Written by Will Hoenike
The people in Fairfield are likely well-aware. It gets mentioned frequently. And Rusty Kramer and the rest of the Camas County Musher football program works through it every time.
According to enrollment numbers with the IHSAA, Camas County is the smallest school in District 4 to field its own football team and the second-smallest in Idaho (Greenleaf Friends Academy in District 3 has a slightly smaller enrollment).
Despite that small enrollment – 45, according to the IHSAA – the Mushers have 19 players out for football this season. Kramer and his assistants, Ben Walter and Dallas Smith, have some big questions to answer but also have some key players back from last season’s 1A Division II state-playoff qualifier.
Senior Marcus Quinonez and junior Dawson Kramer will play key roles on defense. Senior Alex Robles and sophomore Markus Staley are also expected to be key contributors. Incoming freshmen Sage Patten and Emmett Palan should also see time right away, likely along the Musher defensive line.
The big change in Fairfield will be on offense, where the Mushers need to replace long-term starters at quarterback and center, where Trey Smith received the snaps from Colby Thompson, who held those positions for the past three seasons. Kramer said the battle for those two positions is “wide open” at this point, but it won’t be easy to replace Smith and Thompson.
“The leadership and athleticism of those two cannot be replaced,” Kramer said. “We will definitely have a hole to replace with those two.”
Quinonez, Patten, and Palan will factor into the team’s offensive line plans. Kramer and Robles are prime candidates to be key ball-handlers for the Mushers while Staley will be in the mix as well after lining up at receiver last season.
The team scored over 200 points last fall, averaging over 26 points per game. While the team may lack experience at the quarterback position, there is ample experience elsewhere on offense to see improvement this season.
The 1A Division II Sawtooth Conference underwent a bit of a change during the offseason as defending conference (and state) champion Lighthouse Christian moved up a classification to 1ADI. Murtaugh, a playoff team a year ago, also moved up. That leaves a six-team conference, but it’s not necessarily an easier conference. Perennial eight-man powerhouse Carey remains, as does Dietrich, which is often in the mix once the postseason begins. Camas County, Hagerman, Castleford, and Hansen round out the Sawtooth Conference.
How far Camas County goes may depend on how well the team is able to replace the key tandem of Smith and Thompson. Kramer concedes that it’s tough to know how that will go, given the limitations on summer workouts. He expects to run the ball more with Alex Robles and Dawson Kramer. If the Mushers’ line develops as hoped, the team should be able to move the ball and put points on the board, which will put the squad in position to play postseason football again this season.