Aug. 23—The Kendrick football team became the second team in school history to win consecutive Idaho Class 1A Division II state titles with its 42-34 win over Dietrich in last year's championship game at Holt Arena.
The last time the Tigers went back-to-back was during the 2000 and '01 seasons, which ended a nine-year drought.
Those Kendrick teams were coached by now-Lewiston High School principal Kevin Driskill and had an explosive offense that tallied more than 3,500 yards rushing during its 2001 championship run.
The Tigers of old had an opportunity to become the first 8-man team in state history to 3-peat once the 2002 season got underway, but they folded under pressure. Kendrick finished last in the Idaho Class 1A 8-man Whitepine League at 4-5 overall and 3-5 in league play.
Kendrick wouldn't return to the championship until the 2021 season. But to say it's been worth the wait would be an understatement.
This year's Kendrick team has an opportunity to do what the '02 Tigers originally set out to accomplish win three straight Idaho state championships.
A third straight title for the Tigers would also make them just the second team (Oakley) in the history of Idaho 8-man football to win three consecutive championships.
"The staff has just continued to improve," Kendrick coach Zane Hobart said. "You look at what we did last year and figure out what you have to improve on and continue to get better schematically."
Oakley is currently on a run of three straight championship wins, most recently defeating Grace 58-20 in last year's Idaho Class 1A Division I title game.
The Hornets and Tigers have developed somewhat of a rivalry over the last couple of years, splitting the series 1-1. Kendrick defeated Oakley 52-48 in its most recent matchup.
The pair of 8-man powerhouses will meet on Sept. 1 at Albertsons Stadium in Boise to renew their rivalry in 2023.
"We're really excited to play Oakley," Hobart said. "They're really well coached, and they have really well-coached athletes."
Kendrick's nonleague schedule (Oakley, Butte County, Council and Grace) is made up entirely of playoff teams from last season.
"We won't be counting anyone out," Hobart said. "They'll be tough and physical contests, and you'll be a better football team after that."
The Tigers' tough schedule represents everything the team stands for; they'll never rest on their laurels. And the town makes sure they feel the love.
Kendrick will start the year with a new PA system as well as a new locker room painted Tiger orange that rivals some dressing rooms in the 5A classification.
"The new facilities on the field are awesome," Hobart said. "It's really nice to have a locker room on the field and a new snack shack for the fans. It's pretty exciting."
The gameday atmosphere will improve for the fans, but the play on the field will remain the same.
Kendrick only graduated four players from last year's championship roster, and its current crop of seniors has gone 27-4 during their football careers.
The Tigers enter the season on a 15-game win streak, from Sept. 9 of last year until Nov. 5. They shut out their opponents for 31 straight quarters, and in that span Kendrick scored 416 unanswered points.
Arguably the biggest piece of the Tigers' puzzle will be senior quarterback Ty Koepp.
The four-year varsity starter and defending Idaho Class 1A Division II player of the year has led Kendrick to two state titles and one third-place finish.
"I love his will to win," Hobart said. "He's a winner and will do anything to get into a good position to win."
The junior finished last year 106-of-167 passing (63%) for 2,001 yards and 32 touchdowns. He also added 567 yards rushing with 10 more scores.
Koepp will be without his top target, Jagger Hewett, for the first time in his high school career this season.
Hewett was an All-Whitepine League receiver and defensive back, finishing last year with more than 1,000 yards receiving.
Losing Hewett will be a big blow, but Hobart is hoping senior receiver Hunter Taylor and sophomore Nathan Tweit can pick up the slack.
Taylor is a four-year starter and earned first-team all-league honors last season as a tight end. He's a speedy option for Koepp on the outside, but he lacks size, standing at 5-foot-11 and weighing around 155 pounds.
The red zone target with size on the outside will be basketball standout Tweit.
Tweit spearheaded Kendrick's state basketball championship win, earning tournament MVP while scoring a team-high 57 points throughout the tourney.
"He's probably going to take Jagger's role," Hobart said. "He's going to be a big offensive contributor as a sophomore. He's long and a good basketball player. He really fits that wide-out role."
Junior running back Sawyer Hewett will play alongside Koepp in the backfield. Hewett has dealt with his share of injuries during his football career but has always shown up during crunch time.
In last year's title game, the 5-10, 140-pounder had six carries and 137 rushing yards with two scores. He also had 120 yards receiving on four receptions and two more scores.
In the Tigers' 30-24 win over Carey in the 2021 Class 1ADII title game, he once again came up big, finishing with 15 carries for 101 yards while adding 61 yards on two catches.
"If he stays healthy, he's going to be a huge contributor, especially on offense," Hobart said. "The biggest thing with Sawyer is he's the type of kid that can break a big play with his breakaway speed."
The Tigers will only be returning one full-time starter to their offensive line in Dallas Morgan. But Brock Boyer, who was mainly a depth piece last year, has put on some serious weight in the offseason.
"I'm looking for a big year out of him," Hobart said. "Last year he played around 190 or 195 and right now he's just shy of 220. He's been working really hard in the weight room this season."
3 things to watch
The Tigers will only play quality teams during the nonleague portion of their schedule. All of Kendrick's nonleague games will be played at a neutral site including their matchup against the defending Idaho Class 1A Division I state champs Oakley on Sept. 1 which will take place at Albertsons Stadium in Boise.
Junior running back Sawyer Hewett has come up big in both of the Tigers' championship wins. But he's dealt with some injuries that have kept him off the field during the regular season. Can the third-year player be Kendrick's bell cow back?
The Tigers have dominated their league foes for quite some time now.
Kendrick has won 18 straight league games with its last confernece loss being a 34-28 decision to Deary on Oct. 27, 2017.
The Tigers are 42-3 in league games dating back to the 2014-15 season and have only lost to the Mustangs.
Pixley may be contacted at (208) 848-2290, email@example.com or on Twitter @TreebTalks
Coach — Zane Hobart (11th season)
Last year's record — 3-0 in Whitepine League Division II, 12-0 overall
Returning letterwinners — Wyatt Fitzmorris, sr., RB/LB; Ty Koepp, sr.,QB; Lane Clemenhagen sr., RB/LB; Hunter Taylor, sr., TE/DB; Dallas Morgan, sr., OL/DL; Mason Kimberling, sr., WR/DB; Sawyer Hewett, jr., RB/DB; Carson Hogan, jr., OL/DL; Brock Boyer, jr., OL/DL; Xavier Carpenter, jr., LB/RB; Evan Simpson, jr., OL/DL; Caleb O'Bryant, jr., OL/DL; Nathan Tweit, so., LB/WR; Tanner Clemenhagen, so., RB/LB
8/25 — Council 6 p.m.
9/1 — vs Oakley, at Albertsons Stadium, 3 p.m.
9/14 — Lewis County 7 p.m.
9/29 — vs Butte County, at Madison, 7 p.m.
10/6 — Timberline, 7 p.m.
10/13 — vs Grace, at Homedale, 3 p.m.
10/20 — Deary, 7 p.m.