There are high expectations for the Kuna Kavemen varsity football team this year. The city is buzzing with anticipation of what may be the biggest chance to make a run for state championship in years. The class of 2014, this year’s seniors, have been told by coaches since 8th grade that they are the team that will do it. And, watching practice, listening to parents talk, and speaking with the coaches, the motivation is there. But, everyone knows, none more so than the coaches and players, that it is one game at a time.
This is Kuna varsity Coach Lee Leslie’s second year as head coach. Already he’s seen growth in his program. When he arrived, he said he started with 58 kids. This year, during Hell Week he had 152 kids on the field. He’s excited about the team.
“The team is looking solid, big, they’re ready,” Coach Leslie said at practice last week. “It’s a good looking team. We kept a lot of our starters from last year. We have to replace the quarterback position. Right now there are a few kids battling over it but right now Ben Ruwe, a sophomore, in first place right now.”
Coach Leslie then runs through the offense quickly as the team warms up on the field.
“Offensive line… the team captain, Daniel Durrant, 6’1”, 220 pounds, good looking kid. I’ve got the Minnick twins (Elija-6’3”, Jonah-6’1”), both home study kids that are both about 250 (lbs.). They started as sophomores last year. The center spot is open. Blake Mooney, Spencer Heindel and Court Carver are battling for that spot. Josh Cox, 6’4” 240 lbs., is at right tackle.”
“Spencer Trautman is back, one of the finest athletes I’ve ever coached. He’s a 4.0 student, dialed-in, team captain… leader. He’s going to play running back, quarterback and strong safety on defense. He’s going to run kicks back and punts back. He’s going to be a busy kid.”
“I’ve got two fullbacks. Jacob Kellogg is our biggest surprise of the year. He’s really turned into something special. He’s worked hard. He’s 6’2”, 230 lbs. and clocked a 4.6 second, 40-yard run. I have a feeling he’s going to be a Division 1 product. Colton Kesling has been big. He had a great wrestling season this last year. He’s our other fullback at 6’, 205 lbs. So he looks good.”
“Jade Palmer’s back, (with Trautman) we got those two running backs. Jake Johnson, 6’5”, 205 lbs., a sophomore who will be a Stanford/BYU recruit already because of the camps he’s been to. I think he was the best player on the basketball team as a freshman. He and Rowe connected for 19 touchdowns last year as freshmen and they’re going to work together.”
“Gavin Patterson (6’3”, 195 lbs.) will also take reps out there as a receiver.”
“Boone Bartlome, we got a cowboy out of the rodeo program, is one of the best athletes I’ve seen.
He’s clocked three 4.5 second 40s,” Coach said, then paused, reflecting. “Boone Bartlome… just a tough kid. He’s going to play corner and wide receiver. And then Mikhail Kidd will back him up at that wide receiver. A pretty solid group of kids there.”
“The defense is probably the strength of our team right now, the line and the backers. In the box, we’ve got number 58, Jorge Garciolazo. He was one of our best players last year. JC English, 6’4”, 230 lbs., wrestled heavyweight. He’s a good looking defensive back, one of the best I think. Then we have his half-brother Danny Kilpatrick who moved in from Idaho Falls, they grew up together as kids. Danny is 6’3” 230, then Colton Kesling and Jordan Nolan will battle out at noseguard. They’re both wresters. I really promote kids to do a lot of sports. I think it builds confidence. Last year Boone (Bartlome) goes out for his first tack meet ever in his life and beats the long jump and high jump record as a sophomore.”
“On defense, the backers you’re going to have are Jacob Kellogg, Christian Brandon, another wrestler from last year who took state champion, and Con Beus, another cowboy rodeo kid who’s a linebacker.”
“We run a 4-2-5 so our strong safeties are Spencer Trautman and Josiah Kotte. Jamison Tolbert is a return free safety, he’s only a junior and Boone Bartlome, will push a corner spot. Mikhail Kidd will push another corner spot. Camden Six is running a 4.5-40. He’ll be pushing the corner spot.”
“We’ve got Stone Wilson coming back as kicker, he’s a junior and won some honors last year as well. Spencer averages 53 yards a punt, he was the all-section punter last year.”
Without any injuries returning or being nursed along, the team is in good shape said Coach Leslie.
“We’ve conditioned all year long. We’ve done a good job with the heavy weights. We’ve done a good job with stretching and we’ve done a good job with the cross-fit weights. We’ve got it pretty dialed in,” he said.
“We’ve got a brand new weight room. We’ve got a new 5-man sled. We’ve got a brand new track, new uniforms. New helmets. The boosters have done everything they can to help us. We’ve got a new building there, a new pad for expanded stands.”
Looking to the season line-up, however, Coach Leslie does not see an easy path to the playoffs.
“Skyview will be really good,” he said. “They picked up two brothers from Fruitland that will help them a ton.”
“Bishop Kelley, they were undefeated freshmen when I had them 3 years ago. So I know what they’re going to have and they’re going to be darn good. Middleton has lost a little but they’ll still be tough. Nampa is kind of like us. Mountain Home has got one of the best running backs in the state. He’s a fast big kid.”
“Emmett is coming on strong. They’re starting to get some things done. Columbia is a question mark. They’ve hired a great smart coach and a lot of it will just depend upon how well he can blend together his guys in the first season.”
“This will be ultimate Friday night lights,” Said Coach eslie. “People will come out by the thousands.”