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There will be several entertaining teams to keep an eye on this year.
Published: 8/20/2021 12:40:21 PM


Written by: Keller Sherman

Class 5A

 The Rocky Mountain Grizzlies came out on top yet again in 2020, securing a three-peat as state champions by defeating the Boise Brave in the championship game 2-1.  In fact, during Rocky Mountain’s three-peat, all three wins have come against Boise in the title game. With three consecutive state championship game defeats, the Brave will be determined more than ever to knock off the defending three-time champions.

 The Grizzlies lose some notable seniors, including 5A Player of the Year Kelsey Oyler, but return two of their four all-state selections: Violet Rademacher and Nadia Kincaid. Even with the loss of Oyler and fellow All-State selection Mary Meeks, Rocky Mountain will still be a major roadblock to anyone that seeks to end their streak.

Boise will be very talented again and might just have what it takes to end Rocky’s reign.  5A All-State and All-SIC selections Annie Liebich, Sophie Hills, Logan Smith, and Sammy Smith all return for the Brave.

Timberline, Kuna, and Mountain View also made state from the Southern Idaho Conference, but of those three, only Timberline made it to the right side of the bracket and fell to Highland 3-2 in the 3rd place game.

 The SIC seems destined to be a two-team race between Boise and Rocky Mountain as they combined for eight of thirteen first-team all-conference selections and met in the state championship game. The SIC’s other three state qualifiers filled out the remaining first team All-SIC slots, but Kuna is the only team that had juniors on that list. Kuna was the fourth seed from the SIC in last season’s state tournament, but with their returning talent, they could be the team to step up and challenge Boise or Rocky.

 The High Country Conference will run through Highland. The Rams took 3rd at state last season and gave runner-up Boise everything they could handle in a 1-0 defeat in the semifinals. All three of their all-state selections (Kayzee Vaughan, Sandree Bell, and Grace Fisher) are back for their senior seasons, making Highland the favorites in District 5-6 yet again. With a 3rd place finish at state to motivate them, they will be ready to put a scare into Boise and Rocky come tournament time.

They will have some stiff competition ready to dethrone them however, as Madison and Idaho Falls will be knocking on their door. Last year, the Tigers handed the Rams a home loss that became their only conference loss of the season. The Bobcats were District 5-6’s other representative at state and will look for a better showing after going two and out despite being the High Country Conference preseason favorites a year ago.

 Northern Idaho may have the smallest 5A district in the state, but there are still some teams ready to make an impact. Inland Empire League champion Coeur d’Alene posted a 7-0-1 record in the regular season a year ago (with the tie coming against Lewiston), but they lost two straight games to end their season.  Those losses included a 2-0 setback to crosstown rival Lake City in districts and a subsequent 4-2 loss to Mountain View in the state play-in game.

Lake City represented the IEL at state last year, and played in their home city, albeit on their rival’s field.  After falling in a 2-1 overtime thriller to Timberline, they rebounded by defeating Madison 1-0 to earn a spot in the consolation game, only for it to be cancelled. Coeur d’Alene and Lake City only earned two all-state honors combined: seniors Abbie Lyman of CDA and Kali McKellips of Lake City. At the conference level, the Timberwolves return three of their four all conference selections (Georgia Whitehead, Taytum Curtis and Hailey Jo Parks), while the Vikings bring back only two of their four selections (Myah Rietze and Sophia Allan.)

 Expect the three 5A conferences around the state to play out similar to last year. The SIC could be an exciting race as Boise looks to dethrone Rocky Mountain. Kuna, Timberline, and Mountain View are trending up however, and Centennial can always step in and shake things up after being the last team not named Rocky Mountain to bring home the title. Highland will be in good position to win District 5-6 yet again, but Idaho Falls and Madison look to make that conference a three-team race while the District 1-2 title is likely between crosstown rivals Coeur d’Alene and Lake City. Look for the Vikings to rebound in a big way and perhaps shock some people after the state play in loss from last season.


Class 4A

 There has been lots of parity at the 4A level in recent seasons, and the last two state champions have come from outside of the Treasure Valley after Sandpoint ended Bishop Kelly’s bid for a fourth consecutive title in 2019. Last year, it was Preston that brought home the banner as they defeated Twin Falls 1-0 for their first state title since 2015.

 While Bishop Kelly was the top seed for the SIC, they found themselves on the left side of the bracket after losing 3-2 to eventual runner-up Twin Falls, while their conference foes Columbia and Middleton found themselves playing for 3rd place. The Wildcats came out on top in that game 1-0, while the Knights rebounded by beating Moscow to advance to the consolation game, where they bested Skyline 6-1.

BK will be the favorite to run away with the SIC yet again, but expect Columbia and Middleton to contend as well. Vallivue, Emmett, and Caldwell also have the potential to step up and surprise some people. Vallivue returns four sophomore all-conference selections (Averie Bayne, Brianna Castaneda, Alyssa Soto and Lizbeth Soto), while SIC Coach of the Year Kevin Solis has Emmett trending in the right direction.

Additionally, Caldwell is on the rise too after having the conference player of the year last season (the since-departed Kaydence Moore) and bringing back three all-conference selections (Shaelynn Olsen, Abbey Foster and Evelyn Araiza). While Emmett and Caldwell failed to post conference wins, they are still not teams to sleep on.

 In the Magic Valley, a three team race is expected between Twin Falls, Canyon Ridge, and Wood River. If there is a team that steps in and surprises, expect it to be Jerome. Twin Falls has plenty of excitement around them after fighting hard in a 1-0 defeat in the state championship game. Last season, the Bruins handed Canyon Ridge their only conference loss while the Riverhawks gave Twin their only tie of the season. While the Riverhawks went two and out at state last season, they will have the talent to end up on the right side of the bracket after game one. Twin Falls returns all-state selection Kaylin Bailey and will have a great shot at a state title if they can put it all together.

 In Southeastern Idaho, Preston isn’t a clear runaway favorite like one might think despite the state title from last season. The Indians took a conference loss to Pocatello in a 1-0 setback and the Thunder will contend for the conference title this season. Preston only returns one of their four all-state players in Andie Bell while losing 4A Player of the Year Kylie Larsen as well as Sydnee Marlow and Addison Moser. They will have some holes to fill giving Pocatello a great opportunity to come in and unseat the Indians.

 Just a little further north in District 6, the High Country Conference will look for a much better showing in the state tournament after Skyline advanced to the consolation game and Bonneville fell to Middleton in the play-in game 3-2. The Grizzlies will return all-state selection Tasha Miller as they look to find themselves on the right side of the bracket in state.

2020 HCC champion Bonneville will be looking to get back into the state tournament after losing in the play-in game last year, but it’s possible that neither Bonneville nor Skyline may not come out of the conference. Hillcrest handed the Bees their only regular season conference loss a year ago, will be right there contending for a state tournament berth.  The Knights will pose a serious threat to the Bees and Grizzlies as they attempt to advance to state.

 Up north, Sandpoint has some unfinished business. After losing to Moscow in districts, the Bulldogs were denied a state tournament bid and will now be more determined than ever to get back after the 2019 title run which saw them dethrone three time state champion Bishop Kelly 10-9 in penalty kicks in the semifinals, then beat Kuna 2-0 in the championship game.

Northern Idaho will look to have a much better showing this season after Moscow went two and out. Expect the Bulldogs to rebound from losing 2-0 to Moscow in districts and surprise some people in 2021. Sandpoint returns two all-state selections from last year’s team in Piper Frank and Emma Thielbahr. Look for Sandpoint to rebound in a big way and perhaps chase another state title in 2021.

 Every conference will have at least two teams contending while also boasting some dark horses. In the Treasure Valley, Bishop Kelly is more ready than ever to win another state title for their storied program, but will face some stiff competition from Columbia and Middleton and they must also not overlook upward-trending Vallivue, Emmett, and Caldwell. If they can play focused game in and game out, BK will be right back at state. Twin Falls and Canyon Ridge will likely decide the Great Basin 7 between themselves, but Wood River and Jerome will look to challenge, while Poky and Preston will be neck and neck in District 5. Bonneville will be ready to make a statement after a disappointing 2020 campaign by their standards, but Skyline and Hillcrest will be ready to have a say in that conference. Sandpoint is the team to watch in Class 4A however, as they look to rebound in a big way after missing state completely last season.



 Coeur d'Alene Charter continues to dominate, but last year’s state title didn’t come as easily as the others in their run as Sugar-Salem battled them hard in a 1-0 overtime decision. Is this the year the Panthers are vulnerable? They will lose state and conference player of the year Sarah Hines along with two additional all-state and all-conference selections in Riley Jo Anderson and Kiley Cutler. Despite those losses, CDA Charter will still be more than capable of reloading with the return of Rebekah Hines and Ava Shivers from the all-state team.

 In the Treasure Valley, McCall-Donnelly ran away with the Snake River Valley Conference, but Fruitland fought hard against the Vandals in a 2-1 loss at districts, and will try to unseat the Vandals this season. Weiser also has the potential to come in and surprise people after being the last team not named CDA Charter to win a state title in 2015. While the Wolverines have had some shortcomings in previous seasons, they still must not be overlooked. McCall will be vulnerable after losing all-state players Brooke Richardson, Maia McSherry, and Caeley Ryan while Fruitland returns Abbi Roubidoux. While McCall is the clear favorite, they will have some challengers in Fruitland and Weiser. Ambrose will start a girls soccer team in 2021 and join the conference and could also make a splash. Look for the SRV to be a more wide open race than most think.

 In the Magic Valley, Kimberly and Sun Valley Community School are expected to be the primary contenders. Both will also look to have much better showings at state after the Bulldogs went two and out while the Cutthroats took the consolation crown. Both teams will miss their all state players from last season with Sun Valley losing Caroline Estep, Falon Hanna, and Christine Estep and Kimberly losing Payton Jackman. The team that overcomes last year’s player losses the best will have the inside path to a conference title, but as always, Sun Valley will be a tough out for any opponent. Buhl is also trending up going from 2-12-3 to 10-6-2 between 2019 and 2020 and is now ready to prove that they are also in that discussion for a conference title.

 Heading over to Eastern Idaho, expect Marsh Valley and American Falls to be the frontrunners in District 5. The Eagles return both of their all-state players from last season in Abby Marshall and Maycee Lunt, while American Falls has a talented junior in Kaylee Hunt. Marsh Valley ended up as District 5’s lone representative at state after American Falls fell to eventual state runner-up Sugar-Salem in the state play-in game. The Diggers were also responsible for sending Marsh Valley to the 3rd place game with a 4-3 victory in penalty kicks. Marsh Valley then defeated McCall 1-0 to secure 3rd place, but is now ready to take the next step and reach the state championship game with plenty of returning talent.

 In District 6, Sugar-Salem ran away with another regular season conference title, but Teton is also right there with them after knocking off the Diggers 1-0 to win the district tournament. The effects of that upset did not carry over to the state tournament however, as Teton fell in the consolation game 1-0 to Sun Valley while Sugar-Salem took five-time state champion CDA Charter to overtime. The Diggers and Timberwolves have separated themselves from the rest of the conference and should not face much opposition from South Fremont or Firth.

 Any team that hopes to win the Intermountain League must run through Coeur d’Alene Charter. Their closest competition, Grangeville, was crushed at their hands 15-0, and CDA Charter won each game they played (except for the state championship game) by at least 5 goals. Their only tie came against 5A foe Coeur d’Alene 3-3, and when a team has won five consecutive state titles and can hang with 5A competition, the separation is clear. The Panthers are undoubtedly the clear runaway favorite and should be right there ready to win a sixth consecutive state title.

 The Panthers did show some vulnerability in last year’s state title game, but they are still a team that any opponent will have a hard time with. McCall-Donnelly, Kimberly, Sun Valley Community School, Marsh Valley, Sugar-Salem, and Teton all want a piece of the powerhouse that CDA Charter has built, but based on last year’s state tournament, only Sugar-Salem wass able to show fight against this powerhouse. Last year’s state title game gave CDA Charter a wake-up call that they can’t just cakewalk to the title every year. In those big games, they will have to fight hard and earn those wins. If they continue to do that, the Panthers will continue to be an unbeatable force at the 3A level.

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