Each year, one high school class graduates, and a bounty of decorated players leaves a void in the Treasure Valley.
But each year, a new crop rises up to take their place. Below are some of the top players who will make an impact in the 5A Southern Idaho Conference this season.
CARTER JOHNSON, WR/DB, CAPITAL
Opponents soon learned to kick away from Johnson last fall after he averaged 39 yards per kickoff return and brought five back for touchdowns. He returns as a three-year starting corner, and now opponents also will have to worry about him on offense as the Eagles will turn him into a jack of all trades, lining up everywhere from out wide to in the slot to in the backfield.
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“This year, we’re going to lean on him,” Capital coach Todd Simis said. “He’ll get his touches.”
DREW MCGUINN, OL, CAPITAL
You won’t be able to miss the 6-8, 365-pound senior on the field. The Eagles’ guard anchors the offensive line and has the size and raw strength to move piles whenever he wants.
He already has an offer from Idaho State, and Simis said Pac-12 and Big Sky programs are sniffing around.
“If he continues to show improvement, he will gain more offers,” Simis said.
VICTOR NGALAMULUME, RB/LB, CENTENNIAL
The 5-10, 220-pound middle linebacker was always a physical force as a sophomore and junior. But an offseason in the weight room and in film study has Centennial eyeing a breakout year from the second-team all-conference linebacker (72 tackles, 12 tackles for loss in 2016).
Centennial coach David Koch said instead of relying on brute strength, Ngalamulume has picked up the stamina and cerebral skills to take the next step.
“He’s going to be an impact player in our league on both sides of the ball,” Eagle coach Paul Peterson said.
ALLAMAR ALEXANDER, RB, COLUMBIA
Alexander turned heads last season, earning second-team all-conference honors as a sophomore. He ran for 950 yards (third in the 5A SIC) while averaging 5.8 yards per carry and scoring seven TDs.
His speed also translates to the track, where he finished fourth in the 100-meter dash (10.98 seconds) last spring.
“I look for him to be bigger, faster and stronger this year,” Meridian coach Porter Lacey said.
DEVAN BRIDGEWATER, QB, EAGLE
The senior enters his third year as a starter for the Mustangs after earning first-team all-5A SIC honors last year.
Bridgewater sliced and diced teams through the air last fall, completing 65.8 percent of his passes for 1,484 yards, 14 TDs and one interception. But Peterson said he’s learning how to hurt opponents with his legs as well.
“He’s one of the top two or three athletes on the field every time he suits up,” Mountain View coach Judd Benedick said.
JEROME MILLER, WR, KUNA
In the Kavemen’s run-heavy offense last year, Miller still earned second-team all-conference honors. Look for the 6-3, 205-pound senior to break out this fall as his combination of size, ball skills and route-running have earned him an offer from Division II Adams State.
“Jerome will be one of the most impressive wide receivers in the conference this year,” Lacey said. “He made some big plays last year.”
CADEN HANSEN, RB, MOUNTAIN VIEW
Hansen entered last season as the Mavericks’ No. 2 running back. But by the end of the year, he led the state champs in rushing yards (886), rushing touchdowns (13) and yards per carry (6.9).
At 5-9, 175 pounds, Benedick said Hansen’s vision separates him from the pack and allows him to continually churn out yards.
“He won’t ever be the biggest or fastest guy on the field, but he just has a knack,” Benedick said. “He has a real feel for things, when to bounce it outside, when to go inside.”
KEEGHAN FREEBORN, OL/DL, ROCKY MOUNTAIN
The 6-1, 310-pound senior continues Rocky Mountain’s tradition of pumping out Division I linemen with his verbal commitment to Boise State. He’ll continue to pull two-way duties for the Grizzlies, but Boise State plans on converting him into a full-time nose tackle.
“He has been a force for at least three years now,” Benedick said. “(He’s) an absolute mauler in the trenches.”
CARTER KUEHL, RB, ROCKY MOUNTAIN
Kuehl’s July commit to Air Force makes the 5-6, 183-pound senior the first Idaho running back to commit to a Division I offer out of high school since 2010.
Kuehl ran for a 5A-leading 1,987 yards last fall, averaging 7.5 yards per carry and scoring 21 TDs. He also won state track titles in the 100 (10.66 seconds) and 200 meters (21.45 seconds) last spring.
“Every time the ball is in his hands, you hold your breath there’s not a gap,” Peterson said.
WILL MCMULLIN, QB, ROCKY MOUNTAIN
A dramatic summer came to an end Aug. 2 when the IHSAA approved the former Boise quarterback’s transfer to Rocky Mountain.
First-year Rocky Mountain coach Chris Culig won’t guarantee McMullin will start with the Grizzlies working on separate option and passing offenses. But the 6-4 quarterback possesses the raw physical skills to add an explosive element to the Rocky Mountain attack.
“The ball just jumps out of Will’s hand,” Simis said. “He will only get better with better players around him, too.”