Despite finishing third in the 3A Snake River Valley Conference last year, the Weiser football team wasn’t that far off from the conference crown. The Wolverines two losses, to Homedale and Fruitland, were both by three points — and the Wolverines avenged the loss to Fruitland with a 42-0 victory against the Grizzlies in the playoffs.
With six starters returning on each side of the ball, Weiser is looking to challenge for conference supremacy in 2021 and build on its state quarterfinal appearance
“We do feel like this is a team we’re excited for and can bring along,” said Weiser coach Tom Harrison. “We felt like we could have been better even last year. I thought we had a good season last year, we overcame some injuries and then we had some injuries right before the (quarterfinals loss) to Sugar-Salem.”
Going into the loss against eventual state champion Sugar-Salem, the Wolverines had quarterback and SRV Co-Offensive Player of the Year Brett Spencer and first-team all-conference running back Willie Shirts battling injuries. Weiser, which entered the quarterfinals averaging 34.1 points per game, was held to just eight points in the season-ending loss.
But both Spencer, who holds an offer from the University of Idaho, and Shirts are back this year, providing Weiser the potential for another explosive offensive season, provided they can stay healthy.
“That’s always a big thing, baring injuries, we have a really good team coming back,” Harrison said. “A couple injuries, then you’re just mediocre.”
In addition to Shirts, the Wolverines also return Jack Burke, another first-team all-conference running back, which should supply Weiser with a potent 1-2 punch in the run game.
“They can do it on the ground, but they can also catch the ball and get yards after the catch,” Harrison said about Shirts and Burke. “So, we want to be able to use them in different areas. But mostly we want to get them the ball, and get them the ball in space so they can do the damage that they can do.”
They will be running behind three returning all-conference linemen in center Malachi Hoobery and guards Riley Willett and Jesse Locket. Harrison said the Wolverines will have three players, all of whom played on the junior varsity team last year, battling to fill in the two offensive tackle positions.
Weiser will also have to find new targets for Spencer to throw the ball to as first-team all-conference receiver Kooper Von Brethorst and second-team tight end Bryce Crimm both graduated. Harrison points to Braden Walker, who was the junior varsity quarterback last year, and Brock Spencer, the quarterback’s younger brother, as players who could have a big year catching the ball.
Weiser also loses three all-conference defensive linemen, but Shirts was a second-team selection at defensive end last year, while Lockett and Zander Mcelroy saw time at defensive tackle last year.
“We’re looking for another defensive end, fill-in guy,” said Harrison. “We’re not sure who that’s going to be right now.”
But the defense will center around Willett at middle linebacker, who Harrison says has gotten some looks from the University of Idaho, as well.
Michael Youngberg returns as an outside linebacker, while Maddox Stevens and Levi Estes are battling for the other outside linebacker position.
Both Spencer brothers will be playing in the defensive backfield with Brett earning first-team all-conference honors at safety last year and Brock starting at cornerback last year during his freshman season. Harrison said Burke will likely also have a spot somewhere in the secondary.