Challis High School
Conference: 1AD1 Snake River Conference
Classification: 1A D1
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Head Coach: T.T. Cain
Years as Head Coach: 2nd Season
Previous Experience: Four seasons as Challis’ assistant coach
Record Last Year: 0-8
State Titles: 1976
Tristan Stillwaugh, QB/LB, 12
Mike Cotant, DL/G, 12
Hunter Cain, DL/C, 12
Jacob Plummer, DL/TE, 12
Pete Bradshaw, LB/RB, 11
Dustin Stillwaugh, DB/WR, 11
Wyatt Naillon, DL/G, 11
Danny Ziegler, DL/G, 11
Ross Sheppard, DE/LB/QB/TE, 10
Rowdy Piva, DB/RB, 10
Cooper Erickson, DB/WR, 10
Mitchell Cotant, DB/RB, 10
Blaine Ammar, DL/G, 10
Returning Players with Honors:
Tristan Stillwaugh – All-Conference DB
Pete Bradshaw – All-Conference LB
Mike Cotant – All-Conference OL
Written by: Matt Harris (@IdahoSportsMatt)
There is a large boulder near the entrance to Millick Field at Challis High School. Most people who pass by it think nothing of the stone. The Vikings football players, however, see the goals of their 2016 squad through it.
“We want to ‘Push The Rock’, which speaks to teamwork,” said head coach T.T. Cain, now his second season leading the Vikings. “If we work together as a team to push the rock we then have no limits as to what we can accomplish as a team.”
Challis enters the new football season full of optimism and excited at the prospects of improvement from an 0-8 campaign in 2015. The Vikings were very young last year – only four seniors were listed on their varsity roster. And while the team is still relatively young, they bring back the lessons learned and experienced gained from last year’s growing pains.
Quarterback Tristan Stillwaugh is back for his senior season to lead the Vikings’ offense and he will have weapons to work with. Junior running back Pete Bradshaw returns as well, along with sophomores Rowdy Piva and Mitchell Cotant to give Challis a solid presence in the backfield. On the outside, senior Jacob Plummer will occupy the tight end position with sophomore Ross Sheppard seeing time there, while junior Dustin Stillwaugh and sophomore Cooper Erickson will give the Vikings a deep threat.
On the line, Challis brings back a number of players including seniors Mike Cotant and Hunter Cain, juniors Wyatt Nailon and Danny Ziegler, and sophomore Blaine Amar. Their experience from last year should help in giving time to the backfield this year.
Overall, Cain is pleased with the progress made by his team over the summer and is looking forward to seeing what the offense can do this year.
“We picked up a bit of speed and athleticism over the summer as we had a core group of kids in the weight room and in our summer program,” he said. “We have some young and talented sophomores coming up from last year’s JV team and we are really excited to see them step up and contribute at the varsity level. We were a bit one dimensional last year in terms of our offense based on the athletes we had and we hope to open up more and spread the defense out this year – the sophomores are all under the radar and will make an impact for us.”
Challis’ offense was primarily run-oriented last season with the now-graduated Zane Corrigan and Jack Penniger along with Stillwaugh working to gain yardage on the ground. The Vikings averaged 14.0 points per game in 2015.
Defensively, Cain and his staff have made changes to their scheme in hopes of lowering the amount of points given up on a nightly basis. Challis gave up an average of 53.8 points per game in 2015, the worst mark in all of 1A Division-I. However, he is confident that those numbers will improve this year.
“The defense is going to have to step up this season. We will need to be much improved at gap control and getting off blocks more efficiently, which is the emphasis and structure of what we are implementing,” he said.
Cain pointed to three players who will be key for the Vikings to accomplish their defensive goals this year: Stillwaugh and Bradshaw at linebacker and Cotant at defensive end.
Cotant will be joined on the line by Hunter Cain, Plummer, Nailon, Ziegler, and Amar. Expect Sheppard to make his presence felt with Stillwaugh and Bradshaw in the linebacking core. The secondary will be young, but talented, as Dustin Stillwaugh, Erickson, Piva, and Mitchell Cotant look to lock down any aerial attacks thrown their way.
The defense will have to gel into a cohesive unit quickly as they enter into a new conference this season which has shown their passing prowess the last couple of seasons. Challis, along with former High Desert Conference foe Grace, has joined the Snake River Conference of District 4. The large nine-team conference, which spans farther than any other league in Idaho, was home to the Vikings from 2012-2013. And with only three playoffs spots available to the state tournament this year, every conference game matters.
“This conference is going to be competitive without a doubt,” Cain said. “I would look to three teams as great competition for us: Raft River, Valley, and Oakley. They are all well coached teams and Valley is the defending state champions. It goes without saying that they would be the front runner.”
The season begins in earnest for Challis on August 26th when the Vikings travel to Carey for a non-conference game. They then travel to Hazelton to take on the Valley Vikings in a game that was originally scheduled to be played in Challis.
“The school is installing a new track this year and thus we will not be able to play our first home game against Valley,” Cain said.
Completion of the new track is scheduled for before September 9th, when Challis welcomes Hagerman. The Vikings then hit the road for two straight away games: at Shoshone and at Raft River. The remainder of the schedule then flip flops between home and away contests starting on September 30th with Challis hosting Glenns Ferry, visiting Oakley on October 14th, home against Murtaugh on October 21st, and finishing out on the road at Grace on October 28th.
Challis is excited for the season ahead and, while Cain would love to see great strides made on the field, he is able to put into perspective his role as the head coach – that it’s not all about X’s and O’s, but building young men.
“Working with the kids and not always on the game all the time, but teaching them what’s right in life,” he said. “I speak to having character, integrity, accountability and doing the right things which in this day and age is hard to do. In terms of football it’s all about teaching the kids the game from the time they are freshman and seeing them through to seniors. Hopefully, if we did our jobs the kids will go on and do great things in life.”
Cain and his crew can’t wait to get rolling with the new season. Don’t be surprised if Challis shocks a few people along the way.