In two previous trips to Idaho since 2011, the Douglas High football team has engaged in high-scoring contests.
Trip No. 3 could offer more of the same at 9 a.m. this morning when the Tigers take on the Rigby Trojans as part of the 10th annual Best of the West Rocky Mountain Rumble showcase at Holt Arena in Pocatello, Idaho.
“We’re excited about the opportunity to go back to Idaho,” Douglas coach Ernie Monfiletto said. “We’re excited about where we’re at as far as our preparation for this game. The kids are tired of practice and I’m tired of practice. We’re ready to play a game.”
Douglas also opened its 2011 season at the Rocky Mountain Rumble, losing 49-36 against Pocatello and in 2014 the Tigers struck early and then held on for a 31-28 season-opening win against Minico.
“I hope we play better defense this time, and I think we will,” Monfiletto said. “I believe our defense played well on Saturday (during a scrimmage against McQueen).”
Rigby and Douglas both return potent offensive weapons coming into 2017.
Douglas is led by senior quarterback Hunter Hickey, who’s the Tigers’ only returning starter on offense. Hickey received second-team all-league recognition in 2016, when he completed 78 of 138 passes (57 percent) for 747 yards, in addition to 623 rushing yards.
Senior Dakota Lowden returns with experience at tailback and showed potential last year with 185 rushing yards on 13 carries, including an 88-yard touchdown run against Spanish Springs in September and a 1-yard touchdown run against North Valleys.
Junior center Andrew Browning (6-3, 240) anchors a brand new offensive line. Senior Austin Aiken (6-2, 280), junior Alex Rice (6-1, 278) and Cody Freitas (6-0, 210) fortify the middle of the defensive line.
“I thought our offense played well Saturday,” Monfiletto said of the scrimmage. “We just need to be more consistent.”
Meanwhile, Rigby returns its own senior combo of running back Braden Youngstrom and quarterback Tanner Clayton (6-5, 195).
Youngstrom received second-team 5A All-Idaho recognition in 2016 during a season when he rushed for 1,292 yards and nine touchdowns. Clayton was an honorable mention all-star selection during a season in which he threw for 1,278 yards and nine TDs. Austin Good was one of Clayton’s favorite targets with 42 receptions for 553 yards and three TDs.
“Rigby just moved up to 5A last year. They have a new coach so they’re in transition, but know they’re going to be a quality team,” Monfiletto said.
Up front, the Trojans feature Nate Franz (6-2, 240), a first-team all-district offensive and defensive lineman last year. Franz is entering his third season as a starter and is a three-sport athlete who also plays basketball and competes as a thrower in track and field (bests of 161-7 in the discus and 57-1½ in the shot put as a sophomore this spring).
Rigby, comparable to Douglas enrollment-wise with about 1,600 students, went 4-6 in 2016 with a first-round playoff loss to eventual state champion Highland.
This marks the first of three games against 2016 playoff teams that the Tigers are facing to start the season. It’s not going to get any easier after that, either.
“I think our (Sierra) league is a toss-up,” Monfiletto said. “There are going to be a lot of variables deciding who’s going to end up on top. Carson’s got a quality program and enough talent coming back to compete for that league title. Manogue has 15 sophomores who are returning, which bodes well for that program. Galena is a program that always produces good kids. And Damonte Ranch has (Notre Dame verbal commit quarterback Cade) McNamara; they have a little bit of swag and they should, they had a great year.
“But don’t count the Douglas Tigers out. We’re going to compete for that league title and we expect to be in the thick of it.”
NOTES: The Rocky Mountain Rumble, presented by the Teton Auto Group, will feature four games on Saturday. Other games involving Northern Nevada teams include Carson vs. Lewiston, Idaho, at noon; Spanish Springs vs. Rocky Mountain (Meridian, Idaho) at 3 p.m. and Galena vs. Highland (Pocatello, Idaho) at 6 p.m. ... Armando Gonzalez Jr. is starting his first season as Rigby’s head coach, coming in with 24 years of coaching experience in Southern California. Coaching is a family tradition since his father, Armando Sr., coached Franklin High to four Los Angeles city 3A titles.