Photo By #5 Payton Van Steenkiste
Written by Brandon Hill
The Rigby Trojans traveled 560 miles north in mid-November for a state championship matchup at the University of Idaho.
Their opponent? Moscow, Idaho’s, next-door neighbor Coeur d’Alene. The Vikings traveled a mere 86 miles to their destination, taking the field before a mass of blue-and-gold clad fans.
But despite the away-game like environment, the Trojans, led by Head Coach Armando Gonzalez, proved the doubters wrong in a matchup many expected to be between the Vikings and Rocky Mountain Grizzlies when the playoff picture was set.
The Trojans quietly dominated their regular season competition after a Week 1 loss to CDA, stringing together seven straight wins ahead of the postseason. Once in the playoffs, the Trojans shocked the rest of the state, knocking off the Eagle Mustangs 56-20 and definitively ending Rocky Mountain’s historic winning streak 31-9.
Under the bright lights of the Kibbie Dome, the Trojans faced their toughest challenge yet in a thrilling back-and-forth battle with the state’s top northern football program. Rigby and Coeur d’Alene proved so evenly matched, the pair needed not one, but two overtimes to decide the title. And in a gutsy 2-point conversion attempt, Gonzalez called running back Brigham Youngstrom’s number.
The now-graduated Trojan fought tooth and nail through the scrum, crossing the goal line and handing Rigby its first state title in school history.
Fast forward nine months and Rigby is left without many of the talented seniors who helped the team reach postseason glory a season ago, specifically quarterback Keegan Thompson.
“He was an amazing young man and leader. Keegan’s example on and off the field raised those around him to another level of play,” Gonzales said. “Keegan was an awesome athlete and made many plays in the 2019 season.”
While Gonzales did not mention who would replace Thompson at quarterback, he made it clear that any offensive success will start with his front line. Rigby returns five offensive linemen in 2020, including decorated athletes Boyd Madsen and Blake Anderson.
“The offensive line is the internal organ to our offense,” Gonzales said. “You don’t see them and often forget they exist, but they are the reason we function.”
In terms of weapons, Gonzales also lamented the loss of wide receiver Christian Fredrickson and tight end Brycen Uffens. Fredrickson hauled in three touchdowns in the second half of last year’s state title game and another in overtime.
In their place, the Trojans return a trio of weapons on the outside in seniors Trajen Larsen, Colton Edwards and Bridgen Craig.
While Rigby prided itself on high-scoring affairs and wide margins of victory last season, none of that would have been possible without an all-conference level defense. The Trojans held opponents to an average of 18 points a game, but that average drops to 12 when disregarding the team’s two shootouts against CDA. Not once against those teams did Rigby allow more than 20.
But without the stars of last season, question marks remain on the roster. Rigby lost defensive end Tanoa Togiai, one of the most influential athletes to put on a Trojan uniform. Togiai hit the big time after graduation, joining the PAC-12 with the Utah Utes.
Senior linebacker Landon Von Johnson, who earned four postseason honors, should have no trouble stepping into the leadership role and the very large shoes — literally — left by Togiai.
While Gonzales said his roster has plenty of depth in the box, his secondary has proven more difficult to flesh out.
“The safety position is the biggest question mark going into the season,” he said. “How they develop will determine how well we function since they are responsible for a lot of checks and adjustments.”
Check back with IdahoSports.com for updated Rigby scores and schedules throughout the season.