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Tim Brennan just cracked a smile.
After becoming the fourth football team in the Idaho High School Activities Association history to win three straight state titles, the Bishop Kelly coach knows questions will swirl about a fourth consecutive championship.
But Brennan grins because he knows he doesn’t have to worry about his players’ heads swelling. They muzzled any talk of looking ahead for him.
“The players came up with this. I didn’t come up with this,” Brennan said Wednesday. “Everyday they say, ‘1-0.’
“That means get better one day at a time, so that’s what we’re going to work on. We’re going to get better tomorrow morning at 7 o’clock, finish that practice, and then we’re going to focus on the next practice and see where it takes us.”
No 4A team had won three straight state championships since the classification began in 1984. The other three dynasties all came at the smaller levels, two in 3A and one in the former 1A 11-man division.
But senior Ben Hruby, a returning second-team all-conference linebacker on last season’s 10-2 squad, pointed out the Knights can’t carry any of last year’s victories into this fall.
“It kind of comes after the day we won state. We’ve just got to drop it,” Hruby said. “We’re not a state championship team for this next year. We’re a new team.”
That team will have to start over at several positions around the field, most notably on the offensive line.
The Knights dominated opponents up front last year, grinding opponents into submission on their way to 264.6 rushing yards a game and 5.9 yards a carry. But Bishop Kelly returns only one starting offensive lineman, center Daniel Cantrell, and one starting defensive lineman, defensive end Raoul Johnson.
“We expect them to do what we need to do to be successful,” Brennan said. “They’ve just got to get experience real fast because we’ve only got two nonconference games.”
The three-time defending state champ will have no such problems at the skill positions, where it returns its starting quarterback (senior Bronson King), its leading rusher (senior Luke Burley) and its leading receiver (senior Vince Sengelmann).
Bishop Kelly rode a three-headed backfield last season, and Brennan said it could do the same this year, keeping Burley (916 yards, 13 TDs last year) and junior Rex Irby (669 yards, 9 TDs) together and adding junior Khalil Forehand, the reigning state 100- and 200-meter champ.
The trio formed three-fourths of last year’s state championship 4x100 relay team.
“We’ve got to figure out a way to get those guys the ball in a situation where they can use that speed,” Brennan said. “We’ll probably try to get outside a little bit more than we did last year because of that speed.”
Bishop Kelly may look slightly different this year. But if an inexperienced offensive line and defensive front seven can come together quickly, Brennan will have plenty of more reasons to smile.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Daniel Cantrell, OL/ILB
The 6-1, 225-pound center is the only returning member of an offensive line that helped BK average 5.9 yards a carry.
Luke Burley, RB/ILB
The Knights’ leading rusher last season will take on a larger role in the offense as a senior and add some linebacker duties.
Ben Hruby, FB/OLB
BK is looking for the 6-0, 230-pound senior to take on a leadership role after racking up 67 tackles last season.
Vince Sengelmann, WR/DB
BK’s leading receiver last year (25 rec., 463 yards, 3 TDs) has gotten even faster and will stretch defenses vertically.
at Mountain Home*
* conference game
Last year: 10-2, 5-0 4A SIC
Playoffs: Beat Sandpoint 34-21 in 4A final
Coach: Tim Brennan, 21st season
Record at school: 170-45
Stadium: Nick Ysursa Field
TEAM PREVIEWS ALREADY FEATURED
Bishop Kelly became the fourth team in IHSAA history to win three straight state titles last fall.
Note: Mackay (1A), Snake River (3A) and Madison (3A, now competes in 5A).