Photo By Wes Turner - #23 Codey McCrorey
Written by Will Hoenike
There’s a new head coach in Hagerman, but he’s not new to the eight-man game. He’s not even new to the 1A Division 2 classification.
Dana Strong has taken the wheel of the Pirate ship after five years as the head coach at North Gem High School in Bancroft. While at North Gem, Strong’s teams faced Carey, Dietrich, and Camas County in the postseason. Those three teams are rivals of Hagerman in the 1A Division 2 Sawtooth Conference.
So now Strong and his staff start anew along the Snake River in the Magic Valley. But their new start – like so many teams – begins in the same place.
“The key is always the offensive line,” Strong said. “We have very good experience on the line and it could be a strength.”
Seniors Jesse Titone and Ryan Nelson return along the offensive front in front of new starting quarterback Cameron Zeltner. Zeltner, just a sophomore, will replace a solid performer in departed senior AB Salas. And what he lacks in experience, he has in experienced playmakers around him. Senior Codey McCrorey and junior Rennick Moore will fill the running back positions while senior Alex Gonzalez serves as a potential pass-catching target at wide receiver.
“Codey and Rennick will give us a dynamic backfield,” Strong noted. “Alex will be a threat catching the ball. We will be more run-heavy but will stay somewhat balanced.”
McCrorey ran for over 400 yards and five touchdowns as a junior for a Pirate offense that averaged over 25 points per game – a number that would have been higher, if not for back-to-back shutout losses to end the season – and ended up earning second-team All-Conference honors. Behind an experienced offensive line, expect those numbers to grow this season.
Where Strong and his staff need to see improvement is on the defensive side of the ball. In five of the team’s six losses last season, the Pirates surrendered at least sixty points.
“We have to be strong upfront and win the line of scrimmage,” Strong said. “When you let a running back loose in the secondary, they are very hard to corral.”
Strong is confident in the pieces he has on the defensive side of the ball, even if the puzzle isn’t fully assembled yet. Titone and Gonzalez will lead the defensive line. McCrorey will either join them on the line or play linebacker. Cole Rowley is also expected to be a key part of the equation, but will likely move around to fill different roles depending on the defensive alignment.
The Pirates have nearly 20 players on the roster, so there are players to fill spots. How quickly they acclimate to larger roles could be the biggest key to Hagerman’s season.
“There will be a lot of new starters, as a lot of seniors have moved on from last year’s team,” Strong said. “So I think you will see growth across the board.”
With that growth comes opportunity. Defending conference (and state) champion Lighthouse Christian has moved up to 1A Division 1, as has playoff qualifier Murtaugh. The conference is still strong. Perennial eight-man power Carey looks strong once again and Dietrich is traditionally solid. But who steps forward to push for a playoff spot? Hagerman has a history of success, including four state titles. One of those titles came in 2013, a 42-34 win over Troy, which capped off a perfect 13-0 season at the 1A Division 1 level.
Could Strong and this senior class jump-start the surge again in Hagerman? The door is open as the Pirates look to contend for a playoff berth.
Check back with IdahoSports.com for updated Hagerman scores and schedules throughout the season.