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Statewide Midseason Football Report | 5A and 4A
With the first half of the season in the books, check in on the best teams in the state
Published: 9/26/2019 11:42:50 AM

5A Classification

In the state’s toughest division, the top five teams have rapidly separated themselves from the rest of the pack.

With Rocky Mountain tearing through opponents left and right, Highland ruling Eastern Idaho and Coeur d’Alene dominating the north, the room for other teams to crack the top five becomes slimmer and slimmer as the halfway point of the season passes by.

In the Treasure Valley, the Grizzlies look primed for a return to the State Finals thanks to Head Coach Chris Culig’s dominant defense. Rocky Mountain opponents average just 14.5 points per game against the Grizzlies, and defensive lineman Jacob Piscione has been a menace up front. Piscione totals 13 tackles, two sacks and an interception returned for a touchdown this year.

“We have yet to scratch the surface of our best performance in all three phases,” Culig said. “We continue to start games fast, which has been a huge help and will continue to be important as we progress.”

Where opponents might find cracks in the seemingly invincible Grizzly armor comes on offense, where quarterback Colby Jackson has just four touchdowns compared to three interceptions on the year.

An inefficient passing game hasn’t slowed Rocky Mountain just yet, with the Grizzlies’ dedication to the run game paying big dividends. The two-headed monster of Rocky’s rushing attack consists of Jordan Erickson and Devon Fox. Both backs ran for more than 100 yards against Capital in Week 4, with Erickson eclipsing 300 yards on the season, along with six touchdowns.

On special teams, Culig has even more explosive stars to rely on, with three players scoring a touchdown on kick returns. Two of those scores came against Capital, with Tiloi Nawahine and Daniel Juarez both finding the end zone during Rocky’s 49-35 win over the Eagles.

“We have been extremely explosive in the kicking game and have caused some big plays on defense,” Culig said. “We have to continue to improve every day. Growth is critical to reaching our potential.”

Closely behind Rocky, the undefeated Eagle Mustangs are looking to overtake Rocky in the Southern Idaho Conference, with a critical matchup against Mountain View Friday.

The Mustangs began the season with a lopsided 69-18 win over Centennial. Since then, the Mustangs have forced six turnovers while only committing three themselves.

Eagle’s defense has kept pace with Rocky’s, allowing just 13 points per game. Led by linebacker Shane Finklestein, who averages seven tackles per game, the Mustangs have hummed along efficiently. But according to Head Coach John Hartz, more attention needs to be paid to both sides of the ball.

Dual threat quarterback Ben Ford leads the team in passing while also serving as one of Eagle’s top-two rushers. The Mustangs average 42.5 points per game, but haven’t surpassed the 50-point mark since that dominant win against Centennial. Both Meridian and Borah were able to hold Eagle to below 30 points, two teams who have yet to win three games.

The Mustang offense will face its toughest challenge yet against Mountain View, a team which could have achieved a 4-0 record had it not been for key mistakes made in Week 2’s battle against Rocky.

In that game, the Mavericks held the Grizzlies to just one touchdown, but an interception return, punt return and kick return for three more touchdowns spelled doom for the Mountain View offense and special teams.

“We need to clean up mental mistakes,” said Head Coach Judd Benedick. “We need to eliminate mistakes and continue to improve as a group in practice.”

While some of those mistakes came in the form of five interceptions by quarterback Jake Ferris, the junior quarterback has also passed for 437 yards and thrown seven touchdowns through four games.

There to help Farris, especially in the red zone, is receiver Colby Peugh, or as Benedick refers to him, “Mr. Clutch.”

“He catches everything,” Benedick said. “He has a knack for coming up with the big play.”

Peugh demonstrated his clutchness in a tight contest against Capital in Week 3. Down a touchdown, Ferris found Peugh for an 85-yard catch and run, tying the game en route to the Mavericks’ 21-14 win. Over the course of the four games, Peugh hauled in 19 passes for 172 yards and four touchdowns.

On defense, the Mavs can rely on a trio of stalwarts in Caden Thomas, Bronx Barrus and Jason Wells. The three total 29, 26 and 23 tackles on the year, respectively, and have kept Mountain View competitive in the games that have otherwise looked bleak.

Outside the noise of the SIC, Highland has ruled the 5-6 Conference relatively unopposed. The Rams have cut their opponents score by 50% with every passing game.

The Rams’ season began with a disappointing 23-10 loss to dominant East HS out of Utah in the Rocky Mountain Rumble opening weekend. Since then, however, Highland has allowed just 20 points all year, thanks in large part to safety Jayden Bell. Through his first three games, Bell accounted for 14 tackles, a quarter of the team’s solo tackles up to that point.

At quarterback, the Rams have a reliable runner in Easton Durham, who through three games totaled six touchdowns, four coming on the ground. But Durham made up that difference in Week 4 against Pocatello, gaining another two touchdowns through the air against the Rams’ 4A rival. The Ram defense also average four picks per game.

No. 5 Coeur d’Alene will travel more than 500 miles in an attempt to leapfrog the Rams in the statewide 5A polls. The Vikings come in to Friday’s game with a high-flying offensive attack behind them, led by quarterback Jack Prka. With 1,305 yards to his name, Prka has been the face of quarterback efficiency this season, finding receivers in the end zone 10 times and averaging 13.7 yards per pass.

Prka also doesn’t discriminate when it comes to dispensing the ball. After four games, Prka found four receivers 15 times or more, with Colbey Nosworthy serving as his favorite target. Nosworthy had an electric game against Rigby, hauling in 14 passes for 113 yards and two scores.

A traditional pocket passer, Prka hasn’t made much of an impact on the run, with just 28 yards on the ground on 11 scrambles.

Nosworthy and the rest of the Viking offense has been a sure-handed group thus far, avoiding a single fumble. Prka has committed the team’s only turnovers, throwing six interceptions. 

The CDA defense has yet to hold an opponent to under 20 points, but the Vikings have managed a 3-1 record by scoring more than 30 in each of its wins.

If the Vikings fall short in Pocatello, the Post Falls Trojans will be hot on their heels in the race for the 5-6. With a single in-state win, Post Falls’ skill level may be difficult to judge when compared to other members of the conference, but back-to-back 48-point outings for the Trojans speak volumes.

Post Falls’ up-tempo style of play, led by quarterback Derek Pearse, should help propel them past 4A Lakeland in Week 5, a critical game should Highland defeat CDA.  

4A Classification

If nothing else, they were determined.

After starting the season unranked in the preseason Coaches Poll, the Kuna Kavemen have pulled off what many considered to be the unthinkable.

Through four games, Kuna has averaged 46.25 points on their way to four straight wins, two coming against above-average SIC teams. Sean Austin leads the offensive charge, bursting out of the gate in the Kavemen’s season opener with four touchdowns. Jon Edwards has run for over 300 yards and scored five touchdowns as well.

Since that tight win against Columbia in the season opener, Kuna hasn’t scored less than 40 points (a 42-point effort against Nampa and a season-high 52 points against Columbia) and are outscoring their opponents by over 25 points per game thanks to a stout defense led by Karl Richards and Ty Cobb, who have more than 50 tackles between them. Kuna stands alone in the 4A classification as the only team still undefeated.

Right behind the Kavemen, Nampa, Bishop Kelly and Vallivue are all seeking a shot at the conference title, with one loss apiece.

The Bulldogs have relied on the one-man show of quarterback Donavon Estrada, who leads the team in passing with 821 yards and 10 touchdowns along with 415 rushing yards and six touchdowns. Estrada has also been extremely careful with the ball, throwing just one pick to help his team achieve a plus-two turnover ratio on the year.

Safety Jace Mann has aided in the turnover effort, picking off opposing quarterback twice with one returned for a touchdown. Mann also leads the team in tackles with 35 and is a heavy hitter on offense, accounting for 300 receiving yards and six of Estrada’s 10 scores.

The Knights and Falcons, meanwhile, have dealt with their own issues keeping them from leading the SIC.

Bishop Kelly, the conference’s second-place team, has committed seven turnovers, something Head Coach Tim Brennan says needs to be immediately addressed, despite the team also forcing seven turnovers themselves.

For Vallivue Head Coach Layne Coffin, the keys to the Falcons’ success lie in cleaner tackling and a more balanced approach to offense. Quarterback Lan Larison has found only moderate success through the air, gaining 259 yards on just 55 attempts, with four touchdowns and one interception. Comparatively, the Falcons’ leading man has rushed for 1,026 yards and generated 10 touchdowns with his legs.

In the Great Basin, Minico has established itself as a dominant force outside the conference, tallying three wins after an opening loss to Tooele out of Utah.

The Spartans remained committed to the ground game, and to great avail, averaging almost 39 points per game. Running backs Ryan Chandler and Tayzn Twiss account for 92 of Minico’s plays this year, with Chandler finding the end zone nine times with 620 yards to his name.

But the Spartans’ domination comes from their defense, where in the last three games, the team has allowed just nine points, all against Burley in a 49-9 blowout.

“(Twiss is) a utility man who plays all over the field on both sides of the ball,” said Head Coach Keelan McCaffery. “Rylan Chandler is a great athlete who has explosive play ability anytime he is on the field.”

The Spartans also possess four players with at least two turnovers, tallying six in total on the season.

However, the Spartans’ domination could be inflated, with just one win between each of the three teams Minico has beaten this year.

Tied with Minico in the East Pod of the Great Basin Conference, Preston has rattled off three consecutive wins, their most notable coming against Jerome in Week 2. And while Minico implements a ground-and-pound attack, the Indians have a 1,000-yard passer up their sleeve.

Quarterback Tony Hyde started the season hot against Logan (UT) with a 400-yard effort, and finished the first posthalf of the season with 335 yards and four touchdowns in a 34-27 win against Century.

But if teams want to bottle up the Indians’ quarterback, applying pressure will be key. Hyde coughed the ball up three times this year, while also throwing six picks.

Minico and Preston face off in a critical Great Basin matchup Oct. 4.

In the West Pod, Jerome seems on the brink of shaking off almost a half-decade of disappointing seasons. The Tigers’ have already matched their win total from last year with three, thanks to their dominant defense. Joe Stevenson carries most of the load, accounting for six of the team’s nine sacks.



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