Written by Will Hoenike
Two teams that earned playoff berths out of the 1A Division 2 Sawtooth Conference moved up to 1A Division 1, including the classification’s defending state champion, Lighthouse Christian.
That opens the door for other teams in the Sawtooth.
With Lighthouse and Murtaugh moving up a class, Carey, Dietrich and Camas County each return after earning playoff berths last season. The Hansen Huskies hope to stake a claim to a postseason spot this season.
Under fourth-year head coach Jim Rife, the Huskies will try to break through after showing incremental improvement each season. The team will look to replace six departed seniors but brings back some talent that should put the team in position to contend for a post-season berth.
Leading the way is senior Jonathan Camarillo. The versatile Camarillo was an all-conference performer at defensive end last season as well as earning All-State accolades as a punter.
He’ll also serve as the team’s quarterback and has proven some dual-threat capabilities. He ran for over 100 yards and two scores in an early-season victory over Castleford and came back the next week with three scoring passes in a loss to Lighthouse Christian. He also topped 100 yards rushing with a score against Murtaugh late in the season.
He has two pass-catching targets back in juniors Jacob Pittman and Tom Gibson but the key to the season might be junior Ethan Lietchy and his friends up front.
“Our offensive line is going to play the biggest role for our team,” Rife noted. “We have a good group of linemen, (they) just lack some experience.”
Likewise, the Huskies hope to see gains on the defensive side of the ball. The defensive unit struggled at times in 2019 but, in the team’s two wins, the defense posted one shutout and held the opponent to 14 points.
“I believe that we have more team speed on defense this year,” Rife said. “Being able to communicate on the field and just do our individual assignments will be key.”
Camarillo (DE), Lietchy (DL), Gibson (DB), and Pittman (DB) return to provide game experience for the Huskies, but Rife thinks a talented sophomore class will take a big step forward to help fill the gaps.
“We will make a few adjustments to fit the athletes that we have,” he said. “Our entire sophomore class has shown a great deal of improvement and growth during the offseason.”
Despite the loss of Lighthouse Christian and Murtaugh, the 1A Division 2 Sawtooth Conference remains strong. Carey, one of the state’s elite programs at any level, remains, as does Dietrich, a perennially-competitive program.
For Rife and his team to make a run at one of the playoff spots out of the Sawtooth Conference, health will be important. The Huskies have nearly 20 players on the roster but not a lot of game experience. Staying healthy, continuing to develop a strong offensive and defensive front, and playing sound, fundamental football will be crucial for Hansen.
Check back with IdahoSports.com throughout the season for updated Hansen scores and schedules throughout the season.