Skyline, Shelley seek repeat title game berths

Shelley’s Mason Price runs in a touchdown at Shelley High School in a 3A state quarterfinal game against Homedale last Friday. John Roark/

Skyline’s Kyler Morgan runs a touchdown against Bishop Kelly in a 4A state quarterfinal game last Friday at Holt Arena. John Roark/

SHELLEY — Shelley High School head football coach Jake Monahan said if your team is playing when the weather gets cold, it’s been a good season.

At Wednesday’s chilly practice, the Russets’ defensive backs jovially trash-talked at their offensive teammates — who were running some passing plays in skeletal formations.

Mason Price finally quieted the scout-team defense, catching a pass on fly route down the right hash and causing the Russet’s coaching staff to howl in laughter.

It has been a good — and fun — season for Shelley, which will play Fruitland Saturday on the road. Kickoff is at 1 p.m.

It is the first meeting between the teams since last year’s 3A state title game, which Fruitland won 35-28.

“It’s allowed us to have a great work ethic this summer — get in the weight room, getting us better conditioned — but we don’t have any grudges against Fruitland,” Monahan said. “They’re a great football program and we just want go out and do the best we can do.

“Every team is different, but this team just does better when they’re not puckered up … we enjoy being out here,” Monahan added.

Almost a year after the Russets’ last meeting with the Grizzlies, Monahan said his team won’t focus on “hatred” or “revenge” Saturday at Fruitland. Instead, Monahan preached his team playing “their game” and execution.

“A lot of these guys, especially on defense, played in that game last year,” Monahan said. “But they’ve done a nice job of just realizing that there’s not anybody on that team they hate. Hate is not an issue. They beat us fair and square, but now we have the opportunity to go beat them fair and square.”

The Russets (8-1) will have to stop the Grizzlies (9-0) who are coming off a 14-8 quarterfinal win over Sugar-Salem and have not lost since Sept. 16, 2016.

Shelley has been no slouch either.

Price and company allowed seven points in three-game Mountain Rivers Conference schedule. The 21 points surrendered to Homedale last week was the most surrendered by the Russets this season since week one (31 points to Green Canyon, Utah).

“We just try to double down on what we’ve been doing and just get better (at playcalling, execution),” Monahan said. “If you’re trying to change too much this time of year, I feel like that’s not a very good thing.”

Shelley wasn’t the only team that had some fun Wednesday, though.

Skyline played some tug-of-war at Wednesday’s practice, breaking up the monotony of daily practice before going off into individual drills.

Skyline (8-2) is slated to play Middleton (8-3) in Friday night’s 4A semifinals for the first time in program history, head coach Scott Berger said. Kickoff is at 7 p.m. in Middleton.

Skyline is coming off a 40-14 win over Bishop Kelly, which saw the Grizzlies out rush the Knights 380-112, and is now tasked with stopping the Vikings’ first-year spread offense.

Offensive coordinator Brett Taylor said the Vikings switched from a double-wing offense to a spread offense over the offseason and “passes a lot.”

Middleton is coming off a 42-10 win over Sandpoint and has won three in a row.

“We’re just excited to play them because it’s a new experience, new school, new field to go, new locker room. Playing on the road is always a neat experience,” Berger said. “We try to make it a positive if we have to travel, but it’s different than basketball where you go to someone else’s gym and say, ‘Oh, it hard to shoot,’ but in football … we always joke: we’ll play them in the parking lot. Any place, any time.”

But Berger said it doesn’t matter who the Grizzlies play. Like the Russets, they won’t change much this late in the season.

Skyline — which has the only quarterback-running back tandem within the region to both rush over 700 yards this season (Dylan Bialas and Kyler Morgan) — has ran all over teams in 4A during its eight-game winning streak entering Friday.

Berger said he’s been satisfied by the two seniors for their leadership and natural maturation, or football intelligence, this season.

And Bialas and Morgan are two names you should expect to hear Friday night.

“We talked to both those guys at the start of the season and said we gotta get leadership and consistent plays out of you guys,” Berger said of his backfield. “Dylan has always had the talent. He just didn’t quite have the experience. But he’s done a very good job of fitting into what we’re asking him to do. Credit coach Taylor and the offense and adjusting.

“Having Kyler out with a bad ankle hurt us for a little while, but having him back and going full speed, he’s a load to bring down,” Berger added.