CALDWELL — A little more than three months ago, Dylan Martinez was walking across the floor at Taco Bell Arena for his graduation ceremony from Mountain View High.

Last Saturday, the linebacker was co-leading the College of Idaho defense in tackles.

In his first taste of college football, Martinez had six tackles in the Yotes’ 48-12 season-opening win against Eastern Oregon. That was enough for the true freshman to share the team lead with fellow linebacker Forrest Rivers, a senior.

“It’s definitely different than high school, it was a big experience,” said Martinez, who had 146 tackles his senior year at Mountain View and led the Mavericks to state titles in 2017 and 2018. “The environment was crazy. I had a little bit of jitters, but it was the same old, same old.”

Martinez was hardly the only true freshman to come up big for the Yotes on Saturday. Both Garrett Rehberg and Ryan Halford saw significant time on the right side of the offensive line, helping the Yotes run for 377 yards. Running back Ed Osterberger had a 73-yard run for a touchdown on his first collegiate carry and also made a tackle on special teams in the first quarter. Both Robbie Johnson and Dorian Hardin saw time in the defensive backfield, with Johnson recording four tackles and Hardin three. Cade Flint also recorded a tackle on special teams.

Additionally, Nico Reis, Carson Smith, Jack Molesworth and Will Janney showed up on the Yotes’ participation chart.

Martinez, Rehberg, Halford, Johnson and Hardin are all listed on the Yotes’ two-deep roster again for Saturday’s road game at Montana Tech. Clayton Wolfe and Bridger Marboe are listed as backup center and strong safety, respectively. The game is scheduled to kickoff at 1 p.m. in Butte, Montana.

For a team which returned 20 of its 22 starters from last season, it may have appeared to be hard for true freshmen to break into the lineup and contribute this season, especially right away. But leading up to the season, coach Mike Moroski talked about the importance of having players who signed in February ready, especially as it pertains to managing injuries throughout the course of the season.

Turns out, a number were already to go for the first game of the year.

“The coaches had us very prepared,” said Rehberg, who got the start at right tackle, alongside redshirt freshman Braden Bale. “Eastern Oregon is a very good opponent and we knew we had to be physical and faster and I feel like the coaches did a super good job preparing us to play.”

With Rehberg, Bale and then Halford coming in for Bale, there were almost always two freshmen on the right side of the line, and often times two true freshman. That didn’t seem to slow down either the Yotes run game, or the pass protection, which gave up one sack in the game, but otherwise kept the Mountaineer defense from getting to quarterback Darius-James Peterson.

“I think the chemistry that we all had was really working,” said Halford. “On our double teams we weren’t getting separated as much and we all knew what we were doing. So that helped out a lot.”

Making the day all the more special for several of the freshmen who played Saturday is the fact that they are Treasure Valley products.

Players like Martinez, Rehberg,— who played at Bishop Kelly — Halford (Mountain View High) and Osterberger (Timberline High) all got to showcase their talents close to home.

“It’s awesome to have local kids,” Rehberg said. “C of I recruited Idaho very well this year and I feel like we’re going to do some great things this year.”

John Wustrow is the assistant sports editor of the Idaho Press. He is a Michigan native and a graduate of Indiana University.

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