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4A State Championship Preview
Skyline might be the favorite in this year's title game, but Emmett has been proving doubters wrong all year
Published: 11/18/2020 3:26:10 PM


For one team, incredibly high expectations have culminated in one final moment. For another, what seemed impossible has quickly transformed into the attainable. 

Emmett and Skyline took very different paths to this year’s state title game, but both have had their sights set on a championship since this improbable and unpredictable season kicked off. 


The Grizzlies, led by quarterback Cade Marlow, are on the hunt for their first championship since Head Coach Scott Berger led Skyline to back-to-back titles in 2016 and 2017.

While Skyline dominated the ‘80s, winning four state titles in seven years, the Grizzlies had to wait 24 years for their next championship in Berger’s eighth year with the program. If Skyline wants to notch its seventh title in program history — which would be the most in the 4A classification  — Marlow will need to continue his stellar season. 

“They don’t have many deficiencies,” said Emmett Head Coach Rich Hargitt. “We’re definitely going to have to play above our pay grade to keep it close.”

Marlow has 60 yards short of 2,000 on the year, throwing 31 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Marlow has been the field general all year long, leading the offense to seven 40-point-plus performances. 

Berger said limiting mental errors will be crucial in outscoring a prolific Emmett offense. 

“I think the keys to our offensive success is to take care of the ball and limit our turnovers,” Berger said. “I also think it's important that we spread the ball around and get all of our playmakers involved.”

Those playmakers will include Bridger Swafford, Eli Ames and Connor Maloney. Swafford leads the team in rushing by the slimmest of margins with 460 yards on the season. Ames follows up with 428, completing an efficient running back tandem for Marlow to utilize should Emmett’s defense favor the pass.

Out wide, Maloney leads the team in receiving with 608 yards and 10 touchdowns. Ames again serves a complementary role, racking up 509 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Emmett, meanwhile, started the season with a grueling Southern Idaho Conference slate to look forward to. After a 3-6 2019 campaign, followed by a season-opening loss to Homedale, many wrote off the Huskies for 2020. But an upset over traditional powerhouse Bishop Kelly in the third game of the season shifted the narrative; Emmett was here to play. 

“It helps when no one thinks you’re good, and it’s a lot easier to play with spunk when everyone thinks you’re bad,” Hargitt said. “I told my kids to start the year, ‘You’re an 0-9 team. You haven’t earned anyone’s respect. Prove them wrong.’ It’s a reminder of our humble roots.”

Wins against Middleton, Vallivue and Blackfoot continued to build an impressive resume. The Broncos entered the season as last year’s second-place 4A squad. Heading into the playoffs, Emmett had flipped the script, earning a No. 2 ranking entering the first round. After a first-round blowout win over Minico, Emmett showed Blackfoot the door.

A pair of offensive weapons has propelled Emmett to greatness, thanks to a balanced offensive scheme by Hargitt. Quarterback Caden Young has 1,705 yards on the season, with 20 touchdowns compared to five interceptions. 

On the ground, running back Westyn Smith has an almost identical output, gaining 1,709 yards on the year, scoring 20 times as well. 

Young isn’t afraid to tuck the ball and run himself, with 1,488 rushing yards and 15 scores. Between the passing and running game, Young averages 266 total yards per play. That kind of production will give him an enormous target on his back heading into Saturday. 

“Defensively, we need to eliminate the big play by their offense and keep the QB under control,” Berger said. “He is a great athlete who can change a game every time he touches the ball.”

Skyline’s defense is unlike anything the Huskies have faced before. The Grizzlies allow a conference-best 11 points per game. Skyline also posted two shutouts in its last three games, Twin Falls and Sandpoint to goose eggs.

Saturday’s 4A state championship kicks off 3 p.m. (MST) at Middleton High School. will live audio broadcast the game. Click here to listen. 


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