Broncs kickoff 2020 season with Battle of the Tetons

JACKSON, Wyo. — The Jackson Broncs will begin their 2020 season with a gut check of a game in Driggs Friday.

The new Timberwolves (formerly the Redskins) present the same old problems for Jackson—Teton always saves its best game for their rivals over the hill. In fact, Jackson has a losing record 7-9 in all-time matchups against Teton.

Last year’s Broncs 38-32 win was anything but easy. Jackson led the whole way but a pesky Teton team never quit and made things interesting late in the game. This season, on their turf, the Timberwolves will be even harder to beat, according to head coach David Joyce, now in his 4th season with the program.

“This team is returning a lot of seniors,” Joyce said. “They were 5-5 last year with a young team. They are going to be one of our tougher tests this season.”

Offense looks explosive as ever

Replacing two-time 3A offensive player of the year Jaydon Cox won’t be easy. Life after Cox will include a tandem running attack of Clancy Meagher and Brody Hasenick. Both backs saw considerable action last year, making the most of their touches. Meagher can be punishing runner between the tackles, Hasenick has elite speed to the outside.

“Brody was averaging like, what, 31 yards-a-carry last season?” Joyce said, only half-laughing. “It seemed like every time he touched the ball he took it to the house.”

But it will be second-year starter Sadler Smith, still just a junior, who Joyce will look at to get the offense clicking. Smith set all-time school records last season going 95-165, for 1,391 yards and 13 touchdowns.

Smith’s favorite target last season was fellow junior Nate Keipert. The tandem should send shockwaves into any secondary. Last season, the pair wasted no time clicking, as Smith found Keipert on a 75-yard TD strike on the season’s first play from scrimmage against Teton on August 30, 2019.

Joyce said the offensive line looks impressive in early practices. The O-line features two four-year starters at tackle and overall is bigger than last season.

“Balance, diversified” are words the coach uses when describing the offense this season.

Then there’s Joyce’s deep playbook and relentless uptempo game. The Broncs run a no-huddle, spread offense that forces opponents into making mistakes and wearing down.

“We’re going to try to keep our edge, keep it fast,” Joyce said. “The kids like it. In today’s age of a 12-second attention span, it just makes it easier to go fast all the time.”

Defense has question marks

Often overlooked last season was Jackson’s defense. From takeaways to 3-and-outs, the Orange & Black was a tenacious D that often got the ball back into the hands of its high-powered offense.

Heavies like Kevin Flores, Ben Phocas, Jalen Dow, and Will Pew were able to plug up the middle and allow linebackers Kirby Castagno, AJ McCool, and Colter Dawson to arrive at the ball carrier with speed and impact. Of those key defensive players, only Pew and Dawson return. The defense will also miss ballhawk Peter Goettler, who led the team in interceptions, and Cox, who provided dependable deep ball free safety play should anything break loose.

But Joyce says his defense is faster this year and expects to play a more aggressive style.

“We did lose a lot but we have a lot of kids that are experienced. We have Pew returning along with guys like Jack Brown, Jacobo Martinez, and Matt Carney,” Joyce said. “Our linebacking core has speed all over the field. So we really got three pluggers in the middle and eight speed guys everywhere else. I feel like this defense is way faster than the last couple years. It’s a different kind of defense. We’ll be more of an attacking defense.”

Defining success

After two turnaround seasons where the Broncs went 8-3 in 2018, then 7-4 last year, what will success look like for coach Joyce? Beating Star Valley? Improving their record? Winning a state title?

“I want to finish it,” Joyce said of two consecutive seasons where the Broncs were bounced in the latter rounds of the playoffs. “I want to get past the semis, obviously. Granted, we are turning over a big senior class that was part of the turnaround so I don’t want to put the cart in front of the horse in that aspect because these kids have to find their own way. But they definitely have the talent to beat any team on the schedule or any team in the state—3A or 4A.”

Jackson vs. Teton in Driggs, Idaho. Friday, August 28 at 7 p.m.

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