College scouts have long known Idaho’s secret: The 4A Southern Idaho Conference has just as much Division I talent as any league in the state.
This year is no exception. Washington earned an early commit last summer from an under-the-radar offensive lineman out of the league. And UC Davis has recruited the state’s defending 4A player of the year as an athlete and will figure out where to play him once he gets on campus.
Here’s a breakdown of the top players to watch in the Treasure Valley’s 4A classification this fall.
LAN LARISON, QB/DB, VALLIVUE
The 5-foot-11, 185-pound quarterback spearheaded 4A’s top offense in points (44.9 per game) and total yards (488) last year, averaging 305 of them by himself to lead the Falcons to the state semifinals for the first time since 2000.
The two-way threat led the 4A classification in rushing (2,219 yards, 26 TDs, 10 yards per carry). He punished anyone who packed the box, completing 49 percent of his passes for 1,541 yards with 18 touchdowns and three interceptions. And he proved a weapon on defense as well, racking up two sacks and three interceptions as a safety, including one for a pick-six.
“He’s the most dynamic player I have seen in 30-plus years,” Middleton coach Bill Brock said.
GAARD MEMMELAAR, OL, MIDDLETON
The 6-5, 290-pound senior continues the Treasure Valley’s legacy of producing Division-I offensive linemen. The three-star recruit and Idaho’s highest-ranked prospect became the first commit of Washington’s 2020 recruiting class last summer, and he hasn’t wavered since.
He hasn’t allowed a sack in two years as a starter thanks to his quick feet, reach and athleticism. But he also has the power and nasty streak to put defenders on their back in the run game.
“This guy is big, strong, physical and aggressive,” said Ridgevue coach Tom DeWitz, a two-time, Division I-AA All-American offensive lineman for Boise State. “... He creates matchup problems because whoever you line up vs. Gaard is at a disadvantage size- and strength-wise.”
DALLAS HAGLER, QB, MIDDLETON
The reigning second-team All-Idaho quarterback returns for his senior campaign after racking up 2,563 passing yards and 35 touchdowns at the head of the Middleton’s air raid offense.
He has the confidence and quick decision-making to distribute the ball all over the field and keep defenses guessing. He can throw receivers open and into small windows. And he can also punish anyone crowding the line of scrimmage with his athleticism to extend plays, pushing the ball down the field with strength and touch.
He’ll only become more dangerous with another year of experience in Middleton’s new system.
DONAVON ESTRADA, QB, NAMPA
It didn’t matter where the slippery and explosive weapon lined up last season. As soon as the ball hit his hands, opponents and fans all held their breath to see what he would do next.
It typically ended up in six points as Estrada led Nampa to the state semifinals with 29 total touchdowns. Opponents will find him easier to locate this fall as the Bulldogs turn him loose as a full-time quarterback. But that doesn’t mean he’ll prove any easier to stop.
“Nampa can put him at almost any position and he can play it,” DeWitz said. “Quarterback, running back, wide receiver, defensive back — it doesn’t matter. He’s a playmaker.”
IAN ARELLANO, RB, BISHOP KELLY
The Knights crank out powerful, bruising running backs year after year. But the 5-9, 180-pound tailback enters his senior season as a rarity as an explosive option out of the backfield.
His patience to read blocks and top-end speed make him a nightmare on BK’s power tosses and a home-run threat each time he touches the ball. He ranked fourth in 4A last year with 1,444 rushing yards, averaging 6.9 yards per carry and finding the end zone 20 times.
Add in his duties as a kick and punt returner, and he finished with 2,001 all-purpose yards.
JACE MANN, WR/DB, NAMPA
Nampa led the 4A ranks with 37 turnovers last season, thanks in large part to its ball-hawking safety. He averaged 11.1 tackles per game and racked up a classification-high nine interceptions. He knew what to do with the ball once he had it, too, returning four for touchdowns.
The first-team All-Idaho defensive back also will start seeing more time on offense after averaging 25.9 yards per catch and finding the end zone five times.