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Nampa wide receiver Isaak Plew (6) is tackled after a catch during a game against Middleton on Oct. 11, 2019.

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The Idaho Press is counting down to the start of the 2020 high school football season by spotlighting all of the teams and the top players from the Treasure Valley. Next up is Nampa.

Since returning to the 4A classification in 2018, the Nampa football team has not only broken an eight-year state playoff drought, but made back-to-back trips to the 4A state semifinals.

As the Bulldogs enter the 2020 season, though, many of the key pieces of their two state playoff runs have graduated, including quarterback Donavon Estrada, Jace Mann and Braden Draper.

Now a new group of Bulldogs come in and will try to keep the program rolling along.

“They want to continue the tradition that’s been established by the upperclassmen,” Nampa coach Dan Holtry said. “They don’t want to let go of the ropes, so to speak, or let things fall off.”

In the units where the Bulldogs do return some experience, they return quite a bit of it. Along the offensive line, three starters return, including first-team All-Southern Idaho Conference selection Kaliopasi Niupalau, along with Mason Rydalch and Braxton Waite. On the defensive side, all three returning starters are in the backfield, with Kaden Melad and Isaak Plew and Jacob Butler.

Everywhere else on the field, Nampa will be looking to fill in some pretty big shoes of players who lifted the program to a level not seen in a decade.

“I think we had a good summer with all things considered,” Holtry said. “We were able to get some good workouts in in June and early July. We had some young guys stepping up and filling those spots.”

Senior Colton Seable, who backed up Estrada last year, will be under center and gives the Bulldogs height at the position that they haven’t had in recent years. Holtry said junior Jamen Stoors-Kiehne will also get reps at the position.

“(Seable) is just that prototypical quarterback, he’s probably 6-foot-2, 6-3,” Holtry said. “We’re excited to see what kind of dynamics he can bring to that position. Jamen is more athletic and he can get out of the pocket. He did a lot as a (junior varsity) quarterback for us. It’s exciting to have two talented kids coming back.”

Holtry said the Bulldogs will continue to try and run a balanced offense with Plew and Kaden Melad being two seniors at the wide receiver position that Nampa’s quarterbacks will rely on to move the ball through the air.

At running back, Nampa is looking at junior Ryan Schuler, who had a big year for the Bulldogs’ junior varsity team last year, as the one to carry the load.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Bulldogs’ strength is expected to be in the backfield with its three returning seniors, with the defensive line and linebacker positions expected to be young.

The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown a wrench in the Bulldogs getting a chance to develop and identify many of the new players who will be able to step up. But Holtry has been pleased with the way the coaches and players have stepped up to the challenge.

When the weight room opened up in June, the Bulldogs had around 90 kids show up nearly every day.

“It’s definitely an extra challenge, but I have an excellent staff that’s experienced,” Holtry said. “We’ve been working together for the last five years. We’ve been able to get as much as we possibly can under the conditions done. So I feel confident that even with everything that’s gone on, we were able to get a lot done and accomplished over the summer.”

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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