Idaho Falls two-way player Noah Hillam was announced homecoming king Thursday night at Ravsten Stadium. But the way Idaho Falls dominated Preston, everybody wearing a Tigers uniform were kings.
Idaho Falls stomped Preston 48-14 thanks to solid play on all three sides of the ball and 247 total yards from junior running back Cameron Conrad.
Aaron Gravelle also finished with 86 on just four touches, including one he broke for 40 yards.
Conrad, who broke the 1,000-yard rushing mark on the season during the win, was responsible for three total touchdowns — one on the ground, one catching and a returning touchdown — to help the Tigers advance to 4-3 on the season.
Because Pocatello defeated Century Thursday night, Idaho Falls will have to beat Century (or Pocatello has to lose next week) to earn a playoff spot in this year’s 4A tournament.
“We were able to go out there and push the ball down the field and out defense was able to make amazing stops,” Hillam said. “We worked as a team tonight and that really showed.”
Earning a playoff spot shouldn’t be a problem if the Tigers continue to play like they did against the Indians.
After both teams turned the ball over during their opening possessions, Idaho Falls settled in thanks to Conrad gashing the Indians’ porous run defense. Conrad had runs of 33, 27, 18, 39 and 36 yards Thursday. His contemporary, Gravelle, had runs of 26, 40 and 21.
Conrad thanked his offensive line for allowing the 6-foot, 200 pound running back to reach one of his season goals early in the first half.
“The offensive line, they blocked great the entire game,” Conrad said. Molino later added that Conrad’s quiet workhorse mentality is reflected in his team’s tenacity and “team-first approach”.
Defensively Thursday, the Tigers didn’t allow playmaker Jonny Thames to get going, holding him to just six carries on the night. Thames did have 103 receiving yards.
Preston quarterback Britten Atkinson struggled against defensive ends Todd Payne and Carson Fugleberg, defensive back Craig Cooper and Hillam. Atkinson completed just 14 of his 35 passes, one of which were picked off by Gavin Shelley.
One play say Payne reach the endzone after picking off Atkinson on Preston’s own 20 yard line late in the fourth quarter.
Payne and his teammates then celebrated as Payne ripped off his wrist tape on the sideline.
“It was fun to watch our defense,” head coach Pete Molino said. “They stepped up in a big way tonight and they’re carrying over from last game, too, so it’s fun to see them play with some confidence and some aggression.”
The Indians didn’t score until Ben Seamons crossed the goal line from two yards out with about 10 minutes to play.
But by that point, Idaho Falls had already secured its fourth win in five weeks.
“Our defense just played phenomenally,” said Payne with heat still escaping from his head. “We had a lot of stops and I didn’t really think they could move the ball unless we had penalties and we had a lot of stupid penalties tonight. So, we’ll fix that and come back next week.”
Idaho Falls plays a non-conference game against Hillcrest next week before finishing out its season at Holt Arena against Century on Oct. 20.
IDAHO FALLS 48, PRESTON 14
Idaho Falls 7 7 14 13 — 48
Preston 0 0 0 14
Idaho Falls — Cameron Conrad 27-yard run (Aaron Gravelle PAT good) 0:31
IF — Conrad 16-yard catch from Cannon Thompson (Gravelle PAT good) 2:13
IF — Gravelle 26-yard run (Gravelle PAT good) 9:56
IF — Conrad 68-yard punt return (Gravelle PAT good) 3:23
IF — Gravelle 40-yard run (Gravelle PAT good) 0:41
Preston — Ben Seamons 2-yard run (PAT good) 9:54
IF — Kalvin Bowen 22-yard catch from Thompson (PAT blocked) 4:51
IF — Todd Payne 20-yard interception return (PAT good) 4:37
P — Neil Benoit 16-yard catch (2-pt converison good) 0:40
Rushing — Idaho Falls: Cameron Conrad 17-231-1-1, Aaron Gravelle 4-86-2. Preston: Jonny Thames 6-38, Andrew Iverson 8-11, Cayleb Peck 3-73, Ben Seamons 6-9-1.
Passing — Idaho Falls: Cannon Thompson 8-14-136-2. Britten Atkinson 14-35-156-0-2.
Receiving — Idaho Falls: Noah Hillam 3-45, Conrad 1-16-1, Kalvin Bowen 1-22-1. Preston: Jonny Thames 7-102.