Photo By Kelly Magee - #24 Matt Fletcher
Written by Brandon Hill
Two state champions were all that stood in Kendrick’s way of a perfect season.
The Tigers, who finished 2019 outsourcing opponents by an average of 30 points, dropped just two contests, first to 1ADI State Champion Prairie and then to 1ADII State Champion Lighthouse Christian in the playoffs.
Disregarding the two missteps, Kendrick proved to have the perfect balance of unstoppable offense and unmovable defense, posting three shutouts and scoring above 60 points six times.
Head Coach Zane Hobart, now in his eighth season with the team, looks to capitalize on last year’s momentum and secure a state title for the first time since 2001.
But the Tigers will need plenty of help from their underclassmen after graduating key players on both sides of the ball. Kendrick lost starting quarterback Alex Sneve, running back Cooper Hewett and linebacker Chase Burke.
“We will miss Cooper’s blazing speed that he brought on both sides of the ball, and his big-play capabilities. Chase was our middle linebacker and our defensive captain and a tackle machine with a great nose for the football,” Hobart said. “Alex started at quarterback for the last two seasons and was a dynamic quarterback with great athleticism, we will miss his leadership and playmaking abilities.”
In their place, Kendrick welcomes a host of new leadership and rising stars, including a few new faces on the varsity squad.
“Dallas Morgan is an incoming freshman and little brother to big Donald Morgan. Dallas comes in right at 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds and is very athletic for his size and age, look for him to make an impact on both sides of the ball,” he said. “Ty Koepp is another incoming freshman and will be competing with Jagger Hewett for the starting quarterback position. This will be the first year in my eight years that we will have a quarterback battle. Either way, Ty will make an impact on both sides of the ball.”
No matter who earns the starting job under center, Hobart’s new quarterback will have the large task of tackling yet another loaded schedule. Kendrick matches up against Prairie once again, and Hobart said he expects the Pirates to be in contention for a state title in a classification above the Tigers’.
“Prairie is consistently one of the best teams in the state and to get the chance to play last year’s state title team puts into perspective where we are as a team after you play a team like that,” he said.
Hobart said once again, Kendrick will implement a run-first offense, aided by a pair of running backs in juniors Matt Fletcher and Maison Anderson. Fletcher, still young in his football career, already possesses a deep knowledge of the Tigers’ gameplan on both sides of the ball. Hobart said his junior superstar has played every position, both offense and defense, at least once during his time on varsity.
“Matt Fletcher has shown great strides in his game, he will be asked to move to the tailback position and become a leader both on and off of the field,” Hobart said. “He looked great at camp and I am excited to watch him play his senior season.”
On defense, securing the edge will be key in repeating 2019’s dominant season. Senior defensive end Rylan Hogan will be the answer outside. Two lockdown ends coupled with a reliable linebacker is the most important facet of a successful defense, Hobart said.
“Defensive end play I think will be the biggest key, we must contain teams and win that line of scrimmage battle,” he said. “I think if you have three solid kids in those positions you have the ability to be successful on the defensive side in eight-man football.”
Anderson will fill that crucial middle linebacker role, providing the Lions with the necessary combination of brains and brawn.
“Anderson has taken great strides and will be asked to be the spearhead of the defense at the middle linebacker position,” Hobart said. “I am looking for him to step up and have a breakout junior season, and I know he can do it.”
Check back with IdahoSports.com for updated Kendrick scores and schedules throughout the season.