Change is far-reaching for the Wood River High School football program, centering on a brand-new head coach and his desire to change the Wol-verine culture after back-to-back 2-7 and 1-7 seasons.
New coach is 27-year-old Shane Carden, offensive coor-dinator last fall for 10-year head coach Kevin Stilling, who resigned in December to spend more time in his job as the school’s athletic director.
Carden, from Huntington Beach, Ca., was a record-setting quarterback for East Carolina University in Greenville, N.C. from 2012-14. After college, he played professionally in Ger-many and Canada along with time in the Arena Football League.
He spent his first year di-recting the offense for Stilling on the Wood River sidelines and getting used to the chal-lenges of the first-year 4A “Great Basin 10” conference.
Now, Carden is poised to implement what he’s learned and simplify things for high school kids on the gridiron.
Carden said, “Our attitude is to change the culture. Brother-hood and Mountain Tough has to mean something. We want the kids to compete in every-thing they do—on the field, in the classroom.
“Do what’s right, do your best, and treat others the way you want to be treated are things we’ll emphasize. We want the kids to have a relent-less drive to get better and an obsession to finish.
“I ask the kids, when do you win a game? Our answer has to be in the fourth quarter.”
He added, “The kids are more focused. A lot of kids have matured and are buying in more. It’s been fun. Every-body’s on the same page.
“There’s a better nucleus and better leaders. Our big thing is taking care of football and staying away from turn-overs and penalties. With our better mindset, we should be able to weather the storms.”
Senior leadership along the offensive line, and a “swarm to the ball” mentality on defense will help make Wood River successful—starting today, Friday with a “Great Basin 10” game at Mountain Home.
Co-captains Johnny Servin at left tackle and Brendon Cox at left guard have been working hard in the weight room and on the field. Senior center Adan Moya is like “a second coach on the field,” Carden said.
Seniors Garrett Doub and Aaron Andazola at right guard, along with junior Owen Robb at right tackle add to the scheme of trusting each other up front so that the players in the skill positions can move the ball.
Junior Matt Meyers is the new quarterback, up from the junior varsity.
Carden said, “He’s a game manager who knows the play-book well.” Meyers will hand the ball to rushers Ethan Shoemaker, also a junior, and senior Crow Macdonald.
Meyers will pass to outside receivers Andrew Nelson and Connor May, both seniors, as well as junior Eli Fuller and sophomore Andres Salamanca. Nelson was Wood River’s quar-terback last year. Carden will try to “get him in space,” utiliz-ing Nelson’s shifty speed and moves.
Nelson returns as punter, Cox the long snapper. Place-kickers include seniors Walter Kriesien and soccer player Ed-gar Salamanca.
Tackling on defense “can always be better,” Carden said, so the coaching staff has bro-ken technique back down to the fundamentals of tackling. “We’ll do the Wolverine swarm, trusting each other to show up once the ball is there,” he said.
Andazola, Cox, nose guard Carter Penn, Reese Bradshaw, Jesus Sandoval and Robb will rush and try to stack up along the defensive line.
Monster outside linebackers include Connor May and Shoemaker, with Eli Trevino the strong side stud, Johnny Servin the essential middle backer, and Tuffer Manning, Eli Fuller and Luke Marlow weak side.
Crow Macdonald is safety, flanked by Andrew Nelson, Gianpierre Fajardo, Jacob Rus-sell and Victor Solis as corner-backs. “We’re looking at Crow Macdonald and Johnny Servin to run the defense,” said Car-den.
Second-year assistant coach Dave Slotten, Wood River’s head baseball coach, will bring tons of experience to his role as defensive coordinator.
In last year’s Hailey season opener, Wood River lost to Mountain Home 19-15 in the first football meeting between the two schools in 14 years. The Wolverines fell behind 13-0 at half and nearly caught up.
Mountain Home (4-6) placed second in the “Great Basin 10” West Division with a 3-1 record, then lost 50-7 to Nampa in the 16-team first round of the State 4A playoffs.
The two programs have met 14 times since 1968, Mountain Home holding a 11-3 advantage and 272-171 scoring edge. Wood River last won in 1975, by 10-7 in Hailey.
Carden said about the Mountain Home opener, “It was a close game last year. We started out slow. Turnovers (4 WRHS) played a role.
“This week, we want to keep it simple, find out what the kids are good at, focus on our stuff and run our plays. We hope to come out fast and finish strong.”
Carden’s team got an early look at live scrimmage football last Saturday during a pre-season jamboree at Mountain Home against Parma, Melba and Cole Valley Christian.
Wood River plays four games within its “Great Basin 10” West Division league, and must win at least two of the West games with Mountain Home, Jerome, Twin Falls and Canyon Ridge for a chance at a first-round state playoff bid.
The Wolverines play back-to-back Fridays at home with Jerome and Twin Falls Sept. 13 and 20, and travel to Canyon Ridge Oct. 25. The GBC East Division includes Century, Pocatello, Preston, Minico of Rupert and Burley.
East Division champ Cen-tury of Pocatello went 4-0 and beat West champion Twin Falls 42-13 for the 2018 “Great Basin 10” title. All five GBC teams lost in the State 4A first round, Century coming closest with a 27-26 loss to Columbia.
Cumulatively, Great Basin teams were outscored 187-75 in the first round. Hillcrest of Idaho Falls (12-1) won the State 4A title by as 55-21 score at Boise’s Albertson Stadium over Bishop Kelly (10-2).
Wood River’s “C Team” guided by coach Juan Martinez offers promising players like freshman quarterback Sawyer Grafft, running back Jack Her-linger, Terrik Lloyd, Micah Shupe, T.J. McLean, Zeke Ag-new and Max Jenson.
The “C Team” starts its sea-son Thursday, Aug. 29 at 5:30 p.m. at home against Mountain Home at Phil Homer Field in Hailey. A second “C” home game is Sept. 5 with Minico.
One change has been made to Wood River’s schedule.
The “Senior Night” varsity non-conference contest with Kimberly has been rescheduled to Thursday, Oct. 10 at 7 p.m. at Homer Field. It had been planned for Friday, Oct. 11. The “C Team” game at Kimberly will now be Wednesday, Oct. 9 at 7:15 p.m., instead of Thurs-day, Oct. 10.
Here is the varsity roster.
Position symbols include Offensive/Defensive Lines (OL/DL), Running Back (RB), Defensive Back (DB), Quarter-back (QB), Linebacker (LB), Wide Receiver (WR), Place-kicker (K) and Punter (P):
Head coach—Offensive Coordinator Shane Carden (1st year).
Assistant varsity coaches—Defensive coordinator Dave Slotten; Zeek Herron (OL/DL); Matt Nelson (DB/WR); Alec Nordsi-eck (QB/WR/DB); Scott Manning.
Director of Football Operations—Kevin Stilling.
Head “C Team” coach—Juan Martinez.
Assistant “C Team” coaches—Jordan Moeller, Todd Hunter, Derek Agnew, Dale Martin.
Seniors (12)—Aaron Andazola (OL/LB), Dylan Bartles (WR/DB), Brendon Cox (OL/DL), Garrett Doub (OL/LB), Walter Krie-sien (WR/LB/K), Crow Macdonald (RB/DB), Connor May (WR/LB), Adan Moya (OL/DL), Andrew Nelson (WR/DB/P), Carter Penn (OL/DL), Edgar Salamanca (K), Johnny Servin (OL/LB).
Juniors (15)—Reese Bradshaw (OL/DL), Gianpierre Fajardo (WR/DB), Eli Fuller (WR/LB), Drake Humphreys (OL/DL), David Hurtado (OL/DL), Isaac Kolman (WR/LB), Tuffer Manning (OL/LB), Matt Meyers (QB/LB), Jonus Parten (WR/DB), John Perez (WR/DB), Owen Robb (OL/DL), Jesus Sando-val (OL/DL), Ethan Shoemaker (WR/LB), Victor Solis (WR/DB), Eli Trevino (RB/LB).
Sophomores (7)—Cole Duncan (RB/LB), Luke Marlow (WR/LB), McCade Parke (WR/DB), Jacob Russell (WR/DB), Andres Salamanca (WR/LB), Asher Stern (WR/DB), Hunter Thompson (WR/LB).
Freshmen (1)—Sawyer Grafft (QB/DB).