Head Coach: Sam Thorngren
Years as Head Coach: 12th Season
Record Last Year: 8-2
State Titles: None
Keyan Cummins, RB/LB, 11
Bridger Hansen, QB/DB, 11
Ty Twitchell, RB/LB, 12
Brady McAffee, RB/LB, 12
Bryson Gunter, TE/DE, 11
Kade McAffee, OL/NG, 12
Dakota Anderson, OL/DE, 11
Returning Players with Honors:
Keyan Cummins, All-State
Ty Twitchell, All-Conference
Bryson Gunter, All-Conference
Dakota Anderson, All-Conference
Key Players lost from last year:
Kalib Hawley, All-State OL/DL
Brett Waymire, All-Conference QB/DB
Photo By: Kyle Riley - #24 Bridger Hansen
Incoming impact players:
Logan Romrell, OL/DL, 11
Written By: Matt Harris
Last season, the Butte County Pirates reached the state semifinals for the second straight year.
But for the second straight year, they also bowed out in the semifinals.
In 2018, maybe the third time will be the charm for head coach Sam Thorngren and the Pirates. He is hoping the experience gained the past two seasons with benefit them heading into the new campaign.
“After two years of having the majority of our starters being underclassmen, it will be nice to have a veteran team for a change,” he said.
Plenty of talent returns to Arco for another run in the playoffs, but this time the run will be made in the 1A Division-I classification. Butte County competed in 1A Division-II for the previous two seasons.
“The Snake River Conference is loaded,” said Thorngren when talking about the biggest adjustment the Pirates will have to make as they move up a division. “There are going to be some good teams that get left out of the playoffs. We will need to be able to step up and perform every week.”
The Pirates new conference consists of teams in Districts 4, 5, and 6 and stretches as far west as Glenns Ferry, as far east as Grace, and as far north as Challis. It will make for long road trips, but very intriguing football.
Back in the fold this year for Butte County is a trio of outstanding running backs, including Keyan Cummins, Brady McAffee, and Ty Twitchell. Look for them to be the focal point of opposing defenses as they execute the Pirates Wing-T offense. Bridger Hansen will be given the keys to the offense and lead it from under center. Bryson Gunter will man the tight end position while Kade McAffee and Dakota Anderson anchor the offensive line. Thorngren added that Logan Romrell will be an impact player on the line for Butte County as well.
If there is one thing the Pirates know how to do extremely well, it’s running the football. The ground game is something that Butte County has prided itself on for years now and it shows in the stats. Last season, the team rushed for 3,953 total yards. Four players gained 500 or more yards, including Cummins (1,411 yards) and Twitchell (740 yards).
“We have a stable of ball carriers who are all eager for carries,” said Thorngren.
The coach said that there is certainly room for improvement in their offense and that he hopes to be able to add more facets of the passing game into their offensive strategy.
“As good as we were rushing the ball last year, we struggled to throw it,” he said. “The opportunities were there, but we have to do a better job of making plays when we have to.”
Defensively, the Pirates return many players with experience who hope to be able to force even more turnovers this year. Last season, Butte County’s defense intercepted 15 passes, recovered 12 fumbles, and scored four defensive touchdowns. That amounts to 2.7 extra possessions per game created by the defense last year.
Anderson, Romrell, and Kade McAffee will anchor the defensive line, while Cummins, Twitchell, and Brady McAffee will look to wreak havoc at linebacker. Bridger Hansen will play a key role in the secondary.
In addition to forcing more turnovers, Thorngren says his team is looking to improve their overall goal line defense and also their pass rush. The Pirates gave up an average of 18.2 points per game last year.
Butte County kicks off their 2018 schedule with a pair of road games, starting on Aug. 24 at North Gem and then Aug. 31 at Clark-Watersprings. Following a bye week, they will open up conference play at home against Glenns Ferry on Sept. 14.
Following another bye week, the Pirates travel southward to face Oakley on Sept. 28 in what could be a key contest for their postseason aspirations. The orange-and-black will then host Grace to open up the month of October, followed by a road trip to Hazelton to face the Valley Vikings on Oct. 12. Butte County concludes the regular season schedule with two more games – one at home against Raft river on Oct. 19 and then on the road against their District 6 rival, Challis, on Oct. 26.
Expect a tough, grind-it-out team like Butte County to be in the mix for one of the three berths available to the state tournament. If they can remain healthy and develop a solid passing game to keep teams off balance, the Pirates could find themselves playing deep into the postseason for the third consecutive year.