Photo By Loren Orr - #1 Jordan Erickson
Written by Wayne Dzubak
Rocky Mountain entered the 2019 season as the reigning state champion and seemed destined for a repeat title.
The Grizzlies’ 12-0 2018 championship season was followed by a 10-0 start in 2019, but disaster quickly struck in the playoffs. The Rigby Trojans, eventual 5A state champions, thumped the Grizzlies 31-9, ending Rocky’s 22-game win streak and the Grizzlies’ repeat bid.
Rocky Mountain now sits at 22-1 over the last two seasons. Fourth-year head coach Chris Culig said he expects 2020 to be a continuation of his squad’s expected dominance.
“Our offensive line should be more athletic with length and overall size, and our defensive will be extremely fast and bigger than last year,” he said.
Rocky Mountain lost some key players to graduation but has no less than 10 players returning who received 2019 postseason recognition. Among them is linebacker Landon Albert who earned first-team All-State and SIC honors.
“We have tremendous talent in our top 14 players,” Culig said. “However, we lack some depth so staying healthy will be a key.”
Defensive back Brayden Rundell, defensive lineman Zack Black, defensive lineman Jarell Lucas and Albert are all three-year starters. Defensive back Xander Nawahine, defensive back Trevor VanGerpen and Brayden Valentine also started every game last year, so Culig has a core of experience he can unleash in 2020. All six received 2019 postseason recognition on a defense that yielded just 18.6 points per game.
Offensively, Rocky Mountain averaged more than 36 points per game in 2019 and Culig has challenged his 2020 team to focus on more points per possession and protecting the football.
“We’ll have the ability to run and throw the ball with a skilled group of receivers, running backs and quarterback Kobe Warr.”
Running back Jordan Erickson, who earned second-team All-SIC in 2019 will be the Grizzlies’ main running threat. Erickson is hoping to take advantage of the one coaching change the Grizzlies made this year in new offensive line coach Eric Fillmore.
“(He's’) one of the best offensive line coaches I’ve been around in 30 years of coaching and I’m excited to have him with us,” Culig said.