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Football State Championships Preview
Twelve teams will fight for six state titles this weekend in Idaho
Published: 11/18/2021 11:01:55 AM


The time has finally arrived for state champions to be crowned.  Twelve teams, two from each classification, will go at it over the weekend to determine who will sit on top of the throne of high school football in the state of Idaho.  Four defending state champions (Skyline at 4A, Sugar-Salem at 3A, West Side at 2A and Oakley at 1AD1) come in with a shot to defend their title.  Additionally, four runners-up from last year (Rigby at 5A, Firth at 2A, Raft River at 1AD1 and Carey at 1AD2) could win the title for themselves this year.

Two of the four games will feature rematches of last year's championship matchups, as West Side plays Firth in 2A and Rafter River and Oakley do battle at the 1AD1 level.  Four of the six games (5A, 3A, 2A, 1AD1) will take place at Holt Arena in Pocatello.  The other two (4A, 1AD2 will be held up north in Moscow at the Kibbie Dome.  The action kicks off with the 1AD1 state championship between Oakley and Raft River on Thursday night at 6:30 pm.  The festivities will conclude on Saturday afternoon when Kendrick and Carey square off at the Kibbie Dome at 1:00 pm for the 1AD2 championship.


East #2 Highland (10-2) vs. East #1 Rigby (10-1)
8:15 PM Friday (in Holt Arena)
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At the beginning of the playoffs, these teams meeting in the state championship game seemed unlikely, at least for one of these teams.  After pulling away from Skyview for a 45-28 victory in the first round, Highland had to make two straight trips to the Treasure Valley, but pulled off consecutive wins in challenging road environments.

First up was defending state champion Rocky Mountain.  The Rams pulled off an impressive comeback as they rallied from a 21-3 deficit late in the third quarter to pull off a 22-21 come-from-behind win.  The victory was capped off by Ian Hershey's 45-yard field goal with 3:25 remaining. 

Next up was Eagle in the semifinals.  This time, Highland held a big lead and Eagle rallied back in the second half to jump in front.  After the Rams found themselves trailing for the first time all game, it was time for some more Hershey magic.  After two more Hershey field goals gave the Rams a temporary lead, Eagle regained the lead 28-26 with just over three minutes remaining.  But the Rams weren't done yet.  Hersher drilled the game-winning field goal as time expired for the 29-28 victory.

After two straight road wins, the Rams are right at home in Holt Arena.  They will face a familiar foe in Rigby as Highland tries to win its first state title since 2017.  Rigby is only two years removed from their last title in 2019, and after a regular season finale loss to Madison unseated the Trojans from the no. 1 ranking in most polls, a nice rebound has put Rigby right back in the title game.

Rigby wasted no time putting Capital away in the quarterfinals 41-14, but they met their match in the semifinals when they faced Meridian.  In an instant classic, Rigby came away with a 55-49 win in triple overtime. 

The game was defined by missed/blocked kicks in both regulation and overtime.  both teams had chances to win with those missed kicks, but the in the third overtime, the momentum finally shifted Rigby's way.  Ryder Thompson knocked away a Meridian pass on fourth down, and all Rigby had to do was score either a field goal or touchdown to earn the win.

After several missed kicks, Rigby coach Armando Gonzalez didn't want to risk another blocked attempt and kept his offense on the field on fourth down, and it paid off in a big way.  Quarterback Tiger Adolpho punched in the game winner and now Rigby has found themselves in a great position to win their second title in the past three years.  To do that, they'll have to fend off a Highland team seeking revenge after a 44-21 loss to the Trojans earlier in the year.


#6 Skyline (8-4) vs. #1 Sandpoint (8-2)
7:00 PM Friday (in Kibbie Dome) (Pacific Time)
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Sandpoint had to survive an overtime classic to punch their ticket to the 4A state championship game and towards the end of last week's semifinal game, it looked like Blackfoot would pull off the upset.  Trailing by one score, and facing a third-and-16 from their own 15-yard line with two minutes remaining, Sandpoint needed a miracle to go 85 yards for the touchdown.

They did just that in only three plays.  It started with Parker Pettit handing the ball off to Gerrit Cox, who sprinted 77 yards all the way down to the Blackfoot 8-yard line before being brought down.  Two plays later, Pettit found Nathan Robere from three yards out for the tying touchdown with just over a minute to play.

After Blackfoot started overtime with a touchdown and extra point kick, Sandpoint responded with a touchdown.  Pettit then ran in the game-winning two-point conversion, and assured that the Bulldogs would host a team from east Idaho for the state title.

Skyline had to survive a thriller of its own to earn the right to defend its state title.  They got back to the championship thanks to a stiff defense that held Pocatello in check when it most needed to.  The highlight came when linebacker Isaac "Joker" Farnsworth nabbed the game-sealing interception for the Grizzlies in the fourth quarter.

Last year, Skyline hit the road for the state championship game and blew out Emmett for the title.  Now, they'll travel again seeking back-to-back championships after a disappointing 1-3 start.  Sandpoint is looking for revenge after falling in the semifinals to Skyline last year.  If they can finish the job and avenge that loss, the Bulldogs will bring home their first state title since 1997.


#4 Sugar-Salem (8-2) vs. #3 Weiser (11-1)
5:30 PM Friday (in Holt Arena)
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Of the twelve teams competing for a state championship this weekend, only one hails from the Treasure Valley.  Weiser earned that honor after upsetting Gooding on the road last week 49-27.  To say that this season has been a memorable one for the Wolverines is an understatement.  Not only did the Weiser reach the semifinals for the first time since 2011, but they now have a shot at their first state title since 1987.  To get there, they will need to get past the three-time defending state champions, who blew out Weiser 34-8 in last year's quarterfinals.

Sugar-Salem's 0-2 start is a distant memory now thanks to an eight-game winning streak that has put the Diggers in great position for their fourth straight championship.  Last week, Sugar-Salem broke through on the road in a 16-7 semifinal win over Homedale.  It was the first home loss for Homedale since September 30th, 2016.

Quarterback Daniel Neal lit up the Homedale defense, completing 19 of 26 passes for 144 yard against 3A's top-ranked defense.  The Diggers knew that the Trojans were looking for revenge after three straight championship game losses by their hand, and as such, Sugar-Salem came into the matchup as the underdog.  They thrived in that role, however, and in doing so, made it four straight playoff victories over Homedale.

That same Homedale team handed Weiser their lone loss of the season by a score of 14-6, but that doesn't mean Weiser should be fully written off in their matchup with Sugar-Salem.  The Wolverines have talented players and a formidable quarterback-running back-wide receiver trio in Brett Spencer, Willy Shirts and Brock Spencer, but it will take a nearly perfect game on all sides of the ball if Weiser is to unseat Sugar-Salem and end a 33-year championship drought.


#3 Firth (9-2) vs. #1 West Side (10-0)
9:00 PM Thursday (in Holt Arena)
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In one of two rematches of last year's championship games, West Side and Firth have also seen each other in the regular season this year.  That regular season opener was in sharp contrast to the 39-0 West Side in last year's championship game.  West Side fought to a 26-20 overtime win, their most difficult challenge so far in 2021.

West Side is ready for a historic three-peat, but Firth is seeking their first title since 2006.  Firth avenged a regular season loss to conference foe North Fremont with a 12-8 win in the semifinals, while West Side also played a conference foe in the semifinals in a game that wasn't close.  The Pirates routed Bear Lake 47-8 behind a lights out performance by the defense and seven touchdowns and 237 rushing yards on offense.

Firth will be a much more formidable opponent, however, and showed that by taking a team that was on a 21-game winning streak to overtime (West Side's winning streak has since ballooned to 31 in a row.)  That performance should give Firth confidence that they can beat the team that has dominated the 2A level for the past couple of years.  After holding a North Fremont offense that was putting up big rushing numbers to just 83 yards in the semifinals, they should give West Side's high powered offense some trouble.


#2 Oakley (10-1) vs. #1 Raft River (9-0)
Thursday 6:30 PM (in Holt Arena)
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In a game that will serve as a rematch of last year's state championship clash, conference foes Raft River and Oakley will meet to kick off the state championship weekend on Thursday evening.  The Trojans' 22-16 victor over the Hornets to close the regular season gave them the #1 seed in the playoffs.  Oakley went in as the #5 seed in the first round, but was re-seeded to #2 starting with the quarterfinals.

Raft River and Oakley dispatched all of their playoff opponents with ease to to set up what should be another classic between the conference rivals.  Raft River's regular season win in Malta was a revenge game of sorts as they were embarrassed in last year's state championship game by the Hornets.  Now Oakley will have revenge on their minds with a chance for back-to-back state titles on the line.  For Raft River, an opportunity at their first state title since 2016 awaits.


Carey (11-0) vs. Kendrick (8-2)
1:00 PM Saturday (in the Kibbie Dome) (Pacific Time)
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With a sophomore quarterback (Ty Koepp) leading a very young team overall, Kendrick still found a way to get into the state championship game and they will play that game relatively close to home.  However, if the Tigers are to win their first state title since 2001, they'll have to get past the through-and-through best team in the state at the 1A Division II level.

Carey has plenty of upperclassmen talent in all phases of the game and senior Carsn Perkes at quarterback.  The seniors on the Panthers roster were just freshmen when Carey brought home its last state title in 2018.  They played Kendrick in the semifinals that year with an 80-36 win in the Kibbie Dome.  The two teams also met in the semifinals last year in what was another convincing Panther victory 40-14.

Kendrick has shown this year that even with all of the young talent, as they continue to grow, they will continue to be a force at the 1AD2 level.  The Tigers can show how far the program has come by ruining a perfect season for Carey and ending their own 19-year championship drought.

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