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After rolling out a stream of our high school football team rankings, SBLive Idaho now turns its attention to the best high-profile positional players in the state of Idaho.

Next stop – top running backs.

The main criteria for these top players are statistics and coaches recommendation to SBLive Idaho correspondent Brandon Walton. Players are divided up by classification, and listed in alphabetical order (all statistics are through the regular season):



Kross Antonnacchi, Meridian, senior

One of the state's most physical runners, and it showed. The 5-foot-11, 205-pound featured back finished with 1,127 yards and 18 touchdowns in 2021. He was relied upon to carry the load when the Warriors had to break in ninth grader Zeke Martinez at quarterback after his older brother, Malakai, missed most of the season with a shoulder injury. It all led to Meridian’s best season in 14 years.

"The first thing that comes to mind when I think about Kross is consistency," Malakai Martinez said. "He was there every day and you could always count on that. While most of the team dealt with a variety of injuries Kross stood strong through it all and was the go to guy."

Quintez Evans, Mountain View, senior

Evans actually came into training camp as a wide receiver. But after a few practices, Mountain View coach Judd Benedick thought he would be better suited elsewhere. The longtime coach ended up being right. Evans is an every down back who routinely handles 30 plus carries a game. He maintains the same explosive speed and power from his first to 30th carry. The 5-10, 180-pounder tallied more than 1,500 all-purpose yards and 16TDs for the Mavericks this season.

“He has great feet and vision,” Benedick said. “He is an outstanding runner between the tackles and is extremely physical. Nobody worked harder this off season, it's fun to see it pay off.”

Zheik Falevai, Rigby, senior

Quarterback Tiger Adolpho and wideout Taylor Freeman got most of the headlines this season, but Falevai’s name should be right up there too. The 6-1, 210-pounder was the workhorse of the offense with almost 200 carries for 1,114 yards and zero fumbles. His 18 touchdowns were more than anyone not named Adolpho this year, and was utilized quite efficiently in the pass game, too.

“Zheik is one of the most versatile players to come out of our program,” Rigby coach Armando Gonzalez said. “He began as a quarterback as a freshman and has always thrived with the ball in his hands. He is great both in the running game and as a passing threat out of the backfield.”

Atonio Fifita, Skyview, senior

When Fifita played optimist football, he stood over most of the other kids. A lot of those same kids caught up to him in terms of size, but not heart. Fifita willed himself and the Hawks to a surprising season. Few would have picked Skyview to make state and for Fifita to be SIC Foothills player of the year, but they did just that. The 5-11, 190-pounder ran for 1,021 yards and nine touchdowns, while adding almost 300 receiving yards, too.

“Very patient, strong runner,” Skyview coach David Young said. “Runs with his heart more than his legs.”

Cruz Hepburn, Lewiston, senior

Missed much of last year due to a knee injury. But the 6-2, near 200-pounder made up for the lost season with more than 1,200 yards and 12 touchdowns. His quickness, elusiveness, vision and physicality came in handy in the receiving game with almost 400 yards and three touchdowns. He had committed to play NCAA Division I baseball at the University of Washington, but has reopened his recruitment to include football.

“Other teams have to gameplan for him and he is capable of turning any play into a touchdown,” Lewiston coach Mathew Pancheri said.

Taylor Marcum, Timberline, senior

Sometimes with a player, you have to go beyond the stats. And with Marcum, that is certainly the case. He ran for less yards the last two seasons than he did his entire sophomore year. But that’s because the Wolves have primarily been a pass-heavy offense the last few years and have asked Marcum to do a lot of stuff that often goes unnoticed, like blocking. But colleges have paid attention. The 6-1, 190-pounder is committed to Montana State.

“Taylor has been asked to do a lot in his time here,” Timberline coach Ian Smart said. “We rely on him heavily and he has done a great job embracing that role. He is a very athletic kid, and his speed and quickness make him a very valuable weapon for us.

Parker Rushton, Borah, junior

He kind of came out of nowhere. Few probably pegged him as being the 5A Southern Idaho Conference’s leading rusher this season. But with 1,227 yards and 16 touchdowns, that’s exactly who Rushton was while helping the Lions make a surprise run to state. He is a sneaky, slippery, physical back who always gets to the point of attack.

“It looks like he's running so tall through the hole, but then he's the one they're bouncing off of,” Borah coach JQ Kenyon said.


Ryker Clinger, Shelley, junior 

The Russets had a bit of an awakening with their first winning season in four years. A lot of that had to do with Clinger. The 6-0, 180-pounder pummeled opposing teams into submission, leading Shelly’s methodical run game with 1,257 yards. But he also showed his versatility with another 615 yards coming through catching and returning the ball. Clinger totaled 17 touchdowns in all.

"Ryker was our home run hitter," Shelley coach Josh Wells said. "He is a playmaker and a threat to score whenever he touches the ball. His speed and his elusiveness caused teams to change how they defended us."

Gerrit Cox, Sandpoint, senior

Don’t let his size fool you. Even at 5-9, he’ll run right through you. It’s something coach Ryan Knowles noticed when he dubbed him "Mr. Football" four years ago. The numbers back it up too. Cox averaged more than 115 yards per game this season. He totaled 1,268 yards and 17 touchdowns on the ground alone. Cox was also quite the receiver with 417 yards and five scores for the Bulldogs, who were the state runners up.

"Gerrit is built to run hard," Knowles said. "He has a low center of gravity and can break a lot of tackles. He likes to be physical, but can also run past you."

Ryken Echohawk, Pocatello, sophomore

The youngest and smallest member on this list. Echohawk is 140 pounds soaking wet. It didn’t matter one bit, though. Defenders just couldn’t match his speed, and if they managed to catch him, he just slipped out. But Echohawk wasn’t afraid to go at opposing teams head-on, either. He averaged more than six yards per carry for 1,229 yards and 15 touchdowns, while contributing in the pass game with another 301 yards and three touchdowns.

"Ryken isn’t great by accident and he has earned every bit of success and recognition that he receives," Pocatello coach Dave Spillett said. "Ryken is an extremely hard worker and very coachable. He works hard in the weight room year round and he’s also a great teammate."

Seth Knothe, Bishop Kelly, senior

Bishop Kelly coach Tim Brennan, who has headed up the storied program for 26 years now, has called Knothe one of the best tailbacks in school history. That’s saying something for a program known for its backs. Knothe was arguably the best running back in the state. too. Whether it was running between the tackles or to the outside, the 6-1, 205-pounder was borderline unstoppable. He came up just shy of 2,000 yards with 1,949 and 33 touchdowns.

"Seth is as physical and good of a tailback as we have had in several years," Brennan said. "Seth is a leader for our football team both on and off the field."

Austin Ramirez, Blackfoot junior 

With the season hanging in the balance at 3-5, the 5-8, 165-pounder saved his best production for the home stretch - four consecutive 100-yard games to close the year, including three in the playoffs. He literally almost carried the Broncos to the state title game with 157 yards, only 34 less than his quarterback in a 29-28 semifinal loss in overtime no less to Sandpoint. Ramirez finished with 1,200 yards and 17 touchdowns on the year.

"Austin is a hard-nosed runner who plays much bigger than his size," Blackfoot coach Jerrod Ackley said. "He is rarely tackled by the first defender that hits him. He became a huge threat in the playoffs, especially when people tried to take away our passing game."


Hayden Kincheloe, Homedale, senior

Coach Matt Holtry described Kincheloe as the "perfect all-around tailback." It’s hard to disagree with that assessment. At 212 plus pounds, he has the strength to easily mow defenders over while still having the speed to break one off at any time. Despite missing the first two games of the season, Kincheloe amassed 1,637 yards and 22 touchdowns this year.

"He can also motion to the far outside and run any route in your playbook," Holtry said. "He can simply do it all. One of the hardest working and most determined running backs that I have ever coached."


Cage Brokens, West Side, senior

Is there a cooler name for a running back to have? Brokens is certainly living up to it. He could have been a 2,000-yard guy. West Side coach Tyson Moser said so himself. But Brokens was part of a dynamic backfield that ran for more than 3,000 yards and nearly 60 touchdowns. He still recorded 1,174 yards and 21 touchdowns while splitting carries.

"Cage is a very good all around back. He has good speed and makes big plays," Moser said. "He is the leader of our offense and is very unselfish."


Brody Hasselstrom, Prairie, senior

Combine, balance, vision, strong runner between the tackles, speed to get to the edge and hands that are as good as a receiver, and Hasselstrom is what you get. He led the Pirates to their fourth 1A D1 Whitepine League title in a row and a nine consecutive playoff appearance with 1,194 yards and 26 total touchdowns on the year.

"A great leader on the team both offensively and defensively with solid knowledge of the game," said father and Prairie coach Ryan Hasselstrom. "Defenses have keyed heavily on him this year making his work much more challenging."

(Featured file photo by Loren Orr Photography)