Football

They starred for Valley high schools. Now they are predicted to break out in the Big Sky.

The Big Sky Conference wrapped up its media days Monday in Spokane, and three Treasure Valley high school graduates earned a spot on the preseason all-conference team.

Weber State senior defensive end Jonah Williams (a 2013 Rocky Mountain grad), Portland State senior defensive lineman Kenton Bartlett (2016 Centennial grad) and Idaho State senior linebacker Kody Graves (2015 Skyview grad) were all voted to the preseason team. And all three were player representatives for their teams at the media days.

The honor is nothing new for Williams (6-5, 270), a two-time all-Big Sky selection the past two seasons. He was a first-team all-conference pick last fall after leading Weber State to a share of its second straight Big Sky title with 42 tackles and seven tackles for loss.

Bartlett (6-3, 270), the 5A Southern Idaho Conference’s defensive player of the year in 2015, is entering his third season as a starter on Portland State’s defensive line. He’s started 21 of the past 22 games, racking up 66 tackles and six tackles for loss. He was a third-team all-conference pick last fall.

Graves (6-1, 225) also graduates from the all-conference third team to an expected breakout season. He ranked second on Idaho State’s roster last season with 83 tackles and figures to anchor the unit with its leading tackler graduated. The 2014 4A SIC co-defensive player of the year also added two interceptions and one sack a year ago.

Mason Petrino, Idaho.jpg
Idaho quarterback Mason Petrino looks for a receiver last season against Florida. John Raoux AP

IDAHO STATE PICKED 7TH, IDAHO 8TH

The league’s coaches and media polls both slated Idaho and Idaho State to finish in the middle of the Big Sky this season.

Idaho State surprised everyone last season, finishing fifth in the league at 6-5 (5-3 Big Sky) after the media predicted a 10th-place finish and the coaches a 12th-place finish in the 13-team league. The Bengals return seven starters on offense and six on defense, but they must replace quarterback Tanner Gueller and leading rusher Ty Flanagan.

Idaho was expected to contend for a FCS playoff spot last season with a fourth-place prediction in the coaches’ poll and a fifth-place prediction in the media poll. But the Vandals struggled in their first year back in the Big Sky, finishing 4-7 (3-5 Big Sky) to end the year in ninth place.

Idaho returns eight offensive starters and five of its top 11 tacklers after allowing 37.5 points per game last fall, 109th out of 124 FCS teams.

Eastern Washington, the defending FCS national runner-up, was the favorite in both the coaches’ and media polls, followed by UC Davis and Weber State.

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