugar-Salem’s identity under Richins has been the rushing attack and the Diggers will have no shortage of players who can make an impact in the backfield, including Kyle Ostermiller, Browning Bennion, Sam Parkinson, Hadley Miller, John Lewis, McKay Schulties, and Brayton Pope.
“Our strength is running the football. That is who we are,” Richins said. “We can and will throw the ball too – we are going to be as balanced as possible.”
Richins added that the development of their passing game has been a major point of emphasis since he took over at Sugar-Salem four years ago and that he feels they can now open up their offense more to incorporate that skill.
“We have a lot of weapons to work with. They need to touch the ball,” he said.
The offense doesn’t get off the ground, however, without the services of a deep stable of offensive linemen which Sugar-Salem possesses, including Westin Bratt, Brady Blaser, Gabe Weekes, Wyatt Crapo, Kenny Copley, Justice Rammell, Hayden Winward, Kody Leavitt, Kyler Dalling, and Kaden Malstrom. Richins said that this year’s group of linemen will be among the biggest group of linemen they’ve had in a long time.
With much experience in that group, the Diggers have the potential to really turn some heads offensively this season.
Richins then added that his team could hasten that opportunity should they eliminate some of the turnovers that plagued them last year.
“We had far too many turnovers last year. We put our defense in some bad situations because of our lack of ball security. Ball security has been a major emphasis in the offseason,” he said. “It’s tough to compete at a high level if we continue to turn over the ball.
When it comes to the defense, Richins and his crew want to improve on the 16.1 points per game they gave up last year. And if teams want to score on the Diggers, they’ll need to plan on airing-it-out.
“We pride ourselves on forcing teams to throw the football. Our strength is stopping the run. We return all of our defensive linemen and linebackers this year,” Richins said. “We want to play a very physical brand of football. We had some growing pains defensively because of our youth last year, but that youth is now the core of our stingy defense.”
Many of the players who play on offense will be seen in prominent roles on defense this fall, including Ostermiller, Bratt, Copley, Rammell, Winward, Leavitt, Handy, Dalling, Malstrom, Hayden and Wyatt Crapo, and Trenton Brower on the defensive line. Depth on the line is key for any school and Sugar-Salem appears to have it.
In the linebacking core, expect to see Blaser, Harris, Bennion, Parkinson, Ethan Williams, and Cole Mace in leading roles. The secondary is strong as well, with the addition of Rihari along with Warner, Miller, Lewis, Thurber, Schulties, and Pope.
The improvements Sugar-Salem wants to make this year both come down to ball control – eliminating turnovers on offense while forcing more turnovers defensively.
“I would like to see our turnover margin increase this year,” Richins said. “We have done a good job in the past of forcing turnovers, but it is an area I think we can continue to improve.”
He then added that he wants the defense to become stingier when teams reach the red zone.
“We need to protect the end zone at all costs and force difficult situations for our opposing teams.”
The Diggers have lined up a very competitive schedule this season. With only two conference games now in the Mountain Rivers Conference following the departure of Shelley to the 4A ranks, it gives the blue-and-white another opportunity to schedule a quality non-conference game.
Sugar-Salem opens the year on the road against defending 2A state champion Declo, a team that is favored to repeat this year. Week 2 features a clash of 3A powers when the Diggers host Snake River. That contest is followed by a home date against perennial powerhouse Star Valley of Wyoming and another home contest against a much improved Marsh Valley squad.
The team then hits the road to face American Falls on Sept. 21 before taking a bye week. That bye week could be crucial for the Diggers as they open up conference play on Oct. 5 at home against Teton before traveling northward to St. Anthony for the annual ‘Cold War’ rivalry matchup with the South Fremont Cougars. Sugar-Salem then finishes the regular season slate with a cross-state matchup in western Idaho against Parma on Oct. 19.
Fans of Sugar-Salem have a lot to look forward to this football season. The Diggers should be a strong contender for the 3A state crown come November.