Photo By Willy Harris - # 55 Gavin Heindel
Written By: Sven Alskog
Despite not making the playoffs last season, Kuna has reason for optimism after winning four of the last five games to close the year.
The Kavemen will need to find replacements for standout linebacker Hayden Brandon and quarterback Matthew Austin, each of which will be continuing their football careers at the collegiate level.
At the quarterback position, the name on the back of the jersey will stay the same, with Sean Austin set to take over for his older brother.
“As a spread style offense, quality quarterback play is important for us to be successful,” said head coach Sherman Blaser. “Sean Austin is taking the reins from older brother Matthew and will need to play well. We have a solid core of skill players that we will rely on in Tyler Brown, Jon Edwards, Zeke Wilson and Mason Leatham. We are happy with the program growth on offense as we are heading into year three of the same general style and system and that has helped our kids be comfortable with what we do.”
Edwards will play a key role on offense as one of the featured backs, with Kuna looking to continue to show growth in the run game.
“On offense, the main emphasis has been improving the running game and making
adjustments to kids’ skill sets,” added Blaser.
Jacob Graves and Gavin Heindel are two of the linemen who should be able to clear some space up front, with Heindel having earned First Team All-Conference honors last season.
Tyler Brown is the other returning All-Conference selection for the Kavemen at the wide receiver position, as Kuna looks to have the pieces in place to be more explosive in 2019.
On both sides of the ball, Blaser has been impressed with the improvement shown.
“The offensive and defensive lines have both gotten stronger and more explosive as athletes. Benten Hall has grown in the weight room and improved on his pass rush skills. Tyler Brown has taken a leadership role to push kids to get better all offseason.”
After a year of improvement on defense last season, Kuna hopes to keep things going in the right direction on that side of the ball once again. Opponents averaged under 23 points per game against the Kavemen in 2018 as the unit showed increased consistency on a weekly basis after giving up 31 or more points in every game the year before.
“One main key for us on defense is the switch in system we made last year. We moved to an odd front last year after some time as a 4-2-5 and it has made a huge change in our success. We want to continue to master that style and system but will have to fill some big shoes to do that. We look for Ty Cobb and Lance Ray to lead the way in the defensive backfield. However, we believe we will have a good defensive line that can make some things happen in our favor. Benten Hall is returning and led the line in sacks last year,” said Blaser.
Kuna gets the new season started with two tough home games against Middleton in week one and then against Nampa in week two.