Photo By Patty Theurer - #9 Kaeden Clemens
Written by Will Hoenike
In a year of uncertainty, nowhere in the 1A Division I ranks do things seem more uncertain than the Western Idaho Conference from District 3.
Defending league champion Wilder not only must fill the shoes of a talented and experienced senior class, but the Wildcats have also seen a recent cooperative agreement with nearby Greenleaf Friends Academy expire because the Grizzlies plan on fielding its own team. Idaho City loses a very good senior class and Rimrock is replacing key players as well.
Waiting in the wings is Notus. Not that the Pirates are immune to the uncertainty, but head coach Joe Woodland’s squad is in position to push the conference’s top teams this season.
“We have not beaten Wilder or Idaho City since I took over the head coaching job at Notus,” Woodland said. “We want to compete at the state-wide level and, in order to get there, the road goes through Idaho City and Wilder. Both of those schools have top-notch coaching staffs and have really good programs.”
The Pirates did lose Garrett Stewart, the team’s leading rusher last fall with over 1,000 yards. However, the team has junior Kaedan Clemens returning at the quarterback position. He threw for 10 touchdowns as a sophomore in a run-heavy offense so Woodland is confident in his signal-caller.
At running back, Notus returns sophomore Carter Woodland, who led the team with 12 touchdowns as a freshman. He has added about 20 pounds since last fall, which should help him step into a more prominent role in the team’s offense. Senior Quentin Hutton will also have an opportunity to earn a bigger role when the Pirates have the ball. Senior Mack Schimondle, one of the few seniors the team will have on offense, could turn into a go-to receiver when Notus throws the ball.
As for the team’s offensive line, Woodland is excited about the trio of junior Kellen Parks at center with junior Julian Gallegos and sophomore Aaron Jiminez at guard. The three could be together upfront for two full seasons.
“Aaron Jiminez has become the strongest kid on the team and is only a sophomore,” Woodland said. “He has put the work in during the offseason so I am really excited to see his hard work pay off.”
Jiminez is expected to anchor the Pirate defense from the defensive tackle position, with Gallegos at defensive end in front of linebackers Elijah Martin and Kieran Miraz. Woodland and Schimondle are expected to contribute in the secondary after receiving all-conference honors last fall.
Woodland says the exact schemes could vary, even from week to week.
“Our conference is very unique,” Woodland said. “We have teams that throw the ball 60 percent of the time and we have teams that run the ball 90 percent of the time. I think it is important to study film and be able to adapt from week to week.”
Another piece of uncertainty in 1ADI this season is a new playoff structure. In the past, the eight-team field featured two teams from the Western Idaho Conference. Starting this fall, the only team guaranteed to make the postseason will be the conference champion. However, there are seven at-large berths, so it’s possible multiple other teams out of the WIC could earn bids.
Woodland’s young team has an opportunity in front of it, though the task is not simple. If the team progresses as the coaching staff anticipates, Notus could return to the 1ADI playoffs for the first time since 2016.
Check back with IdahoSports.com for updated scores and schedules throughout the season.