The Nampa football team proved it could sustain success last year, even after suffering losses to graduation.
Now the Bulldogs will look to solidify staying power as they aim to make it to the state playoffs for the fourth year in a row.
After nearly a decade of futility, in which Nampa missed the playoffs for eight straight years, the Bulldogs now are among the top of the class in the 4A Southern Idaho Conference. Nampa has won at least one playoff game in each of the past three years, meaning this year’s seniors have seen Nampa as a winning program ever since their freshman year.
“Their expectation is the playoffs, to hopefully be a contender for the district title and things like that,” said Nampa coach Dan Holtry. “That’s all they know and I think that’s a contributor in attendance, having 60 kids in (workouts) four days a week, all summer. It’s just because they know what the expectation is, and they’ve seen it met.”
Much like 2020, the 2021 team will be on hit hard by graduation and just four starters return on offense. The quarterback position is one spot the Bulldogs are looking to fill. Juniors Peyton Gunter and Gabe Navarro are the two who are currently in a battle for the starting job.
“We have fall camp and we’ll be able to assess,” said Holtry. “We’ll have a scrimmage on the 20th at Nampa and both of them will get some reps. We’ll make our determining decision the last week before the first game.”
Senior Ryan Schuler is back after earning first-team all-conference honors a year ago, as is Daniel Carrillo, who stepped up big after Schuler suffered an injury late in the year. In the Bulldogs’ state playoff win against Middleton, Carrillo rushed for 204 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
They will be running behind a rebuilt offensive line that loses four all-conference players to graduation.
Senior Alex Daniluc will be the one returning starter, playing left tackle, while senior Jeff Douberly is expected to step up at center.
Holtry said Daniluc has drawn some interest from colleges.
“We’re really excited about him,” Holtry said. “He spent his summer going to camps, getting looks from colleges. So we’re excited about his leadership at the left tackle position.”
Trais Higgins and Jamen Kiehne are expected to be the top pass catchers for the Bulldogs this season, with Ty Frickey also in the mix.
Defensively, Nampa returns two all-conference players in defensive lineman Isaiah Gafford and linebacker Ethan Kincheloe.
Gafford was a first-team selection.
“We’re going to rely on Isaiah on the defensive line,” Holtry said. “But a lot of the same guys on the offensive line will be playing on the defensive line. Our offensive and defensive line will be one of our biggest question marks, areas of concern. But I think that once they get some opportunities to get some varsity experience, they should be able to step up.”
There’s a bit more in the linebacking corps, as the Bulldogs return all three starters: Kincheloe — a second-team all-conference selection — Joe Anguiano and Cody Rowley.
“They’re going to solidify our defense,” Holtry said of the linebackers.
Carson Rich will be a returning starter in the defensive backfield, while Kiehne and Andon Squibb are also expected to get in the mix. Carrillo will also play corner, Holtry said.