Head Coach: Mark Dodge
Years as Head Coach: 1st Season
Previous Experience: 2 Years as Head Coach at North Gem
Record Last Year: 6-3
State Titles: None
Camm Jorgensen, LB/RB, 12
Raymond Stone, DB/RB, 12
Connor Mickelson, DB/RB, 11
Incoming impact players:
Ivor Gibbs, WR/DL, 11
McCoy Gunnell, WR/DB, 12
Camm Jorgensen, RB/LB, 12
Raymond Stone, RB/DB, 12
Josh Anderson, C/NT, 12
Connor Mickelson, Athlete, 12
Cash Spencer, WR, 12
Written By: Matt Harris
Sometimes, the ball just doesn’t bounce your way.
The Grace Grizzlies posted a 6-3 record last year, their best mark since 2012, but lost a complex tiebreaker to Valley and just missed out on the playoffs. It left the Grizzlies out of contention for their first state tournament berth since 2010.
In the offseason, Grace lost a large senior class and head coach Brandon Sanchez stepped down earlier this summer. But the Grizzlies will try to move onward and upward with new lead man Mark Dodge at the helm. The former North Gem coach said that while there is a transition period in taking over a team mid-summer, he’s not going to turn it into an excuse to be used later down the line.
“I know and appreciate Coach Sanchez and his staff and all the work they put into the program. I wish them the best of luck with whatever they do. One of the things we preach to our program is ‘We are who we are no matter the setting or circumstances’. We will be ready for the first game and for the season,” said Dodge. “The players made phone calls around got out the rest of the team. We have great leadership, probably the best leaderships I have seen among any team I have coached. I’m impressed with them. We are all getting on the same page and moving forward.”
Dodge acknowledged that his team will have plenty of youth and new players at new positions following the departure of a large senior class. But he has confidence in every player that steps on the field.
Offensively, expect the Grizzlies to be a balanced run and pass team.
“Raymond Stone at running back will give us speed and Camm Jorgensen will give us power when running the ball,” said Dodge. “We have a quarterback battle going between Connor Mickelson and Gage Stoddard. Both are throwing the ball well and reading the defense. Both were in the weight room all summer long too.”
Grace will have options at receiver as well with Ivor Gibbs and McCoy Gunnell, whom Dodge said should have a good size advantage. Josh Anderson will anchor the line from the center position.
Defensively, Jorgensen will lead the way from his linebacker position. Dodge said he expects Jorgensen to be a forced to be reckoned with. Mickelson and Stone will anchor the secondary. Gibbs will apply pressure up front.
“I think the general focus of the defense this year is focusing on individual assignments,” said Dodge. They can’t get caught up with the game as a whole.”
Grace has quite a variety of athletes in their program. State wrestling champion Clayton Lunt will figure to be a factor on defense. Mickelson, a state wrestling placer from a year ago, adds to that variety. Jorgensen, Stone, and Gibbs all played on the Grizzlies’ state third place basketball team from the last two years.
The coach heaped praise on the work and effort that his team has put in over the summer to prepare for the season.
“We had an average of 15 players in the weight room over the summer,” he said. “We are big and physical. Most of all, we came together as a team and leaders became leaders.”
He also pointed to a few player whom he expects to have a major impact on the direction of the season this year.
“I’m really excited about Connor and what he can do to teams this year. Wherever he plays, he torments the opposing team,” said Dodge, who added Mickelson has put on 20 pounds and does 400 pushups a day. “Raymond is razor fast and has a good feel for football. Camm is a “Jorgensen” – he is big and loves to hit. Ivor has football in his blood and will make things happen for us.”
Adding to their potential for success in 2018 will be the need for strong fundamentals and mental toughness, according to Dodge.
“If we can be where we are supposed to be and execute our offense and defensive positions, we will be tough,” he said.
Grace gets the 2018 season underway with a neutral site game against Kamiah in New Plymouth on Aug. 25. That will be their lone non-conference game before conference play begins on Sept. 7, when the Grizzlies will host Challis. The next week, Grace will take on Raft River in an important battle.
The team will then travel westward once again, this time to face Glenns Ferry on Sept. 21. Following a bye week, the Grizzlies will play in Arco against Butte County on Oct. 5. They round out the season with a home date against Oakley on Oct. 12 and a road trip to Hazelton to face the Valley Vikings on Oct. 26.
The Grizzlies play in one of the toughest conferences in the state and know that the road to the playoffs will certainly have to be earned.
“We have a lot of respect for any team in this conference and know how tough this conference is,” said Dodge. “I’m not sure it is much of a surprise that every team in this conference can make a deep playoff run.”