Written by Hailey Stewart
Coming off a middling season with a 4-3 2019 record, the Grizzlies will look to tackle the gridiron with more strength and expertise this season.
With 20 junior and senior players heading the team this year, Grace Head Coach Brandon Sanchez expects a strong showing of leadership this season.
Grace will also see some expertise shine on the sidelines, as Sanchez returns from a two-year retirement and moves into the head coaching position. He also spent the 2014-2017 seasons coaching the Grizzlies.
However, the Grizzlies will have to do without several key players due to graduation. Sanchez said he will miss Grace touchdown record-holder Connor Mickelson, skilled and strong Ivor Gibbs and Grizzly leader Auden Gould.
Still, Sanchez said he expects newer players this season to make quite a difference on the field. Sophomores William Mickelson, Titan Anderson and Dalton Draper are all anticipated to make an impact. Opponents should be on the lookout for a strong showing by juniors Jaden Pitcher, Grey Gibbs, Payson Anderson and Wyatt Watson.
In addition to this year’s large group of upperclassmen on the field, Sanchez said one of the keys to Grace’s offensive success will be running the ball inside and outside successfully. He is also hoping to get the ball some more airtime this season.
“We try to run a balanced offense, however, we tend to be run-heavy at times,” Sanchez said.
Sanchez expects senior quarterback Gage Stoddard to make a big impact on the offense this season. Alongside Stoddard in another big-play role will be senior Trey Draper at the wide receiver position.
“Both players will be key on both sides of the ball,” Sanchez said.
Senior center Will Cutler will be key at snapping the ball and senior running back Bray Skinner will be stationed in the backfield for the Grizzlies, Sanchez said.
On the defense, Sanchez said he’ll attribute Graces’ success to toughness and many returning seniors to the defense.
“We will put four down on the line or three with four linebackers and a safety. We will run both man and a zone coverage out of different defensive schemes,” Sanchez said.
Senior and former Wyoming student Trey Draper, he said, should have a huge impact at defensive back. At the linebacker position, Gage Stoddard will anchor the linebackers with Skinner at the outside linebacker position.
“We will add some juniors and sophomores to the mix with a varsity team that will be heavy on leadership,” Sanchez said.
Sanchez is looking forward to the Challis and North Gem matchups. During the 2019 season, Grace outscored both teams 56-6 and 46-8, respectively.
Grace opens the season against North Gem Aug. 28.
Check back with IdahoSports.com for updated scores and schedules throughout the season.