Photo By Wes Turner - Dylan Stelling
Written by Chris Deremer
Three years after its last state title, the Fruitland rebuilding process has taken great strides to return as one of the most dominant teams in 3A Idaho high school football.
Grizzly head coach Ryan Tracy enters his eighth season in charge with 19 years in total of being with the program. Tracy will have a chance to gain his third state title in five years, an opportunity to solidify him as one of the top coaches in Idaho.
Tracy will have a trusted group of surrounding assistant coaches to help him throughout this upcoming season.
Nick Jayo joins the staff after recently working as head coach at Hagerman High School. According to Tracy, he looks forward to the energetic energy that this young coach brings. Doug Kappen and Jordan Gross also bring new knowledge to the team to help the offense take great strides in improving throughout the 2020 season.
The Fruitland offense averaged 22 points per game last season, which will need to improve to match up with some of the most potent offenses in the conference that Weiser and Homedale have been able to produce.
Fruitland enters the 2020 campaign with a young and hungry squad with a lot to prove. Despite a 4-5 record from a year ago, the Grizzlies entered the postseason with a dominating 64-29 victory over Kimberly High School to reach the 2019 playoffs. Unfortunately, the playoff run fell flat in the first round, losing 7-35 to conference rivals Homedale High School.
When you talk about the Snake River Valley Conference, the three heavy hitters continue to be Fruitland, Weiser, and Homedale. With all three teams making the state playoffs last season, each will continue to make strides to claim the coveted state title.
A young core returns for the Grizzlies, and with that some strong talent will need to be replaced.
The Grizzlies will have to move on without the Henngler brothers, having to replace Joe Henngler at quarterback and the explosive ability that wide receiver Josh Henngler provided for the team.
Fortunately for Fruitland, the strong running philosophy still exists within the program and key all-conference offensive linemen return for the Grizzlies.
Senior Weston Jeffries will be key on both sides of the ball, receiving all-conference honors a year prior as both offensive lineman and defensive lineman. Expect him to be an anchor on offense and defense during the 2020 season.
The Grizzly defense allowed 26 points per game a year before is an area of improvement for the upcoming season.
Running the football play after play with success can tire opposing defenses quickly, but the Grizzlies will need to get quick stops on defense to fully unleash their tenacity that they are able to bring.
With an experienced coaching staff and Tracy at the helm, expect the Fruitland Grizzlies to make another deep run within the 2020 season.