Photo By Patty Theurer - #44 Saulo Luna
Written by Will Hoenike
Often times, coaches tend to shy away from statements that put the spotlight on players. Wilder head coach Kyle DalSoglio did no such thing when talking about senior Cody Walker.
“Cody Walker is a beast,” DalSoglio said. “He lives and breathes ‘linebacker’ play. As long as we get to play and he stays healthy, he will make a lot of noise this year on defense.”
Coming off of a season where he totaled 106 tackles, 16 of which were for loss, and recovered six fumbles, it’s easy to see why DalSoglio speaks so highly of Walker, who was a first-team all-conference linebacker as a junior. But he was also all-conference as a running back after rushing for over 700 yards and scoring nine touchdowns.
“He is one of the hardest-working, most committed, and best players I have ever coached,” said DalSoglio, who has been at Wilder for over a decade. “Expectations for Cody are through the roof.”
The good news for Wilder fans is that Walker will have help in the 1A Division 1 Western Idaho Conference. The team lost all-conference quarterback Pablo Martinez and all-state receiver Norman Gonzalez (who signed to play college football at nearby College of Idaho), but they return plenty, in particular up front.
Junior center Adrian Miramontes and senior guard Saulo Luna both return to the lineup. Walker figures to be the primary ball carrier on offense but speedy junior Moises Perez will get carries as well after averaging nearly 10 yards per carry in limited duty as a sophomore.
As for who takes over for Martinez at quarterback, one option is senior Diego Rodriguez, a versatile athlete who has overcome a knee injury.
The Wildcats should be stout on the defensive side of the ball, particularly up front. Miramontes and Luna will be joined Jose Leon Cortez and Fabian Leon along the front line in front of Walker. DalSoglio loves Perez’s cover skills as a defensive back. Junior Hunter Onofrei and sophomore Adrian Ponce, each of whom saw playing time last season, will compete for roles this season as well.
An X-factor that isn’t often talked about in the eight-man game is kicking. Wilder has one of the best small-school kickers in Idaho in senior Jose Leon Cortez. On top of being a valuable player on both offense and defense, Cortez returns after being a first-team All-Conference and first-team All-State kicker last season. He drilled a key field goal in Wilder’s playoff win over Potlatch last November. The three points kept it a two-score margin in the Wildcats’ 15-6 win.
DalSoglio has led the team to the postseason in each of the past four years. This year, the playoff structure has changed in 1A Division 1. The WIC gets one automatic berth – the conference champ – but could get more teams in due to seven at-large berths into the playoffs.
Though the Wildcats are replacing an experienced quarterback and a game-changing receiver, there appear to be plenty of athletes and playmakers, led by Cody Walker, to think Wilder will make it five straight years of postseason football. With good health and good bounces, it could even be a lengthy stay in the playoffs for DalSoglio and his squad.
Check back with IdahoSports.com throughout the season for updated Wilder scores and schedules.