Photo By Kelly Magee - $12 Shayler Bingham
Written by Brandon Hill
The best season in almost 10 years was cut short for the Jerome Tigers in a blustery Middleton Viking slugfest.
An old school mud brawl kept the Tigers, then 7-3 on the season, from advancing deeper into the playoffs, as the Middleton Vikings prevailed 45-16.
Heading into a new year, ninth-year Head Coach Sid Gambles expects his squad to once again prevail in conference competition. The Tigers finished the year atop the West Pod of the Great Basin Conference.
Senior quarterback Dalan Thompson returns to the team after an all-conference season at the helm of the Tigers. Thompson finished 2019 with 1,820 yards, completing 60% of his passes with 19 touchdowns and nine interceptions. Gambles said Thompson’s football IQ and knack for analytical improvisation make for a dynamic offense. Thompson, Gambles said, often will make the right call on the fly after surveying the defense, helped along with line adjustments from his center.
Opposing defenses should respect the Tigers’ passing game, as Thompson’s top target returns for another year. Senior receiver Shayler Bingham hauled in the most yards of any Jerome receiver with 944 in 2019, icing the cake with six touchdowns. The deep-threat wideout averaged 17 yards per reception and 94 yards per game, giving Thompson a lockdown option when looking over the top.
In the short passing game, Gambles said tight end Gavin Capps has shown significant growth this offseason, improving his speed and strength. Gambles said blocking will be key to his offense’s success, as he plans to implement plenty of screens.
On defense, Gambles will rely on senior linebacker JW James to help lead the huddle. James finished last year as the team’s leading tackler with 85 and 37 solo tackles.
“James adjusts to the formation. He lets us play fast and get into the right coverage,” Gambles said. “He will be a three-year starter, so I feel good about this.”
James replaces the previous “brains of the defense” in defensive back Jeffrey Ledezma. Gambles said he’ll be consistently rotating in different personnel to keep the defensive look confusing for opposing offenses, but will still operate out of a 4-3 scheme with a loaded box to help stop gains up the middle.
Gambles said fans can also expect defensive tackle Joe Stevenson to burst onto the scene, building on an already productive junior campaign in which he recorded 68 total tackles and 42 solo tackles. Stevenson did his best work in the backfilled, notching 13 tackles for loss and six sacks, both team highs.
“I expect really big things from this three-year player,” Gambles said. “He’s strong and had a good year last year. He’s ready to break out.”
Check back with IdahoSports.com for updated Jerome scores and schedules throughout the season.