If every city in Idaho produced college football players like Fruitland, Boise State would be able to recruit like Texas.
Six players who grew up in Fruitland are on the rosters for Boise State and Idaho State going into Friday’s football game at Albertsons Stadium (7:05 p.m., CBS Sports Network). A seventh is scheduled to join the Broncos after his church mission.
“I think it’s something in the water out there,” Boise State offensive line coach Scott Huff said. “It really has been a lot of great players that have come from there. ... Hopefully they keep it up.”
Boise State features redshirt sophomore linebacker Joe Martarano and redshirt sophomore tight end Alec Dhaenens, who contribute to the rotations at their positions, and true freshman offensive lineman Garrett Larson, who is redshirting. Future Bronco safety Kekoa Nawahine, who signed with Boise State in 2014 out of Rocky Mountain High, is expected to join the program next year.
Idaho State boasts three Graves brothers — senior tight end Tyler, sophomore wide receiver Hagen and freshman linebacker Kody. Hagen and Kody graduated from Skyview High.
Martarano went camping with the Graves boys in McCall this summer. Dhaenens says the Graveses’ dad, Scott, convinced him to become more serious about football and pursue college.
The Fruitland six plan to enjoy the rare chance to share a college football field with each other. There’s been plenty of banter back and forth, even during the summer.
“It means a lot,” Tyler Graves said. “I love those guys to death, known them since we were really little. It’s kind of surreal playing against them because we were always on the same teams. I probably haven’t played against Joe since fourth or fifth grade. I was watching the film and he runs the same way he did in high school — just bigger.”
Dhaenens called the Graves brothers his “lifetime friends.”
“Me and Kody have been talking a little trash about who’s going to win that battle if we do go up against each other,” Dhaenens said.
The group credits the coaches and parents in Fruitland with encouraging them to play sports, providing them with proper coaching and establishing a winning tradition.
“It’s honestly just like Boise State,” Dhaenens said.
Said Martarano: “Our dads were always around. Even when it wasn’t game days, we’d go down on the weekends and all work out together.”
The Fruitland group has created a buzz in town about this week’s game. There’s a conflict, though: Fruitland plays a home high school game Friday night against Wood River.
Fruitland coach Ryan Tracy would like to see the local kids on the Blue. Instead, he’ll stick to his frequent routine of watching a recording of the game when he gets home.
“The whole athletic department at Fruitland, the expectations are high,” said Tracy, who has coached there for 15 years. “When that happens and the parents are backing that up at home, they meet those expectations. These six, seven kids that you’re talking about, they’re living proof of that. To see that, it’s really special — and it’s a neat time for them and their families.”
Weird plays explained
It’s safe to say, even two games in, that what will prove to be two of the stranger plays of the Boise State football team’s 2015 season occurred Saturday at BYU.
The Broncos involved shed a little light on those situations this week — one tackled a Cougar without a helmet and drew a flag and the other tried to recover a fumble and was punched below the belt.
On the first play, senior defensive tackle Justin Taimatuia lost his helmet on second-and-goal at the Boise State 2-yard line. Hair flapping behind him, he still managed to record a tackle for loss.
But instead of third-and-goal, BYU got a first down because Taimatuia’s hustle violated an NCAA rule. Players who lose their helmet must stop competing immediately.
“When I walked out to the sideline, coach (Bryan) Harsin said that’s a rule that we never emphasize,” Taimatuia said. “I said, ‘I’m sorry.’ He told me to just keep playing ball. We’re trained to play till the whistle.”
Taimatuia and his coaches said his helmet was knocked off by an opponent. That usually results in a penalty on the blocker, but that wouldn’t have changed anything for Taimatuia. He still would have been penalized for not stopping, likely leading to offsetting fouls.
The personal foul called on him helped BYU score a touchdown.
“I didn’t know I was supposed to stop,” Taimatuia said. “My adrenaline was going at the time. I knew I had to make a play — someone had to make a play.”
On the second weird play, junior nickel Chanceller James was punched by BYU offensive lineman Ului Lapuaho. Lapuaho was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct but not ejected. BYU announced that he received internal discipline. Fouls by the Cougars are reviewed by CFO West, a multi-conference officiating cooperative, but the independent program doesn’t have a conference office that can impose discipline.
BYU fans have accused James of a late hit.
“The whistle wasn’t blown yet,” James said, “and the dude was still fumbling the ball. On camera, it looks like the dude is just laying on the ball.”
Lapuaho’s reaction became a Twitter sensation almost immediately. James has tried to ignore the attention.
“ ‘Mike and Mike’ said it was Chanceller Davis,” James joked, referring to the ESPN personalities. “When you find that guy, maybe you should let me know how he’s feeling. ... It hasn’t gotten to me. That’s social media. I live in regular life.”
A scout no more
Boise State redshirt freshman tight end David Lucero was so impressive on the offensive scout team last week that Harsin pulled him aside and told him he’d be playing for the Broncos on Saturday.
Lucero, given a specific role, responded with a 26-yard reception on a crossing route. He nearly tip-toed his way down the sideline and into the end zone.
“It was a little nerve-racking,” Lucero said. “The nights leading up to the game, I wasn’t able to sleep. I’d wake up thinking about my play being called.”
His catch came on a play the Broncos had struggled to execute, offensive coordinator Eliah Drinkwitz said.
“If I was going to be open, I’d get the ball,” Lucero said. “It was perfectly designed.”
The catch came on his first offensive play as a college football player.
“To me, it was really quiet,” he said. “As soon as I made the turn, I looked over to (quarterback Ryan Finley), and I swear it was like no one was out there.”
Lucero has a few more plays in the game plan this week. And he’s sleeping better.
“I definitely wouldn’t have been able to (sleep) if I didn’t get that (catch),” he said.
Season-ticket sales report
Boise State has released the final season-ticket sales number for this year: 21,421.
That’s a 1.3 percent increase over last year — reversing a two-year trend of declines. Still, the Broncos are 2,688 tickets short of their peak in 2012 (24,109).
Chadd Cripe is in his 14th season covering Boise State football for the Idaho Statesman. He also votes in The Associated Press Top 25. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.