Since arriving in Hailey, third-year Wood River High School varsity football coach Mike Glenn (8-11) has been fully acclimated to both the positive points and recurring frustrations of Wolverine football.
Positive points include the terrific players who come along now and then like Scott Bartlett, Carl Browning, Danny Ward, Kellen Chatterton, Cory Goicoechea and Max Paisley.
And the frustrations since Wood River's last winning campaign of 5-4 in 2000 include six years of losing seasons with a 14-38 varsity mark and a record of 4-20 in league play.
Glenn is determined to see the glass half full rather than half empty.
So, although the 2007 football team turnout has only increased from 44 to 45 athletes on the varsity and junior varsity, Glenn is trying hard to be optimistic about the seven-game regular-season slate and the future of Hailey football.
After all, Wood River didn't even have a JV team last fall.
"We're going to have a junior varsity team this year, which means a lot more kids are going to play football," said Glenn. He brought in his nephew and his former Eagle High School football player Shawn Huntington to lead the JV.
Besides a coaching staff that "continues to improve each year," Glenn said he's excited about 25 freshmen.
He does have concerns about the depth of his varsity squad, which debuts Friday, Sept. 7 with the 2007 Homecoming non-conference football game against Buhl's Tribe at 7 p.m. at Phil Homer Field in Hailey.
It will be the 38th football meeting between 4A Wood River (4-6 and 4-5 in Glenn's two seasons in Hailey) and 3A Buhl (17-4 over two years).
Friday's game will test a Hailey offense that returns senior veterans and budding stars in skill positions (quarterback Danny Kramer, running back Matt Libert and tight end Erik Jacobson) but is breaking in new players on the offensive line.
Second-team All-Great Basin West QB Kramer (66-for-144, 1,007 yards, 10 TD passes) got most of his yardage throwing to wide-out Danny Ward last fall, but Jacobson (21 catches, 196 yards) will likely see more of the pigskin this season.
Libert (208 rushes for 1,064 yards, 6 TD) was first-team All-Great Basin and is a genuine threat.
Kramer tips the scale at 6-1, 195 pounds while second-team All-State linebacker Jacobson is 6-5, 235 pounds and Libert is a strapping 6-0, 180 pounds. They have ability and experience and will lead the varsity.
Halfback is 6-2, 175-pound junior Sean Bunce. Junior Michale Brunker is a wide receiver and the back-up quarterback. Junior 6-3, 195-pound Matt Staskiewicz is another wide out. Most of these skill players are three-sport athletes for Wood River.
"We're going to get the ball to our skill kids," said Glenn, complimenting offensive coordinator Jeff Loomis for putting in schemes to use the talents of this group of athletes.
Having lost linemen like Casey Bennett, Corbin Miniard, Tyler Hendricks and Anthony Quarles to graduation, Glenn has welcomed back 6-0, 205-pound junior center Cody Chandler and 6-2, 195-pound senior right guard Jared Rade.
More untested at the varsity level are offensive linemen like 6-0, 190-pound senior Chris Coupe, 6-0, 235-pound junior Anthony Williamson and 6-2, 180-pound junior Luke McNees. Nonetheless Glenn is looking for good things from them.
What coach Glenn says most often is, "The depth chart is thin. We're so thin we haven't really done a lot of live drills in the pre-season. A lot of kids will be playing both ways."
Speaking of a big hole to fill, Wood River graduated its best-ever placekicker, first-team All-State Cory Rutkowski. He was the leading scorer last fall with nine field goals and 15-for-15 in extra points. He helped the defense with kickoffs that 95% of the time sailed into the end zone and often out the back.
New placekicker is 6-1, 215-pound junior Rafael Barriga. And Staskiewicz is replacing Rutkowski as the Wolverine punter.
Glenn is excited about the defense for many reasons, two of them in the determined persons of senior Francisco Enriquez and Nick Carnes.
Purely on hustle and desire, 5-11, 185-pound Enriquez has been penciled in as the starting Wolverine defensive end although he hasn't played football before and doesn't speak English, Glenn said. Carnes, a 6-3, 350-pound giant, has earned his starting nose guard position through hard work. "How far Nick has come is an incredible story," said Glenn.
Cody Chandler will go both ways, lining up as a defensive tackle between Carnes and rush end Evan Puluti, a 6-10, 210-pound soph.
Jacobson will be an imposing presence on the end at stud linebacker. Rade is the middle linebacker and 6-1, 170-pound sophomore Tyler Peters is whip linebacker. Rade shared the tackle leadership with Ward last fall and made second-team All-Great Basin linebacker.
Without Ward and "Most Inspirational" Jeff Conover in the defensive backfield, Wood River doesn't have the toughness and experience right off the bat. But defensive coordinator John Rade is hoping the secondary comes along well.
Senior Isaac Sherbine is the left corner and Staskiewicz is stationed on the right corner. Bunce is strong safety and Brunker is the free safety.
The secondary will be tested when Wood River visits two-time defending Great Basin West champion Minico Sept. 28.
Led by senior QB Dane Broadhead, Minico (7-2 last year, 16-5 three years) rallied from a 34-27 fourth-quarter deficit to beat defending State 4A champ Pocatello (10-2 last fall, 31-7 four years) by a 35-34 score Aug. 24 in Rupert. And Minico (2-0, 1-0 league) blanked Burley 50-0 last Friday on the Bobcat gridiron.
The coaching staff has set the 2007 practice schedule.
Wood River's offense will practice Mondays through Wednesdays at 4 p.m. followed by the defense at 5 p.m. The players will watch film for 30 minutes Monday at 6 p.m. And the special teams will get together Wednesdays at 5:30 p.m.
On Thursdays at 4 p.m. the team will practice kickoffs, punts and placekicking and review their defensive jobs. For updated information check wolverinerage.com.
Friday's Homecoming game
With the cancellation of last Friday's home game against Century of Pocatello, Wood River now opens the 2007 season with two games against the finalist teams in the 2006 State 3A championship game.
State runner-up Buhl (10-2 last year) arrives in Hailey for Homecoming Friday, Sept. 7 at 7 p.m. and the Wolverines travel to reigning state champion Fruitland (11-1, 21-3 three years) on Friday, Sept. 14 at 7 p.m.
Wood River has dropped five straight games to Buhl football teams by a 157-47 margin including last September's 48-6 trouncing at Bowers Field. The Wolverines managed only a pair of Cory Rutkowski field goals in that one and gave up four unanswered Buhl touchdowns after a competitive 20-6 halftime score.
The Tribe leads the 37-game series 28-9 but hasn't visited Hailey for a game since 2002 when Buhl won 31-7. Wood River last defeated Buhl during its last winning season in 2000, by a 35-20 score in Hailey.
Coach Stacy Wilson's Buhl team (1-0), which averaged 34.2 points per game last fall, opened the season with a close 12-6 non-league triumph over coach Jerry Diehl's Wendell Trojans (0-2) Friday at Wendell.
Buhl returns eight starters from the state runner-up team including senior running back/linebacker Ryon Sirucek and junior lineman Nick Hamilton. The quarterback is senior Patrick Osterkamp, who is filling the big shoes of graduated Austin Laing.