Wood River Wolverines
Head coach: Kevin Stilling, eighth year
Returning starters: 14
2015 record: 6-4, 3-2 in GBC (lost to Century 35-28 in opening round of playoffs)
Quarterback Alec Nordsieck (University of Idaho walk-on) and receiver/tight-end Gunner Gibson (Salisbury Prep, CT.) produced most of the yards and got much of the ink for the Wolverines over the last three years... and they deserved it.
The improvising duo were as good of a one-two athletic punch the Great Basin Conference has seen in some time, and will go down as two of the best to ever lace 'em up in Hailey.
"You look at Gunner and Alec and what they did and it’s like, 'How are you going to survive," asked head coach Kevin Stilling.
So what's next?
Those who follow Wood River beyond the headlines know that the program is actually set up quite nicely. In fact, one could argue that 2016 has long been marked as the year of the Wolverines.
It's more projection than prophecy.
The vaunted '16 class went undefeated in middle school and freshman year of high school, and made their mark at the varsity level as sophomores, helping Wood River jump from one win in '13 to six and a playoff berth in '14.
"They've been dominant," Stilling said. "This senior class to me is the best singular class of football kids to come through Wood river high school in a very long time. You talk to people in this community and this is the best class they’ve seen."
Wood River returns an astounding 14 starters, many of whom are going on three years of starting experience.
"This group has bigger ambitions to play a playoff game and lose," said Stilling, referencing the last two seasons. "There is a different atmosphere this year. For Wood River to go to playoffs two years in a row is a big deal, but these kids aren’t content with that."
The Wolverines no longer have two faces of the program, they have a group of leaders, Stilling said.
They're not captains. Wood River doesn't have any of those.
"Leaders is a more active term,"Stilling said. "And this is probably the best group of leaders in my eight years. There is a lot more experience in that leadership circle, and part of it is they are a unique bunch of kids."
Unique? It's their investment into their roles that makes the group different.
They have a leadership-in-sports book club.
Every week, the group would meet with Stilling to reflect on what they'd learned.
It's given them perspective, wisdom, perhaps, beyond their years...literally.
"They understand that legacy needs to be more than what happens this year," Stilling said of the group wanting to create a foundation for future long-term success. "I want them to impact this program for years to come. I want them to know every kids name in the program. They need to know that Wood river football is bigger than a group of seniors."
And to add to the excitement about Wood River's potential, the school added California transfer Turner Maza (Edison High School, Huntington Beach, Calif.), who was a standout two year-starter at a program with 3,000 students and has produced multiple professional athletes over the years, including former MLB MVP Jeff Kent.
The 5-foot-4 135-pound Maza is likely to give the Wolverines an unmatched elusiveness in the backfield.
"He's a very special athlete," Stilling said. "He's been very, very impressive all summer."