Written by Brandon Hill
A first-round exit in the 1ADII playoffs marred an otherwise successful season for the Rockland Bulldogs.
Led by quarterback Braden Permann, the Bulldogs cruised to a 2-1 record in the 1ADII Rocky Mountain Conference, falling just one game short of a prime slot in the playoffs. And while Rockland fell in a 40-0 shutout against Dietrich, Permann and third-year Head Coach Gerry Hunter are excited to see what 2020 brings.
Without Zane Porath and Jacob Hunter, last year’s standouts on both sides of the ball, Coach Hunter said he’ll need every bit of help from his underclassmen to once again reach the postseason.
“Teague Matthews is an incoming freshman that is a great athlete. Should make a great contribution on both sides of the ball,” Hunter said. “Cody Woodworth is an incoming freshman that is a tough kid that should get playing time at linebacker and fullback.”
Without the experience of last year’s seniors on the offensive line and wide receiver, Hunter said Permann’s experience will be more crucial than ever.
“He is a smart kid who understands the offense,” Hunter said. “Braden is a great competitor who builds everyone around him.”
Along with Permann, senior Swiss Army Knife Levi Farr returns to the Bulldogs, filling in quite literally wherever the team needs him. Farr makes contributions at receiver and linebacker, while also leading the special teams unit as punter and kicker.
In terms of new faces, Hunter said junior runningback Wes Matthews will make a return to the varsity squad, helping out Brigham Permann in the backfield, especially in the passing game.
“Wes Matthews came into last year as a sophomore running back and caught a lot of balls for us out of the backfield,” Hunter said. “As a junior, he has grown a lot and with experience from last year, he will be a threat.”
Junior lineman Wyatt Hendrickson, meanwhile, will look to help fill in a front line depleted by graduation and protect Permann in a pass-heavy offense. Hunter said this year, linemen like Hendrickson will be critical in developing the run game, something the Bulldogs did not utilize to their full potential last year.
“We have been very successful throwing the ball,” he said. “We need to get better running the ball. If we can run the ball better it will open up our passing game even more.”
Much like the offense, last year’s defense focused more on the passing game while neglecting to fully stop the run. Depending on his personnel, Hunter said he’ll implement a 3-5 of 3-4-1 scheme to help put his players in the best position to shut down running lanes.
“Our pass defense was good last year. We gave up a lot of yards on the ground. I look for us to get better against the run with our returning kids,” Hunter said. “We have gotten a lot bigger with our younger players from last year. We return 6 starters from last year. The experience that they have received will go along way in stopping our opponents this year.”
Hendrickson, Farr and Brigham Permann will all look to do what they can inside the box, while Braden Permann and Matthews help out in the secondary. Senior Michael Jensen, Hunter said, has shown significant growth this offseason after suffering multiple knee injuries in his career.
Rockland opens against Camas County Aug. 28. Check back with IdahoSports.com for updated scores and schedules throughout the season.