Rocky Mountain is one of the few teams in the 5A Southern Idaho Conference with a returning starter at running back and quarterback.
But coach Scott Criner is equally excited about his defensive secondary.
Seniors Tamir Hill (S), Calin Criner (SS), Moses Nyrakomina (CB) and Colton Barney (S), and junior Cordell Shelton (CB) are an eclectic mix of personalities. Hill, Criner and Shelton are social team leaders, while Nyrakomina and Barney are more apt to lead by example.
They all exhibit great speed and athleticism.
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“I think we’re really going to have a good upside this year with our defense,” Hill said. “We’re all really well mixed together. We all know each other well. We’re all really good friends, and I think that’s going to carry over onto the field for us.”
Rocky Mountain returns seven starters on both sides of the ball and 18-of-22 players Criner plans to start either started or played a significant role last year as the Grizzlies won the 5A SIC Pod A regular-season title and advanced to the state semifinals.
Rachel Roberts: 377-6422;
Players to watch
JAKE ROPER, RB/WR
The first-team All-Idaho running back racked up 1,392 yards, 7.6 yards per carry and 20 TDs while splitting time in the backfield last season.
ZACH BENNETT, LT
The Grizzlies return three offensive linemen. But none will have more experience than the 6-2, 265-pound three-year starter up front.
JOEY TUCCINARDI, DE
The reigning first-team All-Idaho defensive lineman returns after piling up nine sacks and eight tackles for loss in 2014.
CALIN CRINER, WR/S
Recorded 67 tackles, five interceptions and three punt returns for a touchdown last season for Saline High, Michigan’s large-school runner-up.