The Idaho Statesman is previewing high school football teams and conferences in the Treasure Valley area for 18 days leading up to the season, which starts Aug. 26. Follow IdahoStatesman.com for a list of all the previews.
Kuna has rebuilt its program from a 4A SIC doormat into a state power the past four years, winning their first playoff game last fall since 1998, when it was a 3A program.
The Kavemen’s reward? A move up to the 5A classification for the first time in school history.
Kuna coach Ian Smart compared the transition to Idaho’s largest classification to his playing days at Boise State when the Broncos took on Oklahoma, Georgia and Washington. He said if the Kavemen ignore the logo on opposing helmets and focus on their game plan, they’ll be fine.
Kuna went 5-1 vs. 5As the past two years, sweeping Meridian and Vallivue and splitting with Borah.
“They are 14- to 18-year-old kids,” Smart said of his new opponents. “There may be 200 in their program where we’re at 120, 130. But they’re no different. They live eight miles down the road.
“For us, getting past the fact that we’re Kuna and they’re whoever else is kind of just a mindset. Playing football is just playing football.”
Kuna starts the year in a hole, losing a class of 28 seniors that elevated the program. Smart said the Kavemen will build around their offensive line, which returns two starters in Chase Spangler and Tucker Heindel, to pave the way for senior running back Duston Taylor.
But youth and a lack of depth remain obstacles Kuna will fight all year long.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Cody Trautman, WR/CB
A natural receiver, Trautman was pressed into service at corner last season and made the 4A SIC first team. He’ll play both sides this year.
Kyle Johnson, OLB
The 6-2, 185-pound senior can set the edge of the defense with his physicality, and he has the athleticism to play in space outside the hashmarks.
Chase Spangler, OL
The Kavemen inserted the 6-0, 255-pounder at left guard as a sophomore three years ago and he hasn’t left the field since.
Tyson Fuss, QB
The incoming senior started three games last season, pushing an incumbent three-year starter for playing time. The job is all his now.
at Bishop Kelly
at Rocky Mountain*
* pod game
Last year: 7-4, 4-1 4A SIC
Playoffs: Lost to Sandpoint 34-13 in 4A quarterfinals
Coach: Ian Smart, third season
Record at school: 13-8
Stadium: Kuna High