Photo By Randy Jones - #7 Heath Owens
Written by Hailey Stewart
The Bulldogs are set to open against the Snake River Panthers — a game that will show just how prepared Head Coach Rich Bishop and the Kimberly football team are for the season ahead.
“It will be a tough one right out of the gate,” Bishop said. “This will give us a good test and show us what we need to get better at and what we need to just keep honing.”
Kimberly lost against the Panthers 42-14 in its opening game last season. Coming off a 5-4 2019 season, with a quick exit from the 3A playoffs against Fruitland, Kimberly looks to make a better showing this year, even with a few missing key players.
Bishop said the team will miss recently graduated running back McKade Huft and linebacker AJ Garell. Huft was a four-time all-state player.
“He was a workhorse for us and carried the ball a lot, averaging well over 1,000 yards and rushing three straight seasons, with over 900 is freshman year in only seven games,” Bishop said.
Garrell was a two-time conference player of the year athlete and two-time second-team all-state player.
“He was our leading tackler the last two years and the heart and emotion of the
team,” Bishop said.
However, Bishop looks to fill out the team with several new additions to varsity this season. Senior Cody Mendonca will join as a defensive end, sophomore Grant Murphy will join as an offensive lineman and defensive linebacker and sophomore Ethan Okleberry will join as a running back and linebacker.
While Bishop says there won’t be much of a change in the offense from 2019, the Bulldogs are working on bringing a more balanced attack in their offensive strategy.
Junior quarterback Heath Owens already has a year under his belt in the position and looks to improve on the Bulldogs’ passing game. Owens threw for more than 1,000 yards last season.
Bishop said Owens will add to the running game of junior running back Race Widmeir and senior running back Riley Mickelson. Widmeir, coming off a broken hip last year, has been working hard in the off-season, preparing to take over the reins from Huft this season.
Both Mickelson and senior wide receiver Quinn O'Donnell have made strides in practice and shown significant growth since last season, Bishop said.
“We need to make it so teams can’t just key on one area of our offense,” Bishop said.
On the defense, Bishop and his team look to squash their past of allowing opponents to gain momentum with big plays, leading to the defeat of the Bulldogs. Kimberly will feature a 4-3 defensive style this season.
“We have to continue to improve in our pass defense and not give up the big play,” Bishop said.
Kimberly opens the season Aug. 28 against Snake River.
Check back with IdahoSports.com for updated scores and schedules throughout the season.