Written by Brandon Hill
There’s a new face in the 5A District 5-6.
After this year’s district realignment, the Idaho Falls Tigers will move up from the 4A ranks to compete with some of the state’s top squads in East Idaho. The Tigers, who sputtered early in 2019 with three straight losses, will face tougher competition than ever in a conference comprised of Highland, Madison, Thunder Ridge and defending state champion Rigby.
Calling Idaho Falls’ 2020 season an uphill battle could be considered an understatement. The Tigers faced two 5A teams last year — Lewiston and Thunder Ridge — and dropped both contests 33-14 and 48-38, respectively. The Tigers’ three wins on the season came against Columbia, Bonneville and Shelley, resulting in a fourth-place finish in the 4A High Country Conference behind Blackfoot, Skyline and Hillcrest.
That uphill battle becomes even steeper considering the Tigers will be without star athlete Spencer Moore. The team’s MVP, Moore recorded 1,700 rushing yards, 650 receiving yards, threw for another 575 yards and recorded 900 return yards.
Without the incredible talents of Moore at his disposal, second-year Head Coach Marty Duffin said he’ll be spreading out the offensive responsibilities to many of his up-and-coming athletes.
“We are expecting big things out of our wide receiver group consisting of mostly juniors,” Duffin said. “We are deeper at the receiver position which allows us to pass more than usual.”
Duffin said junior quarterback Skyler Olsen will step in under center, helped by a stalwart of an offensive line.
“Skyler Olsen runs the offense well and we are looking for big things from him,” Duffin said.
Duffin said he expects more of an emphasis on the run game this year to ease the pressure on Olsen. Junior running back Kyan Jesperson is expected to be the workhorse in the backfield for the Tigers.
On defense, the Tigers have plenty to improve upon. Idaho Falls allowed an average of 30 points per game last season at the 4A level, second-highest in the 4A High Country Conference.
“Our defensive line is a big part,” Duffin said. “We need to control the gaps with them and let the back seven attack and make plays.”
Operating in a 4-3 scheme, Duffins’ defense will rely on Porter Tuttle to showcase the improvements he’s made this offseason at the safety position.
Tuttle, as well as the receivers on offense, will have a new mentor in Wade Hillam. Duffin also added Rod Elliott to his staff to help coach the running backs.
The Tigers close the season against Highland Oct. 23, a matchup Duffin said he’s circled on his calendar. Idaho Falls hasn’t faced the Rams since 2015, a lopsided 0-58 loss.
Check back with IdahoSports.com for updated Idaho Falls scores and schedules throughout the season.