Head Coach: Jason Yearsley
Years as Head Coach: 9th Season
Record Last Year: 5-5
State Titles: 1991
Chase Ross, 12, OL/DE
Ryan Briggs, 12, OL/LB
Richard Linstrom, 12, OL/LB
Joaquin Fuhriman, 12, RB/S
Corban Fields, 11, QB/S
Devin Yearsley, 11, WR/DE
Covy Kelly, 11, WR/LB
Key Players lost from last year:
RB/LB Gage Peterson, play-maker and leader
Photo By: Patty Theurer
Incoming impact players:
Connar Smith, 12, RB
Clayton Richardson, 10, RB
Written By: Will Hoenike
A lot of coaches around the state have their eyes on the Garden Valley Wolverines of the Long Pin Conference as a possible team to beat in the 1A Division 2 classification. However, veteran Garden Valley head coach Jason Yearsley won’t get caught looking beyond the opening week of the season.
That’s because his team, even though it has speed and experience, opens up against traditional 1A Division 1 powerhouse Oakley. As if that isn’t enough, the Wolverines turn around the next week and travel to face an experienced and talented Wilder team, which has big aspirations in Division 1 as well.
That’s a tall order for just about any 8-man football team, even though Garden Valley has aspirations of its own this fall.
“We have grown a ton,” Yearsley said of his squad, which finished 5-5 last season. “We are bigger, faster, and stronger.”
The schedule doesn’t become a cake-walk after those first two games, but weeks one and two will give the team a good test to see how far this group could go.
“Staying healthy and remaining as deep as we are at this point will bring us success,” Yearsley noted. “This team is willing to work. They have a work ethic that is second to none.”
The Wolverines averaged nearly 40 points per game in 2018 and have the pieces to do even better this fall. Junior quarterback Corban Fields turned a spring on the baseball field into a stronger and more precise arm, which will help the passing attack. Fellow juniors Covy Kelly and Devin Yearsley could create matchup problems on the outside when Fields drops to throw which, in turn, should help open things up for the running attack.
Kelly, in particular, had over 1,000 yards receiving and 17 touchdowns as a sophomore. Yearsley added another 700 yards and 11 scores last season.
Garden Valley returns an experienced group up front as well, with seniors Richard Lindstrom, Ryan Briggs, and Chase Ross all back along the offensive line in front of senior running back Joaquin Fuhriman. Senior Connar Smith and sophomore Clayton Richardson will also compete for playing time in the backfield when the Wolverines have the ball.
The defense did well overall in Long Pin play, allowing less than 30 points per game (which, in 8-man football, isn’t bad). The growth in strength and speed will help Yearsley and his staff put a more consistent product on the field in the face of a tough schedule. Devin Yearsley and Ross will rush the passer while Linstrom, Kelly, and Briggs man linebacker positions in front of Fuhriman and Fields in the secondary. Linstrom had over 100 tackles last season, including 16 for a loss of yardage, and eleven sacks. Kelly intercepted a team-high five passes while Yearsley forced a pair of fumbles and recovered four others.
Most think Garden Valley could be the team to beat in the Long Pin, but that conference has a history of strength and has been represented in eight of the past ten 1A Division 2 state championship games. There are new coaches in Salmon River and Tri-Valley, will that alter the outlook of the conference? There’s also a new coach in tradition-rich Council, which is coming off back-to-back tough seasons. Cascade is in year two of a building program and Horseshoe Bend will be competitive in 2019 as well.
After starting conference play with road games in Riggins against Salmon River and in Cambridge against Tri-Valley, Garden Valley will play its final three games of the season at home, hosting Council, Horseshoe Bend, and Cascade. Keep your eye on the Horseshoe Bend game on October 25. Each of the past two seasons, the game has come down to the closing seconds with the Wolverines getting the win at the end. That game could be for control of the Long Pin Conference and playoff seeding out of District 3.