BLACKFOOT – Well, football fans, we survived the first week of the state football playoffs, with two Bingham County teams advancing on and two going home to prepare for basketball and wrestling.
Blackfoot really put a number on Sandpoint in the opening round last week, in a game that was much easier for the Broncos than was anticipated. You can say what you want about that game, but it was all about the Broncos’ defense and the mistakes that they forced the Bulldogs to make.
The other team to advance was Snake River, who did so by virtue of a bye given to the six conference winners in the 3A classification.
The reward for these two teams? Blackfoot gets to host the Minico Spartans tonight, winner of the north pod of the Great Basin Conference and a winner over Preston, a team that they beat during the regular season and who had just come off of a lopsided loss to Snake River, a 3A classification team.
Snake River gets to host Teton in a game that will be played in Holt Arena tronight. This is a rematch of the game that was played in Driggs in a driving snow storm and the footing was terrible. They won’t have that problem this week.
Let’s take a closer look at the the games that will take place tonight.
Blackfoot Broncos (9-1) vs. Minico Spartans (8-2) 6 p.m., Bronco Stadium in Blackfoot
Sandpoint came to town last week and promptly tried to throw a wrinkle or two at the Broncos, but Blackfoot caught on to every trick and just pounded the Bulldogs into submission.
When the Broncos lost running back Teegan Thomas to a broken wrist several games ago against Madison, there were a lot of people who thought the Broncos’ season was over. All it did was force the Broncos to develop a better running game and they have.
Fullback Dragen Robinson has become a horse in the backfield. Wide receivers Braydon Wright and Reece Robinson have taken their turns in the backfield and provided speed that was lost when Thomas was not available. Others, including quarterback Craig Young, have taken their turn with the ball and things have just kept on rolling along for the Broncos.
It has been reported that Thomas went in to the doctor’s office this week and had a cast put on his arm and with padding and expects to play this week. If that is the case, and if they only use him as a decoy, it only will give the Broncos added offensive weapons and the art of deception against Minico.
What has really been carrying the Broncos these past few weeks has been the defense.
The defensive line has stepped up its play and provided some much-needed pressure against the quarterbacks and has stopped the run with enthusiasm. The linebackers have been spot on in their play and have stopped the running game with minimal gains. The defensive backs have stepped things up as well and coverage, especially deep coverage, has become a priority.
The special teams have been just that — special.
Minico is one of six teams from the Great Basin Conference that advanced to the fooball playoffs this year. Only the Spartans and Jerome remain alive and both are on the road this week. Jerome has the pleasure of playing against Middleton and of course the Spartans are playing against Blackfoot.
That means teams like Preston, Pocatello, Canyon Ridge, and Century have all been sent packing and are now in shorts getting ready for basketball. That being said, the four teams that have been eliminated were a combined 19-21 on the season, not exactly what you would call playoff caliber teams. That isn’t a real reflection on the two that are left, but they weren’t beating up on the likes of Kuna, Bishop Kelly, or Middleton either.
Quality of opponents is what this game may come down to and you would have to think that the overall quality of the High Country Conference may have been better than those teams from the Great Basin Conference. That would be especially true when you throw into the mix the 5A teams that Blackfoot had to play. There are a lot of Great Basin teams that Thunder Ridge would have beaten this year. The Titans gave good games to a lot of really good ball clubs including undefeated Kuna, who the Titans lost to by a touchdown while on the road to the Treasure Valley. That was a very good loss, no matter who you are rooting for or against. It is doubtful that Minico would have played Kuna that close and Blackfoot not only beat Thunder Ridge, but they also did it on the road and in a heavy rainstorm.
I am not going to sell Minico short in this game, I have a lot of respect for what they have done this year. If anything, I am probably being a little bit conservative in my view of the game.
I do think the following: 1. It is an advantage for Blackfoot to be playing at home this week. 2. Blackfoot has probably played a tougher schedule this season and that should give them an edge as well. 3. I think that Teegan Thomas may be the best 4A running back in the state and if he plays, even if he is only a decoy, it will be an advantage for the Broncos. 4. The way that the Broncos’ defense has stepped it up in recent games has to give the Broncos a lot of confidence tonight.
I am going to side with the Broncos, but it could very well be the toughest game of the season for Blackfoot.
Blackfoot Broncos 27, Minico 21 Snake River Panthers (7-2) vs. Teton (5-4) at 8:30 p.m. in Holt Arena on the campus of Idaho State University
This is a rematch of the game played some four weeks ago in which Snake River traveled to Driggs to play Teton in what became a heavy snowstorm where the footing on the field was less than desired.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not short-selling the Teton ball club or their effort as they did outplay the Panthers and a football team needs to be ready for any conditions that they must play in. That was the case in Driggs and it will be the case in Holt Arena tonight. The difference will be that unless Teton can find a way to bring a snow making machine down from the ski slopes and put about five or six inches of the white stuff all over the inside of Holt Arena, they will not be able to find the same conditions that favored them a month ago.
If anything, that game motivated the Panthers and they have been a different team since then. All-state running back Treyton Young has put together a series of games that have people calling him the “Human Highlight Reel.” He has rushed like a man possessed and has been able to carry the load for the Panthers ever since that game. His runs have been showcased on IdahoSports.com over the past several weeks and he looks like a man playing with boys.
The inside of Holt Arena will only accentuate the speed and moves that Young has as he tries to take apart the Teton defense, something that he was unable to do a month ago.
The Panthers have been using a two-quarterback system for most of the season and will likely continue to do so as both Cole Gilbert and Mitch Lindsay have different sets of skills and both add something to the offense. If they can continue to mix things up and Young runs wild like I think he might, this will be a long night for Teton.
Teton must do several things just to stay in the game with the Panthers. 1. They must force turnovers. They will need at least three turnovers just to slow the Panthers down enough to stay with them offensively. 2. Defensively, they must slow Treyton Young down and then be able to contain the other running backs that Snake River has. 3. The offense must be able to put some points on the scoreboard. They may have beaten Snake River 12-6 in their previous meeting, but 12 points will not beat the Panthers this time around. They must force the game to be a bit of a shootout and that means a game that is in the 30s for both teams. I just don’t see the Panther defense giving that many points up unless there are a lot of turnovers.
The game that you are going to see tonight will be one where the Panthers are running the ball and doing so with great effectiveness. I look for Young to get well over the 100-yard mark and he will likely score two or three times. That may be enough right there to win the game.
If not, the Panthers will be able to use the pass to help out and rely on the defense to do what they have been doing all season long — contain and stop, contain and stop, contain and stop. Contain the Teton offense, forcing the passing game and then stopping them with either a turnover or a turnover on downs.
This game is definitely the Panthers’ to win or lose and I am saying that they are maybe the best bet in the playoffs this week to move on.
This one should be over fairly early, maybe even by halftime as the Panthers roll into the semi-finals with a big win over Teton.
Snake River 34, Teton 12