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  2019 State Football Championship Preview

It's all come down to this. Preview every state championship matchup ahead of this weekend's title games

By: Brandon Hill
Published: 11/21/2019 5:03:06 PM
 

5A State Championship | Rigby vs. Coeur d’Alene

Not many thought these two would be here.

At the start of the season, both the Rigby Trojans and Coeur d’Alene Vikings were discounted as district, but perhaps not state, contenders.

Granted, the Vikings reached the state semifinals last year, falling to Rocky Mountain 42-14. But outside receiver Colby Nosworthy, the Vikings didn’t have the same level of veteran experience heading into 2019. None of that seems to matter now.

Junior quarterback Jake Prka has the CdA offense flying high with 3,337 yards on the year after stepping in for since-graduated quarterback and now Montana Grizzly Kale Edwards.

“We knew he was going to be pretty good. The numbers he’s put up and the way he’s handled himself in every situation has exceeded our fairly high expectations. He’s the kind of prototypical quarterback you want leading your program.”

The Vikings have cut through opposing defenses with ease, with their lowest scoring in-state matchup coming against Highland. The Vikings lost to the Rams 28-21 in September, but redeemed that loss, defeating the 2018 state runner-ups 21-17 to reach the championship.

“This senior class is real hungry, and they have a lot to prove,” Amos said. “We have kids who’ve been waiting for their turn, and being successful has just become an expectation for those kids as they step into those roles the following year.”

The Trojans, meanwhile, finished 2018 4-5, missing out on a ticket to state as perennial powerhouse Highland made the familiar trip to the playoffs. This year, the script has flipped.

Rigby finished atop District 5-6 and hasn’t lost since Week 1. The opponent? Coeur d’Alene. The Trojans saw a favorable schedule after that, putting up more than 30 points in five consecutive games. But as the season drew to a close, Rigby knocked off some of the state’s best squads in highland, Eagle and defending state champion Rocky Mountain.

Against the Grizzlies, quarterback Keegan Thompson threw four touchdowns against a Rocky Mountain defense that had held opponents to an average of 13 points per game.

“Their quarterback is a nightmare. You’ve got a find a way to limit him on big plays,” Amos said. “It should be a great high school football game. They’re the hottest team right now with the way they’ve been going through the playoffs.”

4A State Championship | Kuna vs. Blackfoot

It won’t just be the Kibbie Dome playing host to a couple electric offenses this weekend.

Between the Broncos’ Teegan Thomas and the Kavemen’s Sean Austin, there will be no shortage of big plays come Saturday’s matchup in Holt Arena.

The Kavemen are enjoying their best season since 1991. In that year, Kuna won it’s only state championship in school history. Now, with an undefeated record in 2019, Head Coach Sherman Blaser hopes to return the Kavemen to their former glory.

“To look at the history of this program and where we’ve gotten to at this point, I’m pretty excited and ready to play,” Blaser said.

Sean Austin, a one-year starter after taking over from his brother a year ago, has posted eye-popping numbers since the postseason began. Since the end of the regular season, Austin has thrown for 10 touchdowns and 829 yards. Ball security has been Austin’s pride and joy in the playoffs, with the Kavemen’s leading man committing zero postseason turnovers.

Kuna will be playing with a sense of urgency Saturday, as the Kavemen will be bumped up to the 5A level next season by the Idaho High School Activities Association. With a crowded 5A Southern Idaho Conference field, 2019 may be Kuna’s best shot to take home a title in the immediate future.

“We definitely want to be in that group of elite programs,” Blaser said. “We’ve got to put ourselves in a position to make that move next year and maintain the success that we’re having here.”

On the opposite sideline, Blackfoot possess the championship experience newcomer Kuna does not. The Broncos have reached the state playoffs four out of the last five years, with their best finish in that span coming with a 2014 second-place finish after losing to Bishop Kelly 14-10 in the championship game.

The last time Blackfoot took home state champion hardware was in 2012. During the late 2000s, Head Coach Stan Buck led the Broncos to four titles in ‘07, ‘09, ‘11 and ‘12.

“Kuna has great balance on offense, we can't focus on one thing. Their quarterback does a great job,” Buck said. “Defensively, they fly and attack well. We have to stay on blocks. They are physical we need to win that aspect of the game.”

On offense, quarterback Craig Young has done just enough to keep the Blackfoot offense on the field in critical down and distance. Young posted 157 yards against Nampa in the semifinals, and while he didn’t find the end zone, Buck said he’s been instrumental in leading the huddle.

“Craig has been instrumental all year, making good decisions and being quick at making reads,” he said.

The real star of last week’s game, and much of the season, lies in the Bronco backfield. Thomas accelerated to 224 yards and four touchdowns against the Bulldogs, giving the offense room to breathe in short-yardage situations. With an average of 12 yards a carry in that game, Buck said balancing Thomas’s dominant running and the quick passing game of Young will be key against Kuna’s defense.

3A State Championship | Homedale vs. Sugar-Salem

For Homedale quarterback Daniel Uranga, championship-level talent runs in his family.

With four Urangas earning state titles for the Trojans in past decades, Saturday marks the current Homedale quarterback’s last chance to add to the family legacy.

This year’s final will also serve as a revenge game for Urganga and the entire Trojans squad. The Sugar-Salem Diggers defeated Homedale last year 30-22.

“Daniel has been solid all year for us.  His efficiency is the best that I have ever experienced in regards to his stats,” said Homedale Head Coach Matt Holtry. “However, I am most pleased with his leadership all season. To him, it is never about the stats or how many yards he has or how many touchdowns. It is about the team and how the team has done.”

While Uranga’s 31 touchdowns gives Homedale a reason to feel confident heading into the championship, Holtry said nearly everything about the Diggers can cause a coaching nightmare when it comes to preparation.

“They have a strong run game and if you load the box, they are able to throw as well,” Holtry said. “If we can get a couple of three-and-outs and perhaps a turnover or two, we feel our chances improve.”

Stopping the dynamic Digger offense will be easier said than done, as Sugar-Salem Head Coach Tyler Richins has a multitude of weapons at his disposal. From efficient quarterback Tanner Harris to elusive running back Sam Parkinson, the Diggers seem able to score from anywhere. The Diggers posted four players with five or more carries in last week’s route against Snake River.

In the rare event the Diggers don’t find the end zone, Richins can rely on kicker Crew Clark to put points on the board. Against Snake River, Clark hit three times from beyond the 20-yard line.

Sugar-Salem also held the Panthers to less than three yards a carry in the semifinals and will be looking for a repeat performance from key players like Kenny Copley and Riley Thurber.

“We need to be able to slow their run game down and put pressure on the quarterback in the pass game,” Richins said. “We take great pride in being able to stuff the run. If we stop the run, we feel like we have a great chance to win the football game.”

2A State Championship | West Side vs. McCall-Donnelly

McCall-Donnelly Head Coach Lee Leslie couldn’t have asked much more of his team after Friday’s win against undefeated North Fremont. With an incredible performance by quarterback Peter Knudson and a defense that bottled up the elusive Husky running backs, the Vandals have plenty of momentum heading into Saturday’s game at Eagle High School.

“This is a team of stars. Pete Knudson has had a sensational stat season, as had Noah Ormsby,” Leslie said. “But our fullbacks, Chase Burtenshaw, Tuff Bentz and Beau Carr, have all ran and blocked well.”

On the opposing sideline, West Side possess the type of intimidating defense that can halt even the most explosive offenses. The Pirates have posted four shutouts in 2019, holding opponents to an average of just 7 points per game. West Side stifled Melba in the semifinals, defeating the Mustangs 40-8.

“I was thrilled with the way our defense was able to stop the Melba run game,” said Pirate Head Coach Tyson Moser. “This week, we will have a different type of team to prepare for with different strengths, but we just try to keep our defense simple so the kids can be aggressive.”

The Vandals will be looking to match the defensive power of West Side, as the Vandals have held opponents to just over 6 points per game, highlighted by three goal line stands against North Fremont. But, with the Huskies putting together an impressive 99-yard drive last week, Leslie said he hopes his defense can continue playing lights out on every drive.

1ADI State Championship | Lost Rivers vs. Prairie

In a Pirate-on-Pirate matchup slated for Friday night, Prairie will be looking to take advantage of its almost-home field advantage in the University of Idaho’s Kibbie Dome. The Pirates are coming off a 50-22 win against Oakley in the semifinals in which Martin and Schlader Cole totaled 391 yards of offense.

"I was real pleased at the success we had running the ball.  I thought our blocking up front was solid,” said Head Coach Ryan Hasselstrom. “We will try and continue to mix the run game and passing game the best we can to give us an opportunity to be successful."

For Lost Rivers, the journey to the state championship is a complicated one. After forming a co-op between Butte County and Mackay during the offseason, the Pirates have more than enough talent on both sides of the ball to come away with a title.

Co-Head Coach Sam Thorngren said when it comes to Prairie offense, there’s not one obvious weakness he and his coaching staff can exploit.

“They do everything well. That’s just a solid team, you’re not going to take advantage of some deficiency there, you’ve just got to outplay them,” Thorngren said. “They’re so well rounded in all phases. You’re not going to out-scheme them.”

Much like Kuna, Lost Rivers will be playing for a championship in its last year at the current 1ADI level, as the Pirates are set to move up to 2A next year following a denied petition by the IHSAA.

With a dominant running game led by Kyan Cummins, Lost Rivers has a solid chance of coming away with a title against an equally impressive Prairie squad. Lost Rivers doesn’t air it out as much as other eight-man squads, but when quarterback Bridger Hansen drops back, he has a reliable target in Sereck Peterson, who’s totaled 289 yards receiving and two touchdowns on the year.

Hasselstrom said he’ll be looking to his defense to step up in big moments, much like the Pirates did last week against Oakley.

"Defensively, we had to focus on being aggressive and trying to stop a really good running team in Oakley,” he said. “ We did give up pass yards, so we will need to work on being a little better against the pass this week while also trying to contain a really good offensive backfield."

1ADII State Championship | Carey vs. Lighthouse Christian

Out of all the state contenders this weekend, Carey will be the only team on the hunt for the elusive three-peat. Head Coach Lane Kirkland knows all too well what it’s like to coach a championship-level team, with his first title with the Panthers dating back to 2006.

Running back Carson Simpson has led the show for Carey with 41 touchdowns on the year, almost four times as many as any other player on the team.

“We are all healthy, we have great team speed, a lot of offensive threats, our O-Line is tough and seasoned and our defense has found itself in aggression and communication,” Kirkland said.

Meanwhile, Lighthouse Christian’s Cory Holloway will be searching for the Lions first state title since 2014.

Quarterback Collin Holloway leads the team in passing with 2,295 yards on the season, completing 64% of his passes for 36 yards. Compare that with just two interceptions all season, and the Lions have a lethal passing attack heading into Holt Arena.

But for Cory and the rest of the Lions, great offense is just business as usual.

“We are just asking our kids to do the same thing we have been doing all year,” he said. “Our kids are fired up and very focused.”

 


Fan Comments Sign In | Register
wyoboy
11/21/2019 7:09:15 PM
Kuna and 5A
Small but important correction. Kuna did not petition to stay at 4A this cycle. Skyview petitioned, Kuna did not.
gfazech31
11/22/2019 9:37:00 AM
its funny how the mind does tricks on yah.....
Kuna never petitioned to stay in 4A yes but the article never said so wyoboy guy. The article did say later on that lost rivers in 1A D1 that they petitioned to stay in 1A and were denied. So it's understandable to put the 2 together in the mind. Just correcting your unnecessary correction notice. Hope Kuna enjoys 5A again as much as Skyview has enjoyed 5A ball of late. Could of been a great year for some teams to win is all. But then Kuna had to get a solid coach finally. too bad. best of luck to Praire and Homedale and Lighthouse. and MD. the only real undefeated teams that should be left at the end.
gfazech31
11/22/2019 9:40:50 AM
36 touchdowns... not yards...
correction for the Lighthouse QB showing his stats at the end of the article. your welcome.
wyoboy
11/22/2019 3:33:10 PM
Kuna 5A
5A will be a struggle with the top teams, just as it is for everybody else in the 5A SIC. They did qualify for State one year, and it came down to the last game the other year they were up. They also went 5-1 against 5A schools in the two years before that... This year has been good. I think the top 5 in the 4A SIC would have been pretty competitive with the top 5 in the 5A SIC this year. There were some pretty good QBs and good teams in 4A, plus some traditional powers like Capital were down a bit.















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