Photo By Steve Conner - #6 Isaak Plew
Written by Zack Kellogg
The Nampa Bulldogs were an explosive and dynamic team in 2019, with five players making the all-state teams, led by first-team receiver and defensive back Jace Mann.
After a third-place finish in 2019, the Bulldogs look to retool and refuel while having championships aspirations.
“Donovan Estrada, Jace Mann, Cade Smith, Braden Draper, Santiago Reyna and Alec Jensen will all be missed for their playmaking ability, but most of all their leadership on and off the field,” fifth-year head coach Dan Holtry said.
The Bulldogs have had a major turnaround since Holtry took over the program. After going 2-16 in his first two seasons (including an 0-9 2016 campaign), Holtry’s team is 17-7 in the past two years, now going toe-to-toe defeating established conference powerhouses like Bishop Kelly, Middleton and Vallivue.
Starting on offense, Nampa looks to continue the scheme of spreading teams out and keeping defenses on their toes with a diverse playbook, having a healthy dose of the run and pass.
“I think we did a very good job of achieving our goals of ball control and limiting turnovers from last season,” Holtry said. “I would like us to be able to execute in all facets of the game and especially during times of adversity. We want to be able to continue to finish drives and be balanced in our attack.”
Mann and former quarterback Estrada were all-state talents who were key leaders on offense, leaving high expectations for their replacements.
Senior wideout Isaak Plew returns to the varsity squad and is expected to step up as a key member of the offense’s production.
At quarterback, senior Colton Seable makes the move from wide receiver to the signal caller, with Holtry and the staff being very confident not just in his on the field skills, but the qualities of a leader as well.
The men in the trenches of the offensive line return three starters, two of which earned all-conference honors and returning guard Kaliopasi Niupalau, who earned all-state second-team in his junior season. As with any team, the success of the offense in large part hangs on the effectiveness of the o-line.
“Our strength comes from our offensive line, we return three starters and look to Kaliopasi Niupalau, Mason Rydalch and Braxton Waite to lead the offense down the field,” Holtry said.
In Nampa’s system, it is not uncommon to find players playing on both sides of the ball, with this season being no different, although there could be changes to the scheme compared to last season with the hiring of a new defensive coordinator in Zac Farnam.
With the loss of such a deep and experienced senior class, plenty of new faces will have their time to show out on Fridays.
“It will be very different up front due to personnel changes. The defensive line and linebackers will be new. We only return a couple defensive backs that spent significant time in games,” Holtry said. “Kaden Melad started at corner or us last season and will be relied on for his consistent play. We will also look to Jacob Butler and Issak Plew as defensive backs to set up and lead the defensive.”
With a base 4-3 defense, opposing quarterbacks and offenses might have a few extra grass stains if the retooled defense is able to meet expectations and produce on Fridays this fall.
Nampa opens the season hosting Pocatello on August 28 at 7 p.m. Check back with IdahoSports.com for updated Bulldog scores and schedules throughout the season.