SBLive’s 2021 preseason all-state Idaho high school football team: 5A powerhouses Coeur d’Alene (4), Rigby (3) lead multiple-pick parade

With the Idaho high school football season scheduled to start later this month, SBLive Idaho is releasing its preseason all-classification, all-state team for the 2021 season.

Nineteen different schools spread out among Class 5A, 4A, 3A and 2A are represented on this team, which was selected by SBLive Idaho correspondent Brandon Walton.

Five schools – Coeur d’Alene, Rigby, Highland, Eagle and Rocky Mountain – have two or more players picked for this team.

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PRESEASON ALL-STATE OFFENSE

Quarterback: Caden Young, Emmett, sr.

There may not be a more versatile signal-caller than Young. The 6-foot-3, 185-pounder showed that dual-threat ability in spades last season with 1,879 passing yards and 20 touchdowns to go with another 1,548 yards and 17 TDs on the ground. It all led to numerous awards, including the 4A state player of the year, after leading the Huskies to their first-ever 4A state title game.

Running back: Hayden Kincheloe, Homedale, sr.

Not enough people are talking about the 5-10, 212-pound small-school standout. He ran for almost 1,700 yards and 19 touchdowns to lead the Trojans to their third consecutive 3A title game a year ago. And that was with coach Matt Holtry holding back the reins a bit. Kincheloe is expected to get an even bigger workload, which means he could threaten a 2,000-yard campaign.

Running back: Seth Knothe, Bishop Kelly, sr.

The Knights are known for their running backs – and Knothe is the latest product. He already showed so last season with 1,359 all-purpose yards and 23 touchdowns, garnering all-4A SIC and all-state honors. Expect the 6-1, 205 pounder to eclipse those numbers with schools such as California-Berkeley and Yale showing him interest.

Wide receiver: Bruin Fleischmann, Century, sr.

The Diamondbacks have to replace 19 starting positions this season. But thankfully, the 6-5, 220-pound Air Force commit is not one of them. The three-star and the No. 6 2022 recruit out of Idaho started the year at quarterback last season, but still hauled in 46 catches for 843 yards and 15 touchdowns to earn a well-deserved all-state nod.

Wide receiver: Taylor Freeman, Rigby, sr.

Once thought to the be the future at quarterback, this speedy 6-1, 175-pounder made a seamless transition as the top receiving target last year for Tiger Adolpho and the Trojans, earning all-5A High Country first-team honors. This summer, he’s been nearly untouchable, taking home MVP honors at wide receiver at the BYU camp in June. Holds an offer from Idaho State.

Wide receiver: Kody Walk, Capital, sr.

He’s massive at 6-5, 230 – so big he will line up at both wideout and tight end for the Golden Eagles, and likely proving to be one of the 5A SIC’s most dynamic playmakers (26 catches, 362 yards in five games in 2020). Expect those numbers to soar in a full season this fall, as well as the number of scholarship offers (has them from Idaho, Idaho State and Eastern Washington).

Tight end: Colston Loveland, Gooding, sr.

Who is this guy? He just happens to be the biggest recruit in the state since Highland’s Tommy Togiai (2018), who is now playing in the NFL with the Cleveland Browns. The 6-5, 230-pounder, who had 69 receptions for 816 yards and six touchdowns during his all-state junior campaign, holds 15 FBS offers, and gave blue-blood Michigan a verbal commitment in July. A top-25 tight end recruit nationally.

Offensive line: Gunnar Clark, Mountain Home, sr.

Yes, the Tigers have only one state playoff appearance since 2009. But don’t be fooled – Clark is legit. He has ideal size at 6-3, 285 pounds, so schools should be calling soon if they’re not already. Clark has been a starter since his ninth grade year. He’s earned three consecutive all-4A Great Basin selections, and last year made the all-state second-team.

Offensive line: Tui Edwin, Skyline, jr.

Edwin is the only non-senior to make the offensive list – and for good reason. Just a sophomore last season, he helped bolster the 4A state champions’ beefy offensive line with Ethan Meissner, who was an all-state first-team selection. The three-sport standout also grabbed all-state honors, and now enters 2021 as the undisputed leader for the Grizzlies up front.

Offensive line: Alex Ortiz, Firth, sr.

When you have a dual-threat quarterback like Gage Vasquez in the fold, you have to keep him protected. Ortiz, an all-2A Nuclear first-teamer, is that guy. The Cougars averaged 5.4 yards per carry in the run game, and advanced to their second state title game in four seasons. If they want to do it again, the all-state performer has to have another big year.

Offensive line: Wyatt Sandford, Coeur d’Alene, sr.

It’s pretty easy to see why recruiters like this right tackle – he is a high-motor blocker who can move with ease. And after starting every game last season for the Vikings, the 6-4, 265-pounder will certainly be an anchor up front. An invitee to the Blue-Grey All-American Bowl game in Texas, Sandford has three offers, including one from FCS powerhouse, Eastern Washington.

Offensive line: Jaxson Washington, Coeur d’Alene, sr.

A interior-line standout on both sides of the ball (NG/OG), Washington is one of the Vikings’ most versatile performers. The 5A Inland Empire first-teamer was a key cog up front in a high-powered offense, and teamed up with Cameron Cope to terrorize opposing quarterbacks. Headed to the Blue-Grey All-American Bowl at AT&T Stadium in Texas, Washington has three offers, including one from Idaho State.

All-purpose: Ethan Mikita, Eagle, sr.

There isn’t much the 5-11, 195-pounder can’t do. He lined up in the backfield, the slot, outside and even handled kickoff duties to the tune of 608 all-purpose yards and six touchdowns for the Ben Ford-led Mustangs last season. It all resulted in him racking up all-5A SIC first-team honors at flex. Now the No. 4 prospect in Idaho, he holds offers from the College of Idaho and the University of Idaho.

Kicker: Ian Hershey, Highland, sr.

This ain’t your ordinary high school kicker. Hershey received a five-star rating from Chris Sailer Kicking from one of the top kicking and punting camps in the country.  Hershey has an offer from Idaho State and has visited other schools like Oregon State, University of California, Berkeley and Boise State. He booted eight field goals last fall, including a 47-yarder, to earn all-state honors in back-to-back seasons.

PRESEASON ALL-STATE DEFENSE

Defensive line: Cameren Cope, Coeur d’Alene, sr.

Nobody in the state gets to the quarterback better – or faster – than this 6-5, 220-pounder. The all-state defensive end recorded 74 tackles, including 22 for loss – and a 12.5 sacks. The 5A Inland Empire defensive newcomer most valuable player has offers from Montana Tech, Idaho and Idaho State, and has also visited places such as Boise State and Nebraska.

Defensive line: Paul Fitzgerald, Thunder Ridge, sr.

The Titans qualified for the playoffs for the first time in program history last season, and a big reason was that this 6-3, 235-pound three-star recruit did rushing the passer. Fitzgerald, who can also play linebacker, was an all-5A High Country first-team selection in 2020. He committed to BYU in June, but changed his mind and recently informed Utah State that is where he wants to continue playing.

Defensive line: Mason Jacobsen, Rocky Mountain, sr.

Jacobsen transferred in from Belgrade, Montana last fall, and made a historically-good Grizzly defense even more robust. The 6-3, 240 pounder earned all-5A SIC second-team honors on his way to helping Rocky Mountain to an undefeated season – and should see his role spike heavily in his final season at defensive end (he was position MVP at the Boise State camp).

Defensive line: Talin Togiai, Rigby, sr.

Seen this name before? He is the cousin of former Highland standout and NFL player Tommy Togiai – and he’s now ready to anchor Rigby’s run to a third consecutive 5A title game this fall. At 6-6 and 300 pounds, he overpowers blockers as an all-5A High Country teamer (33 tackles, eight TFL in 2020) – and there might not be a more intimidating force anywhere in Idaho. Holds offers from BYU, Utah and Nebraska.

Linebacker: AJ Edwards, Rocky Mountain, sr.

Somebody has to take the all-state defensive MVP mantle from the graduated Landon Albert – and it might as well be this two-year starter for the Grizzlies. His ball-hawking skill fit in nicely on the outside – he had a big defensive score in last year’s 5A semifinal win over Highland last year. Don’t be surprised if Edwards takes that final step in becoming Boise’s top defensive player.

Linebacker: Logan Fredericksen, Rigby, sr.

Coach Armando Gonzalez considers this teenager the best all-around player in East Idaho. And the 6-3, 210-pounder has the reputation – and numbers (43 tackles, five sacks, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries) – to back up that argument. He’s has a busy offseason, which has included an in invite to the Tiki Bowl in Hawaii, and offers from Montana State and Idaho State.

Linebacker: Mason Fullmer, Highland, jr.

After a breakout sophomore campaign – 85 tackles, 3.5 sacks and a pair of forced fumbles earned him 5A all-state honors – Fullmer is slated to take over as the unquestioned defensive leader at outside linebacker, especially now that Logan George and Luke Togiai have graduated. The bigger question on the 6-1, 205-pounder is which sport will be his calling card, football or baseball?

Linebacker: Brayden Garrison, Mountain View, sr.

The Mavericks will have no shortage of talent on the defensive side with four returning all-5A SIC performers, including top 2022 recruit Garrett McKenna at linebacker. But longtime coach Judd Benedick notes it is Garrison who is his leader. His level of athleticism, even at 5-10 and 180 pounds, plays anywhere, and the senior will man outside linebacker this fall.

Linebacker: Ryan Harris, Sugar-Salem, sr.

The Diggers completed the rare three-peat in 3A last fall, and this all-state linebacker’s contributions had plenty to do with their championship run. Harris anchored the classification’s top defense with a team-high 109 tackles, including 15 in the 3A title game against Homedale. This tackling machine might be the best linebacker in the state, regardless of level.

Defensive back: Isaiah Griffin, Coeur d’Alene, sr.

During the COVID-19 shutdown, he came over from Gonzaga Prep last fall, and gave the Vikings a little more wiggle on both sides. In his debut year, he had 22 tackles, an interception and two pass breakups for the 5A Inland Empire champions – and should form one of the state’s best cornerback tandems with Sam Entzi. Holds offers from smaller colleges, but also has interest from Boise State and WSU.

Defensive back: Gage Jones, Eagle, sr.

Talk about a playmaker, Jones doesn’t really even need a position to get in on the action. He can play cornerback and safety – and either way, he became an all-5A SIC and all-state performer (41 tackles, three interceptions, seven pass breakups) last fall as a junior. He is a top-20 Idaho recruit in this class, and has five offers, including one last month from the University of San Diego.

Defensive back: Bryler Shurtliff, West Side, sr.

What can’t this multi-sport standout do? He garnered all-state honors as a wide receiver, defensive back and kicker in 2A last season – which isn’t bad considering he did not even turn out for football until his ninth grade year. Last season, the 6-4, 170-pounder grabbed six interceptions and had eight pass breakups during West Side’s dominant run to a repeat 2A title. Holds an offer from Idaho State.

Defensive back: Brett Spencer, Weiser, sr.

Folks know him more as the school’s star quarterback (and two-time Northwest 9 qualifier), but the 6-0, 185-pounder had a better junior season at safety, collecting all-state honors. He had 61 tackles and five interceptions, and was named the 3A Snake River Valley player of the year. Has an offer from Idaho, but just took a visit to Boise State.

Punter: Ian Hershey, Highland, sr.

Twice is nice, and not only is Hershey the state’s top kicker, he has a booming punting leg, too. He averaged 41.1 yards per attempt as a junior, and ws equally effective in a traditional or rugby-style formation. As a junior, he added an all-state nod at punter to his pair as a kicker.

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