Written by: Lucas Gebhart
1ADI High Desert Conference
PRESEASON COACHES POLL
1. Butte County
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Kelsey Isham, Junior, Butte County
Belle Beard, Sophomore, Butte County
Tessa Gregory, Challis
Maniah Clegg, Sophomore, Grace
Brenna Hill, Junior, Grace
It’s a year of change for the High Desert Conference as it welcomes in Butte County, a school that has dominated the 1AD2 Rocky Mountain Conference for the past several seasons.
The Pirates make the move to 1AD1 after winning the last two titles and five of the last 13 state championships total in 1AD2, going 44-3 over the last two seasons.
But this season will be anything but a cakewalk for Butte County, as the Pirates graduate six seniors from last year’s team.
“Although this team is young, I see a group of players that is competitive and committed to success, similar to the previous group that just graduated,” said Butte County head coach Carla Hansen, who enters her sixth season as head coach. “These girls may take a year or two to develop into a strong varsity squad, but I expect great things from them throughout their high school careers.”
Butte County returns two players from last year’s varsity team, junior Kelsey Isham and sophomore Belle Beard. The Pirates lost Shay Lambson, Tausha Cummins, Meg Buxton Sherawn Brownlee, Kinsey Isham and Conlin Coburn however, all of which played vital roles in Butte County’s 1AD2 domination.
But a new conference means a new schedule, which will bring new challenges to a young Pirates team.
Grace, last year’s conference champion, went two-and-out at the 1AD1 state tournament last season and will see Kyle Christensen return to the bench after taking a year off, according to the Idaho State Journal.
The Grizzlies return six of their nine players from last year’s team, including Maniah Clegg, who is coming off a strong freshman season, and Brenna Hill, who enters her junior year.
Grace lost three seniors in Shae Donaldson, Brittanee Rasmussen and Braylee Wood to graduation and will look to challenge Butte County for the conference title.
Challis enters the new season much like it did last year – with a new head coach.
But unlike last year, the Vikings are off to a fast 4-0 start under head coach Kari Smith, with two wins over Leadore and wins over Salmon and Mackay as of November 19, three of which were by 22 or more points.
Key contributors so far this season for Challis have been Tessa Gregory, who scored 18 in a 51-22 win over Salmon and Jazmine Clegg, who scored 12 in the same game.
Challis has scored over 50 in three of the four wins, which is over 11 points more than last year’s season average of 38.9 points per game.
Taylor’s Crossing, located in Idaho Falls, will not field a varsity team this season as the school enters its first year competing in an IHSAA conference in basketball.
The Eagles are led by Niki Blanchard, who coached competitive softball for 10 years and competitive soccer for three.
“Our goal is to be as competitive as possible while learning to play with class and a high level of sportsmanship,” Blanchard said.