For the week of September 2 thru September 8, 1998  

New season, renewed hopes for Wolverine football

Five home games greet returning coach Blackman

More depth, solid athleticism and an upbeat attitude toward the challenges ahead are assets that returning Wood River High School football coach John Blackman will try to cobble into a successful football campaign starting Friday.

Wood River (0-0) hosts the Middleton Vikings (0-1) Friday, Sept. 4 at 7 p.m. on the Hailey gridiron in a non-conference clash that will begin Blackman’s second stint as Wolverine head varsity football coach.

Five of Wood River’s eight regular-season games are in Hailey including an early Homecoming Friday, Sept. 11.

Blackman had a 17-42 record for Wood River from 1985-91 and has been an assistant on the Wolverine sideline the past four years. He and his revamped staff have welcomed an enthusiastic turnout of 60-plus players. Blackman said, "We’re having fun. The tempo is upbeat and the kids are having a good time."

Wood River, coming off a winless season in which it surrendered a school-record 331 points, will first try to snap a painful 13-game losing streak.

They’ll have to do it with sturdier defense, restricting those demoralizing early scores. Over two seasons, opponents have outscored Wood River 391-82 before halftime.

"I’d really like to win the opener," said Blackman, who won his first Wolverine game in 1985. "We may surprise some people. There’s definitely talent there, and we have great senior leadership."

Physically, "we’re not really huge and we’re not exceptionally fast, but we’ve got a lot of good, athletic kids who like to hit—a lot of running back/inside receiver types who can play anywhere," he said. "Plus we’ve got a solid core of nine linemen.

"This year, we’ll be able to give kids a blow. Our second team is as strong as our first team. We have kids who can step up, fill slots and get the job done. That’s a luxury I haven’t had before as a coach."

Defensive coordinator/secondary coach Jeff Larson, a new addition on the staff, has convinced Blackman that Wood River can run a college 4-3 defense with a four-deep zone.

Blackman said, "I’ve always run a 5-2 in the past, but the 4-3 is what coach Larson is versed in. We think we have the personnel for it. We’ll have a lot of stunting packages off of it."

Linebackers make or break the 4-3, and Wood River has a good group. Blackman said, "Senior Nic Long is the team leader. He’ll be a big factor at outside linebacker. He’s also our starting quarterback, but when he needs a blow it will be on offense rather than on defense. We need him out there to stop people."

The linebacking crew includes senior Nic Thomas; juniors Andrew Beck (inside LB), Jake Nilsen (OLB) and 1997 All-Leaguer Todd Christiansen (ILB). Versatile senior Ted Larsen can play linebacker, rover back or cornerback. Two sophomores, Cory Goicoechea (free safety) and Max Paisley (corner) will step immediately into starting roles.

Seniors on the defensive line include senior end Matt Johnson, down lineman Tyler Palmer and noseguard Jason Spicer. Senior guard Bing Parkinson and Spicer didn’t play last year. Blackman said, "They’ll really help us. Adding down linemen makes us solid up front."

Offensively, Blackman plans to deploy three backs in the backfield with starting QB Long and junior back-up QB Paul Neville. He said, "We’ll spread them out—a couple of slots, couple of wide outs and a single-back set with a fullback pounding it at people, then we’ll finesse them a little with our skilled people."

Christiansen is a punishing fullback, the coach said. Nilsen is a hard-hitting runner, too.

Slotbacks are Thomas, Larsen and Goicoechea. Blackman can view his depth chart and find wideouts like Larsen, seniors Robbie McQueen and Kenny Nelson; juniors Brad Walker and Matt Stevenson; and Paisley.

On the offensive line are All-Leaguers Matt Johnson at tight end and Tyler Palmer at guard, along with senior Jim Chatterton at center, Parkinson at guard, Spicer and senior Rhett Webber at tackles. Two other promising tackles are juniors Pat Thomerson and Cliff Logsdon.

Senior Brandon Bush broke his collarbone and is lost indefinitely. Senior Mike Fisher has been sidelined by a hand injury.

Nelson and Long will handle the punting duties, and soccer-style kicker Charlie Askew, a junior who is Wood River’s starting soccer goalkeeper, will kick extra points.

Besides competing in the new Sawtooth Central Idaho Conference league that will reduce travel time and help make Wood River more competitive, Blackman said the school’s football program will be improved by the addition of a seventh-grade program.

The varsity staff includes offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Blackman, Larson and Bruce Tuxhorn (receivers/linebackers). Junior varsity coaches are Chris Cey (offense) and Rick Ambrosi (defense). Jim King handles the eighth grade, while Chris Malmgren and Rob Swanson have seventh grade.


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