Idaho Falls High School
Conference: 4A District 5-6 Conference
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Head Coach: Pete Molino
Years as Head Coach: 4th Season
Previous Experience: ISU position coach 1996-97, Grid Kid, Idaho Falls assistant coach 2011-12
Record Last Year: 0-9
State Titles: 1987, 1988, 1990, 1991
Spencer Anderson, ILB, #59, Senior
Todd Payne, DE, #29, Junior
Ethan Sutton, DE #86, Senior
Sam Leavitt, FS, #7, Senior
Ethan Monson, CB, #27, Senior
Spencer Egbert, OL, #67, Senior
Luke Murdoch, OL, #64, Senior
Returning Players with Honors:
Spencer Anderson, ILB, #44, Second Team LB High Country Conference
Photo By: Brad Barlow - #59 Spencer Anderson
Incoming impact players:
Todd Payne, DE, Junior
Canon Thompson, QB, Sophmore
Noah Hillam, TE, Junior
Anthony Cahill, CB, Junior
Craig Cooper, CB, Junior
Isaias Rameriz, OL/DL, Sophmore
Written by: Matt Harris (@IdahoSportsMatt)
It’s been a tough couple of years for Tiger Nation in Idaho Falls.
It seems like it was ages ago when a wealth of talent and experience led the 2013 squad to an 8-2 record and a spot in the 5A State Quarterfinals. Since that time, the Idaho Falls Tigers have struggled mightily on the field – a combined 1-17 record over the last two seasons. But fourth-year Tigers head coach Pete Molino feels that the fortunes of his squad are set to improve in 2016.
“We’ve had a very productive offseason,” he said. “The kids have trained hard and we saw excellent strength increases, mobility increases, and size increases during summer workouts.”
The positive momentum from the offseason should lead to greater productivity on the field, which Molino and his staff will need as they break in several younger, but talented players onto both sides of the football this year. Molino noted the need for these newcomers to quickly gain varsity experience.
“That is our X-factor this year – getting the younger players as much experience as possible as quickly as possible,” he said. “We will need to get their confidence built up and our momentum going.”
The Tigers will turn to sophomore quarterback Canon Thompson to help rejuvenate an offense that finished last in the 5A classification in 2015 at a paltry 5.6 points per game and was shutout four times. Molino is confident that Thompson, along with a cast of younger Tigers, will bring desired results.
“We are a younger football team this year, but with that younger age group comes a large increase in talent overall,” he said. “We will see improvements across the board offensively, both in the run game and the passing game,” he said. “I anticipate that both areas will improve greatly.”
Idaho Falls will continue to run the spread option offense, with a desired emphasis on running the football. Even with that emphasis, Thompson will have targets to work with through the air, including junior tight end Noah Hillam, who Molino believes is an impact player currently flying under the radar.
The Tigers also return senior offensive linemen Spencer Egbert and Luke Murdoch. Sophomore Isaias Rameriz also joins the fray up front to give the Tigers solid building blocks to protect Thompson and the backfield. The improvement on the line should pay dividends immediately for a squad that has struggled to protect their quarterback at times over the last two seasons.
While the talent level has jumped significantly on the offensive side of the ball, don’t think that the defense hasn’t made improvements either. Molino is confident that his defense will make great strides in 2016, just one year after the Tigers gave up an average of 48.7 points per game.
“We have more speed on defense this year and are stronger and more aggressive than previous years,” Molino noted. “I expect to see improvement across the board defensively.”
There is some returning experience on defense for the Tigers, including inside linebacker Spencer Anderson, who was a member of the High Country Conference Second Team in 2015. Joining Anderson in the front seven will be senior defensive end Ethan Sutton, while senior free safety Sam Leavitt and senior cornerback Ethan Monson will lead the way in the secondary.
Idaho Falls’ defense overall is on the younger side, however Molino feels they have the potential to stand out.
“We are likely going to experience the mistakes that come with having younger players at the varsity level,” he said, “but the talent is there. We are seeing a big jump in talent level on the field.”
Rameriz along with junior defensive end Todd Payne will look to wreak havoc on the front seven alongside Anderson and Sutton, while junior cornerbacks Anthony Cahill and Craig Cooper help complete the improved secondary.
The positive momentum and increased talent certainly have Molino and his staff optimistic about the season ahead.
“I’m excited to see these younger players on the field and watch them compete. They are a talented group who are competitive. It’s going to be a lot of fun seeing them play,” he said. “I’m also excited to see our seniors play. They have worked very hard over the last few years and have navigated through some very difficult situations. They are experienced and they are ready to win some games.”
The Tigers’ coaching staff hopes to channel the combination of senior experience and youthful talent into their theme for 2016: F.O.C.U.S.
“It means ‘Follow One Course Until Success’ – we are emphasizing the work that is required to bring the program to a championship level: Focus, Determination, Effort, and Commitment,” said Molino.
Idaho Falls will follow a somewhat new course this season as they drop from 5A to 4A – meaning a different set of conference members and new obstacles to hurdle. That includes facing perennial contender Blackfoot along with improving squads at Century and Pocatello. The one constant? Taking on archrival Skyline in conference play, who also dropped to 4A this year.
“As it stands now, I believe Skyline is positioned to do very well this season,” Molino said. "Many of their star athletes last season were younger and those kids will be leaders for their team.”
The Tigers will get their chance at Skyline much earlier than last season, as the two schools square off in the 52nd ‘Emotion Bowl’ on Saturday, Sept. 24 at Ravsten Stadium. The Grizzlies walloped Idaho Falls in record fashion in 2015, shutting out the Tigers 50-0 (their first shutout in the rivalry since 1996). Skyline has won four of the last five matchups.
“That’s the must-see game of the year. That game is such a huge tradition and rivalry for the two schools,” said Molino.
Idaho Falls will play a nine game schedule, including non-conference games at Jerome, Bonneville, and Hillcrest with a home date against Madison sandwiched in between.
While the Tigers appear to be on the up-tick this season, Molino appreciates the hard times as well and the lessons learned when things don’t go their way. It’s what makes coaching high school football great for him.
“I enjoy working with the kids,” he said. “We can’t/don’t recruit in high school football – we work with the kids we have. Obviously some years we will win more games than others due to the kids we have playing. But, in my opinion, coaching at the high school level then becomes more about operating a program that benefits our boys in several aspects of life: character development, educational achievement, work ethic development, goal setting and physical development. It becomes much less about wins and losses and more about developing young men.”