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.
Middleton finished third in the 4A Southern Idaho Conference in 2015 with a relatively inexperienced lineup.
With nine starters back on offense and eight on defense, coach Bill Brock says the Vikings are well ahead of where they were at this time last year.
“Our numbers are up from last year, and we’ve got more depth than we’ve had,” Brock said. “We’re just trying to get people enough reps right now, but that’s a good problem to have.”
Quarterback Garrett Gasaway (787 yards, 5 TDs) returns to lead the offense, and he’ll have 4A All-Idaho second team tight end Chase Downs (15.2 YPC) and Reese Robinett (21.9 YPC) at his disposal.
Middleton’s traditionally stout run game will get a boost from second-year starters Jaden Coombs and DJ Hagler, who ranked second and third, respectively, in rushing for the Vikings last season with a combined 804 yards and 5 TDs.
“We’ve got a number of kids who can run it. We’ve just got to stay healthy,” Brock said.
Middleton’s 258.1 yards allowed per game ranked No. 1 in the 4A SIC defensively during the regular season, and the Vikings allowed the third fewest points at 24.6.
A midseason switch to a 3-4 front in 2015 has become second nature for the Vikings’ 15 returning lettermen.
“We’re just moving around and getting after it and letting the kids have fun,” Brock said.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
DJ Hagler, RB/OLB
The 6-foot-1, 205-pound senior ranked third among Vikings in rushing yards during the 2015 regular season with 383 yards and 4 TDs.
Chase Downs, WB/OLB
A first team, all-4A SIC pick at TE, the 6-1, 190-pound senior led the Vikings during the regular season with 23 receptions for 349 yards and 4 TDs.
Jaden Coombs, RB/MLB
In his third season as a two-way starter, the first team, all-4A SIC selection at LB also rushed for 421 yards a year ago.
Reece Robinett, TE/DE
Standing 6-4 and 200 pounds, the senior plays a key role as a blocker in the run game, but he also has good hands, averaging 21.9 yards per catch in 2015.
* conference game
Last year: 5-6, 3-2 4A SIC
Playoffs: Lost to Bishop Kelly 28-21 in quarterfinals
Coach: Bill Brock, 17th season
Record at school: 86-75
Stadium: Middleton High