Columbia has struggled since joining the 5A classification. It hasn’t won a game since making the move in 2014, and its losing streak stands at 24 games, dating back to its days as a 4A program.
But second-year coach Rich Davis sees plenty of reason for optimism.
A year after fielding eight seniors, the Wildcats have 18. A year after starting seven sophomores on both sides of the ball at one point, the program is filled with juniors and seniors. And a year after 53 players showed up for the first day of practice, 79 are in pads, enough to field a varsity, JV and freshman team for the first time since 2013.
Davis knows the program stumbled last year but said it has emerged from the other side better for it.
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“They went through some physical pain, some growing pains, whatever you want to call it, for that year,” Davis said. “But they are noticeably more talented, more aggressive, more mentally prepared to play at this level right now than they would have been if they played as a JV team last year.”
The offense returns seven starters, including junior quarterback Gino Camario. But he’s battling with senior Garrett Turner again for the top spot. Add in a defense featuring more speed and five returning starters, and Columbia is eyeing the end of its losing streak.
“If we can get the ball rolling a little bit,” Davis said, “then we’ll start on the next goal.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Brandon Kipper, OL/DL
The reigning 5A state heavyweight champion wrestler stands 6-6, 260 pounds and returns as a four-year starter.
Mitch Flint, WR/FS
The senior will see a lot of balls thrown his way this year, and he has the quickness to do damage after the catch.
Garrett Turner, QB/CB
Even if he doesn’t win the starting QB battle, he has the versatility to still start on both sides of the ball.
Michael Davis, H-back/DE
Columbia will move the 6-4, 200-pound junior around the field to exploit leverage and find mismatches.
at Canyon Ridge
at Capital (DLP)*
at Boise (DLP)*
* pod game
Last year: 0-9, 0-5 5A SIC Pod B
Playoffs: Did not qualify
Coach: Rich Davis, second season
Record at school: 0-9
Stadium: Wildcat Stadium