Head Coach: Lane Kirkland, 17th year
2016 Record: 7-4 (4-1 1A-DII Sawtooth West Conference)
Playoffs: Lost to Salmon River 36-20 in 1A-DII state semifinals
About 70 students attend Carey High School. Carey head football coach Lane Kirkland said 34 of them are playing football this season.
"There are probably six or eight boys (in the school) that aren’t playing. It’s not good," Kirkland said. "Not good for other teams, I should say."
Kirkland credits a tradition of success for the high numbers this season. The Panthers have contended for state titles and have never had a losing season in Kirkland's 16 years as head coach. Success like that has a way of sharpening itself.
Carey hasn't won a state title since 2010, so the excitement around the program is paired with hunger.
"When you get 34 kids, you get competitive practices. That competitiveness leads into games," Kirkland said, "It all begins in practice, where we can harness that and channel it in the right direction."
Carey returns four or five starters on each side of the ball. The offensive line is mostly new, but the Panthers promise to be explosive thanks in large part to senior Houston Hennefer, who begins his second season as starting quarterback.
The run game will be a focal point, Kirkland said, but Hennefer gives the offense lethal unpredictability. Either way, speed will be Carey's strong suit.
"We’ve got eight solid seniors. They’re all athletic," Kirkland said. "We could make a team on both sides of the ball out of those guys if we needed to."
Carey has lost in the 1A Division II state semifinals in each of the last three seasons, so Kirkland has pushed his players to find another gear this year.
"Three years in a row we’ve seen a green trophy, and all those three years we knew we could’ve beat the team we lost to," Hennefer said. "We know it’s possible, we just need to get over that hump. We’re more motivated than discouraged."