Photo By Debbie Duffin - #5 Zack Park
Written by Zack Kellogg
As years come and go, teams find themselves in the situation of saying goodbye to players and teams that helped shape the foundation and culture for years to come.
This season, the Pocatello Indians are looking ahead to a new wave of leaders while still having high playoff hopes.
“We lost some of our most talented players and leaders that we’ve had over the last few years in Jaden Downs and Matt Ney. They have really helped us change the culture on and off the field. They along with players like Jarrett Lindley have laid the groundwork for us to be successful moving forward,” said sixth-year head coach Dave Spillett.
After starting 1-3 to open 2019, Pocatello went on a roll, winning four out of five to close out the year and advance to the playoffs. Unfortunately, the Indians were matched up against the undefeated and eventual state champs, Kuna, in a 56-27 loss.
Replacing experience and leaders is a tough task for any program, but the replacement of skill shouldn’t be an issue for Pocatello.
Expectations are high for the new front seven of the Indian defense, made up by the defensive line and linebackers, with the goal of making teams one dimensional through the passing game.
“Games are won and lost in the trenches and I believe our front seven will be extremely tough this year,” Spillett said. “We will be an aggressive defensive team and you’ll see our guys play with a lot of passion and energy. We return a lot of experience and leadership at linebacker this year.”
Bayden Sayer, Hunter Killian and Jaxon Williams return as the linebacker group, with Sayer coming off an all-conference season and Killian earning 4A all-state accolades. Ben Read on the defensive line helps round out the established mentality of an aggressive and ferocious defense.
The secondary won’t be a liability either, returning all-conference defensive back Casey Bruner. He is joined by Matt Christiensen, who is returning after suffering a season-ending injury last season.
This gives the Indians a dynamic defense at the corner spots, with the added bonus of the newest member on the coaching staff, D.J. Clark. Clark is a former NFL defensive back for the Green Bay Packers and Carolina Panthers who played a successful career at Idaho State University, leading the Bengals in interceptions for four straight seasons.
“Coach Clark is a great asset to our football family, and will no doubt be a positive influence on our team,” Spillett said.
On offense, junior Zack Park has been moved from his slot receiver spot to quarterback, and there is not expected to be a shortage of passing opportunities, despite the team’s main goal for success relying on an effective running attack.
With the added element of mixed tempo on offense with no-huddle sequences planned, taking care of the football is critical. This means giving Park a time to throw and the running backs open lanes, all hinging on the success of the offensive line.
“We’ll go as our offensive line go, With the leadership of Ben Reed on our Offensive line, we’re expecting big things from this group,” Spillett said.
Check back with IdahoSports.com for updated Indian scores and schedules throughout the season.