1A All-Idaho: Dominant QB/LB goes out on top

Special to the StatesmanDecember 15, 2013 

Salmon River's Leighton Vander Esch

DARIN OSWALD — doswald@idahostatesman.com


Seldom has one player meant as much to a football team as Leighton Vander Esch did to Salmon River in 2013. The standout senior dominated in all three phases of the game as the Savages rolled to a 12-0 season and their second consecutive 1A Division II state championship.

Opponents knew exactly what was coming when they played Salmon River and yet were powerless to stop it, making Vander Esch the easy vote for the 1A All-Idaho Player of the Year.

Vander Esch was a devastating dual-threat quarterback, accounting for 68 total touchdowns. He also anchored the defense at middle linebacker and wreaked havoc on special teams as a return man and a kicker capable of altering field position with touchbacks.

Vander Esch turned Salmon River’s 66-26 state title-clinching victory over Council into a personal highlight reel, racking up 341 yards passing, 144 yards rushing and tying the all-class state record with eight total TDs.


• 157 carries, 1,565 yards, 34 TDs

• 121 completions on 199 attempts, 2,155 yards, 28 TDs, one interception

• 131 total tackles (85 solo, 46 assisted), five interceptions, five fumble recoveries, four defensive TDs

• Two kickoff returns for touchdowns


• “Leighton is the most dynamic football player in 8-man football. He proved unstoppable on offense and unbendable on defense. He played his best in the biggest games of the year.’’ — Charlie Shepherd, Salmon River

• “He’s a whale of a football player. We did everything we could to try and slow him down, but sometimes you just have to tip your hat to a guy. He’s a very special talent.’’ — Dan Shumway, Council


Vander Esch loves to hunt and fish. His favorite memories include shooting a 6x6 bull elk on his first big game hunt and catching chinook salmon every summer.


Vander Esch plans to join the Boise State football team as a walk-on linebacker.

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