2A South East Idaho Conference Preview
Written by Madison Guernsey
Players to Watch
Justus Bright (Aberdeen)
Cory Rowbury (Aberdeen)
Matthew Hammond (Bear Lake)
Briston Schreiber (Bear Lake)
Owen Teuscher (Bear Lake)
Tim Simpson (Malad)
Brittan Bergholm (Soda Springs)
Hayden McWilliams (Soda Springs)
Wade Sims (Soda Springs)
Blaize Brown (West Side)
Bryler Shurtliff (West Side)
There’s a good chance that a team from the South East Idaho Conference plays for a 2A state title at the Idaho Center in March.
Which team that may be is harder to figure.
The conference has been well-represented on the big stage in recent years, fielding a team in five of the last six state title games. Going back farther, all of the league’s current teams — Aberdeen, Bear Lake, Malad, Soda Springs and West Side — have played for a state title since 2006.
Furthermore, all of the conference’s head coaches have led their current team to the state tournament, affirming the conference’s depth unpredictable nature. Coaches believe, however, that this season may belong to Soda Springs. The Cardinals have been hindered by inexperience and injuries in recent seasons, resulting in a five-year downturn. They were the state runners-up in 2015 but have seen their win totals dip each season since, bottoming out with a 4-20 record last winter. The team’s key returners include senior point guard Brittan Bergholm and junior center Wade Sims, who were second-team and honorable mention all-conference, respectively, a season ago.
“They have guards and some bigger posts,” Bear Lake coach Brandon Carlsen said. “They have been young in the past.”
If the Cardinals return to the top of the league, they’ll have to unseat West Side first. The Pirates have won the last two conference titles and are the defending state runners-up.
Second-team all-state junior guard/post Bryler Shurtliff and second-team all-conference junior guard Blaize Brown headline West Side’s returners, and they have high-stakes game experience. Both have played major roles in helping the Pirates win back-to-back football state titles.
West Side’s biggest departure is Isaac Frankman, last year’s conference player of the year and a first-team all-state selection. Coach Tyler Brown hopes players like Brentan Noreen, Ryan Lemmon and Easton Henderson can step into larger roles to fill the void.
Bear Lake and Malad also return key players after solid 2019-20 campaigns. The Dragons, who last season snapped a 13-year state tournament drought, are led by first-team all-conference senior Tom Simpson. The Bears narrowly missed a state berth last season and bring back first-team all-conference senior Owen Teuscher.
The Bears had one of the best scoring defenses in the 2A classification last season, but struggled with offensive consistency, something Carlsen hopes to improve. Rounding out the conference is Aberdeen, the only team without a returning all-conference player. The Tigers struggled to a 4-18 mark last season and aim to improve their offense after scoring 38.3 points per game.
Head coach Joe Ingersoll hopes a coaching addition will help. Ryan Wahlen, who led the Aberdeen girls varsity program for six seasons, joined Ingersoll’s staff in the offseason. “His work ethic and knowledge will help us,” Ingersoll said.
With balanced returning talent and coaches with proven success, 2A District 5 should once again yield exciting results — and it won’t be a surprise if the league has a team playing on the last day of the season.
“Our district is very competitive,” Soda Springs coach Greg Bergholm said, “and always represents us very well at state.”