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Football Playoff Preview (First Round)
Everything you need to know ahead of the opening weekend of the football postseason
Published: 10/27/2021 4:13:40 PM


It's the best time of year, as playoff season has arrived!  Several teams all around the state have one goal in mind: winning a state title.  Only one team from each classification will reach that goal, and while some teams have earned first round byes, plenty of conference champions will take the field for first round games.

After a crazy regular season that saw several Kansas City Tiebreakers on Monday, the playoff field is finally set.  Plenty of teams that expected to be here have made it and there have also been a fair share of surprises too.  Here's a look at all of the playoff games taking place around the state this weekend.


East #3 Madison (6-3) at West #4 Meridian (6-3)
7:00 PM Friday
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Madison is coming off of a massive win over Rigby, but the win wasn't enough for the Bobcats to have a home game in the first round.  Madison will travel west to face a Meridian team whose three losses came by a five points to teams that are all seeded higher than the Warriors.  Madison was less competitive in its losses, however, suffering double digit defeats to Lewiston, Highland and Skyline.  Madison's Sam Rasmussen and Hayden Sorensen combined on the game winning fumble recovery that sealed the win against Rigby.  This is a Madison team that has emphasized creating turnovers for much of the season.  They'll need to continue doing that if they hope to upset a Warrior team that has only turned the ball over three times this year.  The SIC champion Mountain View Mavericks will wait to see if they'll face a crosstown rival next week, or a team making their second trip to the Treasure Valley in as many weeks.

West #5 Capital (6-3) at North #2 Lewiston (7-2)
7:00 PM Friday
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After 18 years as the head coach at Capital, Todd Simis recently announced that he will retire at the end of the year.  Before he ends his successful tenure with the Eagles, he'll try to lead them to a deep run in the playoffs.  The road starts with a trip up north to face a Lewiston team that went 7-2 in the regular season.  Their only losses came to Sandpoint and Coeur d'Alene.  The loss to the Vikings set up a Kansas City Tiebreaker on Monday, where Lewiston finished second.  Lewiston looks to rebound from that regular season ending loss and prove they still have unfinished business.  They can capitalize on that unfinished business with a convincing first round playoff win.  Rigby, the team seen by many as 5A's best for a majority of the season prior to last week's shocking loss, awaits the winner.

#12 At-Large Borah (5-4) at West #3 Eagle (7-2)
7:00 PM Friday
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Borah responded to an 0-3 start by winning five straight.  Although they couldn't make it six straight with a loss to Skyview, they still cracked the playoff field, albeit with some help.  That help came from the results of the Kansas City Tiebreaker that took place up north as Post Falls, the other team in line for the at-large bid, finished third in that tiebreaker, which opened the door for Borah to get the final bid.  Eagle's losses came against the two teams that were the cream of the crop in the SIC this season: Mountain View and Rocky Mountain.  Coeur d'Alene and a long bus ride north await the winner of this game.

West #6 Skyview (5-4) at East #2 Highland (7-2)
5:30 PM Friday (in Holt Arena)
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Skyview will head east to face Highland, the second seeded team out of the High Country Conference.  The Rams only have two losses this season.  Both came against top teams: Rocky Mountain and Rigby.  Skyview started its season 4-0 before dropping four straight games.  They were able to get a comfortable win against Borah to close out the season and build some confidence heading into the playoffs.  They will need that confidence if they hope to knock off the powerhouse Rams.  Highland's defense has played lights out this season, only allowing more than 21 points once (in their 44-21 defeat to Rigby).  The offense has also been able to put big numbers with 40-plus point performances in four of their last five games.  The only time the Rams have scored less than 21 came in the 12-7 defensive battle in the season opener against Rocky Mountain, who awaits the winner of this game.


#16 Mountain Home (3-6) at #1 Sandpoint (5-2)
7:00 PM Friday
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After starting the season 1-2, Sandpoint has found themselves with the #1 seed and home field advantage throughout the playoffs.  A quality Shelley or Preston team awaits in the quarterfinals, as long as Sandpoint takes care of business in the first round.  Mountain Home has a different story to tell, as they went 2-1 through their first three games of the year.  That was followed by a 1-6 stretch, but thanks to a win over Jerome and having the head-to-head advantage as a result of that outcome, the Tigers were able to find themselves in the playoffs.  They'll face a big test right off the bat.  Sandpoint quarterback Parker Pettit has thrown for 1,036 yards this season and the explosive passing game will need to be slowed down if Mountain Home has nay shot at the upset.

#9 Preston (6-3) at #8 Shelley (6-3)
7:00 PM Friday
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Shelley lost three of four to close out the season, a major disappointment after an impressive 5-0 start.  That 1-3 finish to the season cost the Russets a prime opportunity to win their district, and the fact that they host a first round game as the #8 seed should be considered fortunate.  They'll entertain Preston in a rematch of the season opener, a 15-6 Shelley win.  The Indians will hit the road for this matchup with revenge on their minds.

#13 Nampa (5-4) at #4 Emmett (7-2)
7:00 PM Friday

Emmett opens the playoffs with a familiar foe in what could possibly be the last meeting between the teams for a while, with Nampa's imminent move to 5A starting next year.  Earlier this year, Nampa gave Emmett everything they could handle in a 40-30 loss that was closer than the final score indicated.  The Huskies are coming off of an 8-7 loss to Vallivue.  Although they still won the conference, the loss impacted their seeding.  If the Bulldogs are to pull off the upset this time around, they'll have to find better answers for Emmett quarterback Caden Young and a defense that has recorded seven sacks and six interceptions.

#12 Middleton (5-4) at #5 Blackfoot (4-5)
7:00 PM Friday

A 5-4 record is a disappointment by the standards of the proud Middleton Vikings program.  That record includes three straight conference losses to the two teams that finished ahead of them in the standings (Emmett and Bishop Kelly), as well as a 52-50 shootout loss to Nampa. The Vikings will now head east to face a Blackfoot team that finished 4-5, but still won its conference.  If Middleton can win on the road, they'll have their next playoff game much closer to home, as the winner of Emmett and Nampa awaits the winner of this matchup.  The Broncos have made the most of their wins, however, with the highlight coming in a victory over defending 4A state champion Skyline.  Some of the losses are excusable, too, with three of them coming to 5A teams, but losses to Shelley and Preston really prevented the team from realizing their full potential.  Middleton and Blackfoot have met in the playoffs before.  The 2018 meeting won by Middleton was their first and currently only victory over the Broncos in four tries since 2011.

#15 Bonneville (2-7) at #2 Pocatello (7-2)
8:15 PM Friday (in Holt Arena)
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Bonneville turned a corner in 2021 and they were rewarded with a playoff berth for their efforts.  Like most teams that have a low seed in the playoffs, the road for Bonneville starts off on a difficult note.  After dropping two straight games to 5A foes, second-seeded Pocatello reeled off four straight wins to finish 7-2 on the season.  As long as the Thunder hold off an upstart Bees team, they'll welcome either Bishop Kelly or Twin Falls to Holt Arena the following week.  Pocatello will look to defeat Bonneville for the first time since 2007, although this is the first meeting between the two teams since 2013.

#10 Twin Falls (7-2) at #7 Bishop Kelly (7-2)
7:00 PM Friday

Twin Falls certainly would have enjoyed a conference title, but came up short in a de facto Great Basin Conference championship game last week to Minico 26-19.  As a result, they will hit the road for their first round playoff game.  Bishop Kelly feels they deserve a better seed than the one they got after only losing two games to 5A Eagle and 4A SIC champion Emmett.  Instead of a home playoff game in the quarterfinals, the Knights will likely find themselves heading east to face Pocatello.  These next two weeks will provide Bishop Kelly a great chance to prove that they deserved a better seed, but the Bruins cannot be overlooked.  Twin Falls has a high powered offense led by quarterback Andy Geilman, who has thrown for 1,303 yards while completing nearly 73% of his passes.  Bishop Kelly can improve to 2-0 all time against the Bruins after one previous meeting in the 2017 playoffs.

#14 Vallivue (5-4) at #3 Minico (9-0)
7:00 PM Friday
Watch Live

Vallivue's victory at Emmett helped propel the Falcons to a playoff spot.  Slowing down a high powered Huskies offense and holding them to only 7 points fueled the massive upset just before the playoffs.  Now Vallivue travels to Rupert to face a Minico team that has played lights-out on defense.  That includes 16 sacks, 38 tackles for loss, and 12 interceptions.  Vallivue will need to play great on offense if they hope to continue the momentum gained from the upset win over Emmett. This will be the first ever meeting between the two teams.

#11 Lakeland (5-4) at #6 Skyline (5-4)
8:30 PM Thursday (in Holt Arena)"
Listen Live

Lakeland was among the more pleasant surprises of 2021, as they finished second in their conference, which was good enough to earn a playoff berth.  The Hawks will make the long trip south to face the defending 4A state champion Skyline Grizzlies, who have the highest seed among non-district winners.  The 5-4 record is a disappointment for the defending champs, and it's been an up and down season for the Grizzlies.  Some weeks, this team has looked like that championship team from last season in dominant wins over 5A foes Madison and Thunder Ridge.  But other weeks, a different team showed up in a loss to Blackfoot and last week's narrow 14-12 escape against Shelley.  If Skyline hopes to go back-to-back, they will have to be on their 'A' game throughout the entire playoffs and be ready for every opponent, despite the minimal time they will have to prepare.  The Hawks will need a perfect game plan and their best game of the season if they hope to pull off the first round upset.


#6 Buhl (3-5) at #1 Weiser (8-1)
7:00 PM Friday
Watch Live

Buhl will head west to face Weiser in a rematch of the season opener for both teams.  That game took place in Buhl, but the Wolverines won 35-6.  Buhl at the time had low expectations, but rebounded by getting two signature wins over Kimberly and 4A Wood River.  Those wins will give the program excitement moving forward.  Weiser also exceeded expectations, as their only loss came in a 14-6 decision to the top 3A team in the state, Homedale.  Buhl will look to rebound from the defeat at the hands of the Wolverines from that early season meeting and put an early end to what has been an amazing season for Weiser.

#4 Kellogg (6-2) at #3 South Fremont (4-4)
2:00 PM Friday (at Madison HS)

Even with a four-game losing streak at one point this season, South Fremont still finds itself with home field advantage for the qualifying round of the 3A state playoffs as they face Kellogg in the first round.  The Wildcats finished second in the Intermountain League and will face a heavy test from traditional powerhouse South Fremont in the first round.  This will be South Fremont's second game against a team from North Idaho this year.  They faced Intermountain League champion Timberlake in the season opener and posted a comfortable 27-12 win.

#5 McCall-Donnelly (4-4) at #2 Snake River (4-4)
2:00 PM Saturday 
Listen Live

McCall-Donnelly won a Kansas City Tiebreaker over Payette to deny the Pirates their first playoff berth since 2012 and punch themselves a playoff ticket after missing out last season.  The Vandals started conference play with a disappointing 0-3 record, but reeled off two straight wins to finish 2-3 in the Snake River Valley Conference.  Gams against Homedale and Weiser showed that the team still has a long way to go to compete with the top teams in the league, but McCall-Donnelly has adjusted to life at the 3A level quite well overall.  Snake River finished at 4-4 overall, but has looked impressive in their wins, with all coming by at least ten points.  Even with three of the losses coming by at least fourteen points, the Panthers have shown that they will be a tough out when it comes to playoff football.


#11 Aberdeen (3-5) at #6 Firth (6-2)
6:00 PM Thursday (in Holt Arena)
Listen Live

If a team out of the South East Idaho Conference was going to step up and challenge West Side, Aberdeen looked to be the team to do so.  The home field advantage and excitement wasn't enough, however, as the Pirates won 53-0 in dominating fashion.  The Tigers were the final team to qualify for the playoffs and they'll face a stiff challenge right out of the gate.  Firth also played West Side this year and gave the Pirates they best challenge yet in their Week 1 meeting.  After the overtime loss to West Side, Firth went on to win six straight before dropping a narrow 22-21 decision to North Fremont that decided the conference title.  The Cougars enter the playoffs with a chip on their shoulder and have their sights set on a return to the state championship game.

#10 Cole Valley Christian (5-3) at #7 Bear Lake (5-3)
1:00 PM Saturday

Cole Valley Christian achieved several notable accomplishments in 2021.  A 27-6 win over New Plymouth snapped a seven-game losing streak to the Pilgrims and they also knocked off two 3A teams in Fruitland and Payette.  The Chargers will be visiting eastern Idaho for the second time this season when they travel to Bear Lake for their first round playoff game.  They will be hoping for a better result on their second trip to the east after their 47-14 loss to West Side that halted a 3-0 start.  Bear Lake also has a lot of positives from their season, and while all three of their losses came by double digits, they were all against high quality opponents.  The Bears have what it takes to make a deep run in the playoffs, but they cannot overlook Cole Valley Christian.

#9 West Jefferson (5-3) at #8 Melba (6-3)
7:00 PM Friday
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Melba has had a disappointing season by its proud standards, but they will still get a home game to open the playoffs when West Jefferson visits on Friday night.  An 0-2 start that featured losses to Fruitland and North Fremont seemed to be old news as the Mustangs won their next four to improve to 4-2.  A conference title was put out of reach after a 40-20 loss to Nampa Christian, but Melba found its footing again in a 26-7 win over Grangeville in the regular season finale.  West Jefferson also enters the playoffs with a convincing regular season finale after winning 53-6 over Salmon.  The Panthers' losses are forgivable, as all three game to teams that are strong 2A contenders.  West Jefferson can prove that despite a third place finish in their conference, they are still among the contending teams by winning in a tough road environment to open the playoffs.


#12 Wallace (3-4) at #5 Oakley (7-1)
4:00 PM Friday (at Salmon River HS)

Wallace won the Kansas City Tiebreaker on Monday against Lakeside to win their conference.  They'll face the defending 1AD1 state champion Oakley Hornets.  Oakley had a perfect season derailed and a conference title denied with a 22-16 loss at Raft River last week.  The Hornets still have everything they need to get back to the state championship game, but there will be multiple teams that they'll have to navigate through to get there.  While the Miners may seem like an easy opponent, they cannot be overlooked.  They'll meet at Salmon River High School in Riggins which sits about an hour and a half closer to Wallace, despite Oakley holding the larger seed.

#11 Clearwater Valley (3-5) at #6 Lapwai (6-2)
7:00 PM Friday

In the only non-neutral site game in the first round of the 1AD1 playoffs, two conference foes will clash.  Clearwater Valley travels to Lapwai for the second time this season looking to avenge a 44-22 defeat at the hands of the Wildcats earlier in the year.  Lapwai's losses came to quality Oakley and Prairie teams and the Wildcats have the potential to make noise in the playoffs.  The Rams will come in with revenge on their minds so Lapwai will need to keep their focus and not overlook a team they already beat convincingly if they are to avoid a major upset.

#10 Potlatch (5-3) at #7 Grace (4-4)
2:00 PM Friday (New Plymouth HS)
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Grace started out 0-3, but then reeled off four straight wins to go into the regular season finale with Butte County with a conference title on the line.  The Pirates made short work of the Grizzlies in a 48-6 defeat.  Grace will now head into the playoffs looking to rebound and get past the first weekend.  Potlatch either overwhelmed their opposition or got overwhelmed by their opposition in every game this season.  Every game for the Loggers, win or lose, was decided by at least 14 points.  The two teams will meet at neutral site New Plymouth on Friday afternoon.

#9 Genesee (6-2) at #8 Murtaugh (5-3)
3:00 PM Friday (Weiser HS)
Watch Live

Genesee feels it has unfinished business.  They were expected to be the team out of the White Pine League to knock off Prairie, but the Bulldogs were ultimately on the wrong end of an 84-50 offensive showcase by the Pirates.  Murtaugh was not as competitive against top competition, either, as they were shut out by both Oakley and Raft River, while allowing at least 50 points to both squads.  Both teams enter as third place finishers in the respective conferences and have a lot to prove.  With every game from this point forward being win or go home, these evenly matched teams should leave it all on the field, but only one will play next week.


Watersprings (2-6) at Castleford (7-1)
7:00 PM Friday

Castleford has had a great season and at one point, it looked like they could knock off Carey.  Despite holding a lead late in that game, they could not finish the job as Carey came back and won 32-22.  That game was the lone loss on the Wolves' season.  Watersprings finds itself in the playoffs despite a 2-6 record, but enters with hope that they can contend with, and potentially knock off, Castleford.  The two teams have already met this season in a game Castleford won 58-20.  The Wolves hope to deliver a similar result the second time around to build confidence heading deeper into the playoffs.

Garden Valley (3-5) at Rockland (5-3)
3:30 PM Thursday
Watch Live

Of Rockland's three losses in 2021, two of them came against high quality opponents in Butte County and North Gem, both conference champions.  The Grace loss is the head scratcher, but the Grizzlies are also a division higher.  The Bulldogs have not bene in a one score game all season with the closest margin in any game being the 10-point win over Watersprings.  58 has been a magic number for Garden Valley as all three of their wins came when they scored that number of points.  That number was also what they allowed in a 58-14 defeat to Dietrich, however.  They will head to Rockland looking to pull a major upset in the first round.

Timberline (3-3) at Carey (8-0)
5:00 PM Friday
Watch Live

Carey has been on a roll in 2021 and after losing to Dietrich 34-28 in the state championship game last year, anything short of a title would be a disappointment for a Panthers team that has looked the part of being one of the best teams in the state at the 8-man level.  Timberline has been one of the more under the radar teams this season, but never posted a complete blowout until an 82-0 win over Meadows Valley.  The other wins came in a 78-66 shootout against Lewis County and an 18-12 slugfest against Deary.  Having been in both offensive and defensive-styled games, the Spartans head to Carey with confidence that they can shock everyone and pull off the massive upset.

Council (5-2) at Dietrich (5-3)
5:00 PM Friday

Dietrich traveled to Carey last week and gave the Panthers all they could handle in a 24-22 defeat.  Even with a third place finish in their conference, the Blue Devils will still host a first round playoff game as they entertain the second place team from District 3, Council.  The Lumberjacks are also coming off of a two-point road loss to the conference champion after falling 38-36 to Horseshoe bend.  Both teams enter with a lot of confidence that they can make a deep run.  The defending state champions will have their work cut out for them in the first round as they face a team looking for its first state title since 1992.

Camas County (2-6) at North Gem (7-1)
2:00 PM Thursday

Camas County and North Gem kick off a thrilling first round playoff weekend when they clash Thursday afternoon at 2:00 PM.  North Gem's only loss came early in the season at Carey by a score of 54-34.  They've since had to survive only one game decided by less than ten points, as they escaped winless Lighthouse Christian 44-36.  That narrow victory raised some questions as to whether they should be in the conversation as one of the best teams in the state, but their last four games have been solid.  The Mushers are 2-6 and will be heavy underdogs against the Cowboys, but can create some excitement for next season around Fairfield with a competitive showing.

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