Thunder Ridge begins first day of practices in program history
AMMON — The 2018-19 school year will be the “year of firsts” for Thunder Ridge High School.
And that “year of firsts” began Monday for the newly opened 5A school in Ammon, as the Titans’ football, boys soccer and girls soccer programs conducted their first official fall sports practices.
All three programs used the first day to work out some kinks, as the new programs are still piecing together their respective teams and becoming familiar with new faces, new names and coaches.
“It’s exciting,” Thunder Ridge junior linebacker and running back Connor Isom said. “We’re the first team here to set the base up for all this. We’re all connecting surprisingly well from our schools before.”
Football — led by former Hillcrest High coach Jeff Marshall — saw an uptick in upperclassmen participating on the first day of practice, with about 30 juniors and seniors dressing in the evening, the team said.
Marshall said he will bring a spread offense similar to the one he ran at Hillcrest, and Blackfoot, to Thunder Ridge — featuring quick slants, jet sweeps and screens.
The Titans will run their defense mostly out of a 3-4 base formation.
In terms of impact players, Marshall couldn’t give an exact answer. He is starting a program from the ground up, after all.
“We added a bunch more today, which was a pleasant surprise,” Marshall said.
“Just a neat opportunity. How often do you get to start a new program? Not many people have done that in the whole state of Idaho, not many people have done it,” Marshall added. “It’s just a neat opportunity and I’m excited.”
With just helmets and no pads, the Titans mostly used their first evening practice working on skill position drills and technique.
For girls soccer, which practiced at Tiebreaker Elementary school about 2 miles west of Thunder Ridge, the first day saw coach Seth Boyle set a standard for his program.
Boyle comes from Elk Grove High School in California. He said he’ll be an intervention specialist at Thunder Ridge, helping students who struggle behaviorally or academically.
“From the experiences I’ve had over the years that I’ve coached, you can be the best player but if you’re not going to listen to what the team needs, you’re not going to play,” Boyle said after the Titans’ morning practice. “And in California, I had a lot of good of players, so I could do that. Here, if I sit a girl who’s a good player because she’s a discipline issue or she has an attitude, it’s gonna kill the team, but I can’t just let her run roughshod over everything.”
Boyle added that he will have to change his coaching philosophy in Idaho Falls.
“I’m just going to have to change my mentality, because it’s just different,” said Boyle, who’s coached 25-plus years at the youth and high school levels and eight years at the junior college level. “For me, the big thing is expressing to the kids and parents that I have certain expectations, and my expectation is not because we’re a new program, we’re gonna take it in the chin. My expectation is to win.”
Boys soccer had a similar vibe to the other two programs. New head coach Corey Toldson set up some skill-based drills to get an idea of her upcoming team.
After a warmup, Toldson split her team up based on grade and asked: “What’s the most important thing about this sport?”
“Communication,” she said. The players seemed to respond, as Tiebreaker Elementary’s fields filled with teenagers’ voices, cheering on their teammates.
“After today, I think the excitement is there. The boys are excited to be a part of something new,” Toldson said.
From Douglas, Wyoming, Toldson said she is excited to set up a culture for the new school, as the Titans have five seniors and six juniors. The rest are underclassmen, as about 45 players showed up Monday.
In comparison to Douglas — a 6,500-person town in eastern Wyoming — Toldson said there’s a culture of soccer in Idaho Falls. She said she used mostly word-of-mouth and social media to get in contact with players over the summer.
“It’s exciting. The boys are really excited,” Toldson said. “I get to create the culture. It’s just exciting and we’re ready to start.”
Thunder Ridge soccer begins its season on Aug. 18 at Idaho Falls. The girls play at 11 a.m. The boys play at 7 p.m.
Marshall and the Titans begin their regular season a week later, playing at Thunder Stadium against Bonneville on Aug. 24. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.
“Seeing everyone come out today, you know, a lot of people have been saying, ‘first year, we’re not going to be that good, we’re not going to win a lot of games,’” Isom said. “I’ve seen all these kids play and I think we’re going to do a lot better than people think we will.”