Soda Springs High School
Conference: 2A South East Idaho Conference
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Head Coach: Cliff Garbett
Years as Head Coach: 3rd Season
Previous Experience: Pocatello High School assistant – 2 years
Twin Falls High School assistant – 9 years
Soda Springs High School assistant – 4 years
O’Leary Middle School head coach – 6 years
Record Last Year: 1-7
State Titles: None
Hunter Bybee, C/NG, senior
Jeremiah Hansen, OL/DE, senior
Taylor Adams, WR/LB, senior
Returning Players with Honors:
Hunter Bybee – First Team All-Conference
Logan Mumford – First Team All-Conference
Riley Harris – First Team All-Conference
Thomas Nielson – Second Team All-Conference
Taylor Adams – Second Team All-Conference
Jacob Housley – Second Team All-Conference
Kyle Durstellar – Honorable Mention All-Conference
Key Players lost from last year:
Andy Stewart, RB
Incoming impact players:
Thomas Nielson, WR/DB, junior
Jaren Johnson, OL/DL, senior
James Seelos, QB, junior
Written by: Matt Harris
Recent seasons have not been kind to the Soda Springs Cardinals football team.
In the last three seasons, the team has posted one win per season. However, optimism is high in Soda Springs that the Cardinals can rise up and contend in the South East Idaho Conference. A lot of that has to do with returning players.
“We have a lot of kids returning this year,” said Cliff Garbett, now in his third season as head coach of the Cardinals. “That’s what I’m most excited about.”
These returning players have been in Garbett’s system long enough to know the ins-and-outs of it. It’s now up to them to execute.
Junior James Seelos will take over under center for Soda Springs this year. He will be joined by senior All-Conference wide receiver Taylor Adams and incoming junior wideout Thomas Nielson. Garbett said he expects both Seelos and Nielson to have a significant impact on their offense.
The offensive line will feature a few returning players, including senior All-Conference selection Hunter Bybee at center and senior Jeremiah Hansen at guard. Incoming senior Jaren Johnson will also help to anchor the line.
“Our strength is our interior blocking and ability to have balance on offense,” said Garbett. “But we need to improve on having all eleven of our guys working together on every play and being fundamentally sound.”
Garbett has preached the importance of fundamentals since he took over the job in 2015. The former Twin Falls assistant hopes that the hard work on the basics will pay dividends on the field this season.
Defensively, the trio of Johnson, Bybee, and Hansen will look to plug up the line, while Adams roams around at linebacker. Nielson is expected to make an impact in the secondary as well. Garbett expects players such as Logan Mumford, Riley Harris, Jacob Housley, and Kyle Durstellar (all of them being All-Conference selections) to make some noise on both sides of the ball.
“Our run defense is one of our strengths and we want to have team pursuit of the football,” said Garbett. “But we need to be better in our assignments and alignments.”
The head coach emphasized that these strengths exhibited on both sides of the ball can’t be in spurts – it needs to happen frequently.
“Playing consistent football and taking care of the ball is our X-factor this season,” Garbett said, adding that their team motto this year is ‘Input Determines Output’.
The Cardinals will be tested right out of the gate this season. While three of their first four games are at home this year, all of them come against teams that qualified for the state tournament in either the 2A or 3A classifications. Soda Springs opens the year on Aug. 25 at home against a big and physical West Jefferson squad before hitting the road on Sept. 1 against a talented Firth team. The Cardinals then return home for two straight against Ririe on Sept. 8 and American Falls on Sept. 15.
Then the ever-important conference schedule gets underway, one which Garbett says is ‘must-see for everyone because all of those games are important’. Soda Springs opens league play on the road in Dayton against West Side on Sept. 22 before returning home to face Malad on Sept. 29. They then finish the regular season on the road in Montpelier against Bear Lake on Oct. 6 and at home versus Aberdeen on Oct. 13.
With the way the schedule is set up, Soda Springs’ bye week is actually on Oct. 20 which would be the end of the season should they miss the playoffs. In 11-man football at the 2A level, healthy bodies are at a premium near the end of the year. The Cardinals will have to guard against injury.
And while four of the five teams in their conference will secure a bid to the play-in round of the state tournament, Garbett’s Cardinals know that they will have to upset a team or two along the way if they want to put themselves in position to advance past that round for the first time in 10 seasons.
If Soda Springs can play consistently and avoid costly mental errors, they have the potential to achieve that goal.