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SBLive Idaho is previewing the Top 15 high school football teams in the state ahead of the 2022 season. Here’s an inside look at the Meridian Warriors of the 5A Southern Idaho Conference – No. 3 in our countdown.

2021 IN REVIEW

8-4 (third place in 5A SIC Rivers Division); lost in Class 5A semifinals.

COACH’S RESUME

  • John Zamberlin, fourth season.
  • Overall record: 15-13.
  • Assistant coaches: Rob Rathbun, Chris Boncz, Tom Dowers, Seth Blick, Mitch Bourner, Troy Gleave, Brent Koetter, Brandon Harris, Tim Brachus, Porter Lacey, Cal Mcquery, Eric G Williams.

RETURNING STARTERS

8 on offense and 9 on defense.

SEASON OUTLOOK

After flirting with extended success the past couple of seasons, it's now official: For the first time in 15 years, the Warriors are back.

They finally proved as much last season with the long-awaited signature victory against then-undefeated No. 1 Mountain View in the Class 5A quarterfinals (35-6), and then came within a missed extra point in regulation of knocking off juggernaut Rigby in a triple-overtime state semifinal loss (55-49).

"There’s a pride at Meridian right now," Warriors coach John Zamberlin said. "I’m extremely happy for these kids and our community. We always talk about how we wear the name of the town on our uniforms. People in the area are excited."

As they should be.

Meridian brings back 17 starters from last year’s turnaround team. But Zamberlin and company know it’s all about consistency now.

"Each year is new and last year’s team makeup is gone," Zamberlin said. "You know, we’re the old school. (We’re not) like all the new schools, the shiny new Owyhee. So we have to take pride in our work ethic and what we do."

Meridian’s strength this season will once again be with a defense that allowed just 14.0 points per game a year ago. Its front seven should especially be good with unquestioned leader Nathan Reynolds. The 6-foot-4, 220-pound senior linebacker was an all-state performer with 77 tackles, three sacks, three forced fumbles and a pair of interceptions last season. He is the sixth-ranked prospect in Idaho, according to 247sports.com, and has offers from the likes of Navy and Army.

But the rest of the linebacking corps is a recognizable list of names, too. Senior Max Gwilliam and junior Carson Golley were all-5A SIC selections last season, while senior Ryan Corder was effective there as well after moving over from safety.

Up front, it’s all about 6-4, 250-pound senior Corbin Meisner, who earned all-league honors at the position last season. But watch out for seniors Jacob Hartsough and Anthony Nack as well.

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"We've got great experience there and we have some depth at those positions," Zamberlin said. "We have some good people there and there are opportunities now for them to rise and shine and show what they can do."

One of those is senior safety Ethan Beard, who kind of came out of nowhere to be a University of Idaho commit. He and fellow senior Landon Eason should help offset the losses of Judah Argon and all-state selection Ashton Gardner.

Offensively, if the Warriors want to bring home their first banner since 2007, plenty hinges on the continued development of sophomore quarterback Zeke Martinez.

Martinez was pulled up from the junior-varsity lineup and won four games after Malakai Martinez - his older brother and all-state signal caller - went down early with an injury.

"You can look at it as a blessing because he played against tough competition and that benefits him this year with that experience," Zamberlin said. "He’s very mature and has a great worth ethic."

Zeke Martinez will benefit from having an experienced o-line blocking for him, led by Bridjer Bivens. The 6-3, 260-pound senior center was a first-team all-conference selection last season. But two other seniors in Noble Atherton and Cainen Sanches are also back.

All-league running back Kross Antonnacchi graduated, but the Warriors have no shortage of qualify backs all vying for time. Junior Marco Del Rio spelled for Antonnacchi last season, and junior Rylie Byington could be a household name around campus.

The wide receiver room will also look different with the losses of all-state member Quentin Riley and all-league performer Davis Thacker. But senior Corban Freese returns and senior Tyson Acree can take the top right off a defense.

2022 SCHEDULE

Aug 19 vs. Eagle

Aug. 26 vs. Mountain View

Sept. 9 at Middleton

Sept. 15 at Timberline

Sept. 23 vs. Highland

Sept. 30 at Centennial

Oct. 7 vs. Rocky Mountain

Oct. 14 at Capital