Bill Brock has seen a lot of change in his first 22 years as Middleton football coach.
He’s watched both the Vikings and the Middleton community as a whole grow.
When he began coaching the Vikings, Middleton was a 3A school. As he enters his 23rd season, the Vikings are now a 5A program.
“They’re building houses right and left out in our neck of the woods,” Brock said. “There are some new kids, so that’s exciting, and we’re excited to invite them into our school, into our culture and into our football family.”
Middleton had long been one of the top programs in the 4A Southern Idaho Conference, making regular appearances in the state playoffs. But according to Idaho State Board of Education enrollment numbers, Middleton High had an average attendance of 1,285.5 students during the 2020-21 school year, just above the cutoff of 1,280 for the 4A classification. That means Middleton will now be going up against schools like Mountain View, Rocky Mountain and Timberline which have nearly twice their enrollment figures.
“We’ve known this has been coming for a few years now, Middleton’s not getting any smaller,” Brock said. “It might have been here a couple years before we thought, but we’re excited about it, I think the kids are excited about it. We’re going to have a learning curve for everyone involved, but we’ve been working hard this spring and summer and looking forward to getting the season started.”
As it makes the move, Middleton has to replace its first-team All-SIC quarterback Ky McClure. Brock said that there is a quarterback battle between senior Dekker Hagler and junior Cash Weeks. Hagler started the Vikings playoff game against Blackfoot last season, with McClure out, and Brock said he was impressed with how well he performed with such little preparation. Weeks was a third-place finisher at the state wrestling tournament at 220 pounds.
“I think we’re in pretty good hands,” Brock said. “Both of them are capable.”
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Tate Johansen returns after being a second-team all-conference receiver last year, but the Vikings do have to replace first-team selection Tyler Medaris and honorable mention Owen Graviet. Brock said guys like Sawyer Heck and Colten Moore, who primarily played on defense last year, will see an expanded role on offense this year. The Vikings also have a deep stable of running backs, who Brock said could switch to receiver.
“I think we have enough athletes, we just got to fit all the pieces together,” Brock said.
In the running back group, Patxi Franks and Cole Holman both lead the way, but Brock said there is depth in the younger players, giving him flexibility on where to play people.
On the offensive line, the Vikings have experience. Coltin Fuentes was a first-team all-conference selection, while Garrison Grimes was a second-team selection. Dallin Sager is also a returning starter and Cole Martin saw quite a bit of playing time, even getting a couple starts due to injury. Reece Williams, who Brock calls the “Swiss army knife of football players,” could also play on the line.
“He’s played everywhere from offensive line, to linebacker,” Brock said of the senior. “When he was a sophomore, he played quarterback on the (junior varsity) team. This kid is a phenomenal player and he’s just a man of many talents.”
Defensively, the Vikings return eight starters, with much of their experience coming in the defensive backfield. Johansen was a first-team all-conference selection on the defense. Hagler was listed as a second-team linebacker, but he played more of a nickel role, Moore was an honorable mention defensive back and Heck also returns as a starter.
In the linebacker group, Middleton loses just one to graduation. In addition to Hagler, who holds an offer to play at Idaho State, Matt Hazard and Holman return in that group, while Jace Cordell, who was expected to be a starter in 2021 before a knee injury wiped out his entire junior season, returns.
Sam Nuffer also returns as a starting STUD linebacker and will sometimes drop down to defensive end where he will play alongside Franks, a first-team all-conference defensive lineman, Williams and William DeLeon.