POCATELLO — Shelley head football coach Travis Hobson had every reason to punt: first quarter, no score, fourth down and 5, short of the 50 yard-line, a sophomore quarterback.
But the Russets went for it.
The result practically summed up the game versus Las Vegas’ Faith Lutheran. On the play, Shelley quarterback Bryon Leckington threw to senior wide receiver Bracken Nelson, who caught it and went 12 yards for a first down.
Nine plays later, the Russets encountered another fourth and 5. Leckington found Nelson again, this time for a touchdown, the first of four in the game.
Shelley’s defense was arguably more impressive, pitching a shutout at Holt Arena. The 27-0 final score illustrated the Russets’ dominance, but they needed to convert several plays on third and fourth down. More often then not, they were successful.
“We’re a go for it kind of a team,” Hobson said postgame. “The situation’s irrelevant. We want to instill the mentality that we’re going to be going for it as often as possible.”
Nelson was the MVP of the game, earning an “Outstanding Student Athlete” check worth $1,000. Nelson was Leckington’s top target, catching seven passes for 98 yards.
“Bryon decided to throw it me, the team was running their plays and the line was blocking,” Nelson said. “I got the opportunity to go get the ball.”
But Leckington didn’t rely solely on Nelson. The sophomore, making his first varsity start, completed 20 of 30 passes for 207 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions.
“At first, I had some jitters and butterflies,” Leckington said. “But once that first snap went off, all those butterflies went away and it was game time.”
Shelley’s first three touchdowns all came on fourth down. With 8:08 left in the fourth quarter, the Russets faced a fourth and 10 on the Crusaders’ 11-yard-line. Leckington stepped back and fired to Jason Hathaway, who caught it in the end zone.
Leckington found Rollin Sutherin for the third TD, a 9-yard strike on fourth and 8.
On of the few negative parts of the game for Shelley occurred in the third quarter. The Russets had a first-and-goal from the 1 but couldn’t punch it in on the first three downs. Their fourth-down success didn’t continue, as Leckington’s pass to Fredrickson in the left corner of the end zone fell incomplete.
“I’m still a little upset about that one,” Hobson said.
Shelley finished the scoring on a 33-yard pass from Leckington to Hathaway near the end of the third quarter.
Leckington is taking over for his brother, Chad, who led Shelley through the 2012 season and is now playing for Weber State. It would be understandable for people to doubt Leckington going into the game.
But Hobson was not one of the doubters. He said Leckington’s performance Saturday matched his pregame expectations.
“He made some sophomore mistakes, but he stepped up and played like a senior quite a bit, too,” Hobson said.