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Challis High School

School Info
Conference: 1AD1 Snake River Conference
Classification: 1A D1

Head Coach: T.T. Cain

Years as Head Coach: 3rd Season

Previous Experience: Assistant at Challis for 8 Years

Record Last Year: 4-5

State Titles: 1976

Assistant Coaches:
Brent Cutler
Tom Stillwaugh
Josh Graham
Bill Bradshaw
Brad Lambson

Returning Players:
Pete Bradshaw, LB/RB, senior
Dustin Stillwaugh, DB/WR, senior
Wyatt Naillon, DL/G, senior
Danny Ziegler, DL/G, senior
Ross Sheppard, QB/LB, junior
Rowdy Piva, DB/RB, junior
Cooper Erickson, DB/WR, junior
Mitchell Cotant, DB/RB, junior
Blaine Amar, DL/G, junior
William Ashley, RB/WR/DB, junior
Bruin Bradshaw, OL/LB, sophomore

Returning Players with Honors:
Pete Bradshaw – Second Team All-Conference LB
Blaine Amar – Second Team All-Conference NG

Key Players lost from last year:
Mikey Cotant, OL/DE
Hunter Cain, OL/DL
Tristan Stillwaugh, QB
Joel Zettel, ATH

Incoming impact players:
Ross Sheppard, QB/LB, junior
Rowdy Piva, DB/RB, junior
Cooper Erickson, WR/DB, junior
Mitchell Cotant, DB/RB, junior
William Ashley, RB/WR/DB, junior
Dustin Stillwaugh, DB/WR, senior
Wyatt Naillon, DL/G, senior
Danny Ziegler, DL/G, senior
Team Preview:
Written by: Matt Harris

The Snake River Conference which comprises Districts 4, 5, and 6 covers a vast amount of land. From Challis in the north to Grace in the east and Glenns Ferry in the west, there is a lot of ground to cover.

In terms of improvement, Challis has covered a lot of ground in the last few seasons. After posting a winless 0-8 season in 2015, the Vikings improved dramatically in 2016 with a 4-5 record including a near upset of then No. 2 ranked Valley on Sept. 2. However, Challis is not yet to where they want to be – they still have more ground to cover. Or, in the words of the team members, they still have to ‘Push The Rock’ some more.

“The motto ‘Push The Rock’ speaks to teamwork. If we work together as a team to push the rock we then have no limits as to what we can accomplish as a team,” said third-year head coach T.T. Cain. “The rock we speak of is a large boulder at the entrance of Millick Field. Along with this we are instilling an attitude of self-discipline and laser focus the minute we step on both the practice field and the game field on Friday night.”

Cain says that their focus on that attitude has certainly shown forth during the offseason.

“We like to think this group of kids has improved upon in terms of what it will take to compete at a higher level in our conference,” he said. “Improving on technique and fundamentals, discipline in the area of making mental mistakes, and the consequences and impacts it has on the team.”

This season, several experienced and talented players return to the Vikings squad in hopes of ending their playoff drought. Junior quarterback Ross Sheppard will take the reigns of the team under center. He’ll have several players at his side, including senior running back Pete Bradshaw and junior running backs Rowdy Piva, Mitchell Cotant, and William Ashley. On the outside, senior wide receiver Dustin Stillwaugh is joined by junior wideout Cooper Erickson.

“Ross has the football smarts and the athleticism to go along with it,” said Cain. “We expect Bradshaw to be an impact player on various positions on the field, Mitchell Cotant can certainly provide a spark when needed, and William Ashley will provide us with speed and help open up our offense.”

Sheppard showed off his smarts and athleticism when he was thrust into a starting role last season when senior quarterback Tristan Stillwaugh was ruled out with mononucleosis. In their Sept. 30th game against Glenns Ferry, Sheppard completed 15-of-22 passes for 293 yards and seven touchdowns, while adding 78 yards on 11 carries.

On the line, seniors Wyatt Naillon and Danny Ziegler, along with junior Blaine Amar and sophomore Bruin Bradshaw will lead the way. These players should provide ample support to Sheppard so long as they stay healthy.

“I expect Blaine to anchor our line,” said Cain. “It will be interesting in terms of where our strength is. We have been working on a couple of new packages which are yet to be tested, but we are looking forward it. Expect to see us spread the field and continue improving upon our veer scheme.”

One of the improvements Cain would like to see his team make isn’t necessarily a scheme-based fix. It’s a mental one – one that hurt the Vikings in games last season.

“Mental mistakes cost us a couple of wins last year, if not more. We left a lot of points on the field by shooting ourselves in the foot,” he said. “We will be focusing on mental toughness and discipline. We also want to continue to build on our base offense and put pressure on the defense in different areas. We are installing a new package with the intent of stretching the field and we believe Sheppard will be a large part of this.” Challis averaged 25.3 points per game last season, up from 12.5 points per game in 2015.

Defensively, look to the linebacking corps and the secondary for the Vikings returning strength. Pete Bradshaw, Bruin Bradshaw, and Sheppard will look to make their presence known, while Stillwaugh, Piva, Erickson, Ashley, and Cotant will lock down the secondary. Up front, the trio of Naillon, Ziegler, and Amar will look wreak havoc in opposing backfields.

“Our strength is at the linebacker position and rover. We have Pete and Ross anchoring those positions and we look forward to their efforts and hope to see some big numbers,” said Cain. “At nose guard, we have Blaine as our anchor.”

The line is an anticipated spot of improvement for the Vikings heading into the 2017 season.

“Without a doubt, being mentally disciplined in our gap assignment, alignment, and technique is what we need to improve on,” Cain said. “We have a term that we call ‘Self-Medicating’, meaning we will stress in the area of self-discipline as we feel that we gave up points because of it. Having said that, we did have a young group of kids on the field last season and as a coaching staff we expected this to rear its head occasionally. We are expecting more from this core group this season as they are a year older and hopefully wiser.”

Cain also added that another focus they would be working on is improving their pass defense. The Vikings gave up an average of 30.4 points per game in 2016, a marked improvement from the 47.7 points per game they gave up in 2015. However, Challis is not satisfied with such a high number – they want to drop those averages dramatically.

The head coach also stressed that eliminating mental errors on both sides of the ball will be the key to their success in 2017.

“We must eliminate those mental mistakes and turnovers that cost us last season on both offense and defense,” he said. “If we can get by this we believe this team can be very successful and raise some eyebrows.” He added that he hoped his team could stay injury-free as they don’t have as much depth this season.

The team will also be without the services of several graduated seniors, including Mikey Cotant, Hunter Cain, Tristan Stillwaugh, and Joel Zettel. Cain said that each of them will be missed.

“Mikey was our anchor on the line, Hunter was our offensive line captain and was very smart and knew every player assignment,” he said. “Tristan was very effective in running our zone and veer and Joel was an inspiration to all of us.”

With regards to this season’s team, Cain feel that this edition of the Vikings are ready to turn the corner.

“Our returning group of kids have outstanding potential,” he said. “We are excited to see these guys come together this year.”

Their first chance at seeing how they stack up comes immediately to kick of the season. Challis will play a crucial conference game on the road to open the season when they face the Valley Vikings in Hazelton. Cain said this game is certainly a ‘must-see’ game.

“It’s important for a few reasons: it’s our first game of the year which will set the tone and these two teams played an intense game last year which came down to the last play of the game,” he said. “Valley is a well-coached team and always fundamentally sound. It will be a challenge that we are looking forward to.”

Following their Week 1 road tilt, Challis will travel down Highway 93 to face Mackay on Sept. 1, and then play at Hagerman on Sept. 8. The Vikings then have the luxury of having four of their five remaining regular season games at home, beginning on Sept. 15 when they host Shoshone and against defending 1A Division-I champion Raft River on Sept. 22.

After a road trip to Glenns Ferry on Sept. 29 and a bye week on Oct. 6, the Vikings are back in action at home against Oakley on Oct. 13. Another bye week on Oct. 20 will give them plenty of rest to face off against an up-and-coming Grace Grizzlies team on Oct. 27 to round out the regular season.

“Last season’s matchup against Grace was a very competitive game,” Cain said, noting that both Grace and Challis are the lone teams left over from their previous conference and the only non-District 4 representatives in their current league. “Both myself and (Grace) head coach Sanchez feel that these two teams have the potential to make a run this year and this last game of the season may be the difference make for both teams.”

The head coach also talked about the strength and outlook of the Snake River Conference overall, a conference that could very well contend for a state championship again this year.

“I believe this is the toughest and most competitive conference in the state. Last year’s championship game spoke for itself as we have two great teams in that matchup,” he said. “I believe the front runner is Raft River even those they lose a few kids. Coach Poole and his staff have great experience and always have their teams prepared. Oakley and Valley will be right up there with Raft River as these two teams have the experience as well and are well coached. I see Grace as much improved too – they were solid last season, they have a solid coach and staff, and they have a potent offense with a lot of talent at quarterback and wide receiver. We have a solid respect for Grace.”

How much ground can Challis cover in 2017? If the team continues to buy into the system, the Vikings could cover enough ground to reach the playoffs.

“We feel this group of kids can compete in this conference if we are mentally sound,” Cain said. “We feel we are physically tough enough and have great potential.”

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