Shelley High School
Conference: 3A Mountain Rivers Conference
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Head Coach: Jake Monahan
Years as Head Coach: 3rd Season
Previous Experience: 14 years overall
Record Last Year: 11-1
State Titles: 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2012, 2013
Mason Price, WR/LB, 12
Levi Sorensen, OL/DL, 12
Garret Murdoch, RB/DL, 12
Wyatt Remington, WR/DB, 11
Payton Nelson, TE/DE, 12
Braxton Balmforth, LB, 12
Alicz Challis, OL/DL, 12
Returning Players with Honors:
Trey Erikson – Second Team All-Conference DB
Mason Price – Mountain Rivers Conference Defensive Player of the Year, First Team All-State WR
Levi Sorensen – Second Team All-Conference OL, First Team All-State OL
Braxton Balmforth – First Team All-Conference LB, Second Team All-State LB
Wyatt Remington – Second Team All-Conference WR
Key Players lost from last year:
Bryon Leckington, QB/LB
Redgie Smith, WR/DB
Brady Hollist, OL/DL
Diego Pena, OL/DL
Photo By: Steve Conner - #2 Mason Price
Incoming impact players:
Jake Wray, QB
Corey Killpack, OL/LB
Brandon McBride, WR/DB
Written by: Matt Harris
Just a few more minutes was all they needed and wanted.
Trailing 35-28 to Fruitland late in the fourth quarter of the 3A State Championship in Middleton, Shelley needed just a bit more time to try and secure the equalizing score.
But time ran out on the Russets and their quest for a seventh state championship and a perfect season. It wasn’t the ending that Shelley envisioned, nor one they had experienced before – they had beaten Fruitland all four times in previous title game matchups.
Fast forward to now. Some key players have moved on, but the expectations are still the same as they always have been: championship or bust. Fortunately for Russet fans, they don’t rebuild… they reload. That doesn’t mean that Shelley won’t miss those players who have graduated, which include Bryon Leckington, Redgie Smith, Brady Hollist and Diego Pena.
“Bryon was the 3A All-State Player of the Year and was a great leader and a work-horse for us,” said head coach Jake Monahan, now in his third season leading the Russets. “Redgie made lots of plays for us on defense and offense and was a physical player. Brady was a hard worker that was a ‘glue guy’ for our team and Diego had a big time motor.”
With the departures of those key players, it gives an opportunity for those waiting in the wings to step up and shine.
Offensively, one such player that Monahan believes will do just that is junior quarterback Jake Wray, who will take over from Leckington under center. Monahan said that Wray is a different sort of player than Leckington was, but has great potential.
“Jake has tremendous upside,” he said. “He works hard in the weight room and on the football field. He’s a very quiet leader, but his teammates respect him. He’s not a huge dude like Leckington was, but is athletic and an accurate passer.”
The Russets offense has evolved since Monahan’s first season in 2015. What began as a primarily run-oriented offense then morphed into a more balanced attack last season. And now, look for the Shelley coaching staff to tweak it again to play to the strengths of the players on the field, including Wray.
“We will have a good amount of speed on this year’s team and we want to get on the perimeter as much as possible, stretch defenses, and spread the ball around,” said Monahan. “We are working to improve the quick passing game, as that is Jake’s strength. The plan is to be as close to 50/50 as possible run to pass.”
Wray will have plenty of weapons to work with at wide receiver, led by First Team All-State senior receiver Mason Price. He will be joined by Wyatt Remington, Garret Murdoch, and Brandon McBride to round out an athletic group. Murdoch will see time at running back as well. Monahan said McBride could really make an impact this year.
“Brandon started the first two games for us as a sophomore last season before he suffered a season-ending injury,” he said. “He is a tireless worker and possesses a ton of athletic ability. He will be a great weapon for our team if all goes as planned.”
Senior tight end Payton Nelson will also factor into the offense. Up front, senior offensive lineman and first team All-State selection Levi Sorenson will look to anchor the protection along with fellow senior Alicz Challis. Join the fray this year will be junior Corey Killpack, who switched from running back to lineman.
“We asked Corey to make the switch over the summer and he took it in stride,” said Monahan. “Corey is a really good running back but is doing what is best for the team. He will be an outstanding lineman. We appreciate guys like him in this program.”
Defensively, the speed from the offense will translate to the other side of the ball and the Russets will have to use it as they don’t have as much size this season.
“We won’t be as big up front this coming year compared to last, so we will have to get a bit more creative in generating pressure on opposing offenses,” Monahan said.
On the defensive line, the quartet of Sorenson, Challis, Nelson, and Murdoch will anchor the first line of defense in the Russets’ front seven. Remington will be looked upon to lead the quick Shelley secondary.
Second team All-State selection Braxton Balmforth will lead the linebacking corps, along with Price and Killpack. Price earned the Mountain Rivers Conference Defensive Player of the Year award last season and Monahan said Killpack could have a huge year from that position.
“He is a really instinctive and physical linebacker,” he said. “He has the potential to have a huge year for us.”
Overall, the coaching staff’s goal is to have their defense make opposing teams grind out every yard.
“We are a ‘bend, but don’t break’ defense. We want teams to have to work hard for every yard they get and be precise in doing so,” the head coach said. “We want to show some different looks, be quicker in spots, and have better tackling.”
Monahan is excited about the team’s opportunities for improvement heading into the season.
“I’m most excited about the potential to be fast and aggressive in all facets of the game,” he said, adding that staying healthy, having young players stepping up, and being consistently tough will factor into their success in 2017.
Shelley will be tested early on in the season this year. As they have in recent seasons, the Russets will open the year at Holt Arena in Pocatello on Aug. 25 in the annual Rocky Mountain Rumble when they face Green Canyon out of North Logan, Utah. Green Canyon is a brand new school in the Cache Valley area, making them somewhat of an unknown entity.
The Russets then return home on Sept. 1 to face their archrivals, the Snake River Panthers. They then hit the road for two consecutive weeks when they play at Canyon Ridge on Sept. 8 and at Preston on Sept. 15. Shelley will then host Filer on Sept. 22.
Following a bye week, conference play will open on Oct. 6 with Shelley’s final home contest of the season against Teton. The Russets then wrap up the regular season on the road on Oct. 13 at South Fremont and on Oct. 19 at Sugar-Salem. Monahan says that while all games are important, some stand out more than others.
“The Snake River game is always important due to both schools being in the same county,” he said. “Our conference will be very good once against this year. South Fremont, Sugar-Salem, and Teton are all must-watch and must-win games.”
If the Russets can develop and gel quickly as cohesive units on offense and defense, they could once again make a run at a state title. Shelley better expect the best from all of their opponents too. Even though they aren’t the defending state champions, opposing teams will treat them as if they are.
Their motto this year is ‘Chip Away’. They will continue to come after you, be aggressive, and be physical. They will continue to chip away at you until the time runs out.