Written by Brandon Hill
Six games into 2019, the North Gem Cowboys looked to be in position for a postseason run.
The Cowboys had posted three victories, showcasing an electric offense which scored 34 against Murtaugh, 50 against Challis and 54 and Sho-Ban. But with just three games left on the docket, the Cowboys failed to pull out another conference, win, dropping games against Waterprings and Rockland, both 30-14.
The pair of losses earned North Gem the unfavorable C seed in the playoffs, matching the Cowboys up with eventual state runner-up Carey. The Cowboys promptly exited the playoffs, losing to the Panthers 58-6.
North Gem lost critical locker room leadership last spring, with linemen Bryson Hatch and quarterback Michael Barfuss.
In their place, first-year head coach Corry Hatch said he plans to implement a run-heavy offense, led by senior Trent Irick and three junior tailbacks Chase Low, Austin Lloyd and Brett Yost. 2020, Hatch said, will be a complete overhaul of previous seasons’ gameplans.
“We will be a run-first team. Heck, we may be a run always team,” Hatch said. “Our scheme is built to test a defense from sideline to sideline. We have all the athletes to be successful here.
Our offense will look nothing like what was being run last year. New season, new coaches, new scheme. We have a steep learning curve, but we have smart kids. We'll get there.”
Hatch said junior quarterback Birdger Hatch will serve as the brains of the operation, reading the defense and making adjustments to the offensive line, anchored by junior center Ransom Cooper and junior guard Jackson Cook.
“The keys to our offensive success lay squarely on our offensive line. We have good players there that will be essential to our success,” Hatch said. “We also need a full buy-in from our players. We get those two things, we'll be in good shape offensively.”
On defense, Hatch said his three-man front continues to develop as he introduces his gameplan.
“Our defense will be successful if we are able to do our jobs,” he said. “I am asking the guys to learn new terminology and verbiage on both sides of the ball, so it comes as no surprise that we are a work in progress.”
Flattening the learning curve will fall to team leaders like senior linebacker Cole Rindlisbaker and Logan Corta, who will play large roles on the defense this year. Hatch said the pair have shown impressive speed and strength this offseason, serving as role models for the rest of the team.
“Our defense will look entirely different from last year,” he said. “We have new calls, new verbiage and a new scheme. I ask for accountability from myself and from my players.”
North Gem will face plenty of difficult competition this year, including defending state champion Lighthouse Christian Sept. 11. The Cowboys open against Grace Aug. 28 and face conference rival Rockland Sept. 18.
“We’ve got to get Rockland if we want to win the conference,” Hatch said.
Check back with IdahoSports.com for updated scores and schedules throughout the season.