Another week has gone by and we are moving into week number seven of the high school football season. It is amazing that we have seen most of the local schools play six games already, some maybe only five if they had a bye, but that is a lot of football to analyze and have seen already this fall. It also means the playoff are just around the corner and we will be questioning the RPI rankings put forth by MaxPreps that will be determining who gets into the playoffs and who will be left out and looking in from the outside.
Right now, all of the teams in Bingham County are in the playoffs or so it seems, and for different reasons. Most will control their own paths into the playoffs or maybe the other direction, if they don’t play up to expectations and make enough mistakes that they play themselves out of the chance to win the blue trophy symbolic of a state title.
Only one of the five local teams will be playing at home this week and that is Shelley, who will have the luck to be playing the Pocatello Thunder, one of the tougher teams in the area in 4A, so it will be interesting to see which Shelley team shows up this week.
Let’s get to the way things could play out this week in high school football.
SNAKE RIVER (3-2) at MARSH VALLEY (2-3), 7 pm Friday night at Marsh Valley High School
The Snake River Panthers opened the season with a big win over Kimberly, winning 57-40. What we probably overlooked that opening night was that the Panthers looked great offensively, but had some holes that were pointed out to us the next two weekends defensively.
The Panthers unleashed a great running game, putting up over 400 yards on the ground and exposing the lack of a run defense by the Bulldogs. It also showed what a great talent the Bulldogs had at wide receiver in Gatlin Bair. The next two weeks also showed that the similarities between Kimberly and Blackfoot and West Side also exposed the pass defense of Snake River. West Side has Bryson Shurtliff, a big, strong, tall wide receiver who abused the defense of Snake River. Blackfoot did the same with Ja’Vonte King, who made a couple of really big plays in the game between the cross river teams that brought the Broncos back from a 14-7 deficit into a 35-21win.
A week off allowed Snake River to regroup and subsequent wins over South Fremont and Teton showed that at the very least, Snake River could have and probably would win the Mountain Rivers Conference.
The Panthers tangle with Marsh Valley this week and this team is battle tested and could just as easily be 4-1 as they are 2-3. They opened with a Utah champion from last year in Beaver, Utah, and lost by a single point, 21-20. They had control of that game and let it get away from them. They came back and pounded Teton, which is becoming a weekly thing for teams in the area as Teton has lost to everyone on their schedule with the exception of Salmon, who would have trouble beating a powder puff team on a Thursday night. They did put up a fight against West Jefferson who will likely finish third or fourth in the Nuclear Conference.
Marsh Valley can beat Snake River and they will have the advantage of home field in this one. The other thing to keep in mind is that the winner of this game will in all likelihood punch their ticket to the playoffs as both figure to beat American Falls before the season is over and a 1-1 conference record will get them both into the playoffs. Snake also plays their season-ending game against Preston, who sits there with a 5-1 record and looks like they will make the playoffs in the 4A classification.
Marsh Valley has a good defense but sometimes has trouble moving the ball and that could be their downfall in this game.
This game figures to be played close to the vest as Marsh Valley averages 18 points per game while giving up 19 per game. Snake River averages 31 per game on offense and gives up 29 per game.
This looks like a game that is in the hands of Snake River and their strong running game and if that is the case, they will win a close one.
Snake River 24, Marsh Valley 21
BLACKFOOT (3-2) at RIGBY (6-0), 7 p.m. Friday night at Trojan Stadium
Rigby is the top-ranked team in 5A in the state and have been for some time now. They are the defending state champion and it will be tough for Blackfoot to beat them this week.
Blackfoot doesn’t need the win as they are sitting at 2-0 in the High Country Conference and that should be enough to get them into the playoffs, even if they lose to Bonneville and Shelley coming down the stretch. It is almost impossible to think that Blackfoot would lose all three of these games, but it is possible that they could lose two of the three, but more on that later.
Blackfoot has come alive in recent weeks, with wins over Skyline and a shutout last week against Hillcrest, but a puzzling loss to Preston fell in between those games by a point, one of three losses on the year by a single point that the Broncos have suffered.
Rigby has been rolling their opponents and doing it in style. They have scored 35 or more points in all six games and the only close game (14-point margin of victory) was against Skyline, who many still think is the top team in 4A, despite their 3-3 record.
Rigby is averaging 41 points per game and only giving up 10 points per game, while Blackfoot is averaging 26 points on offense while giving up 20 per game. Three losses by Blackfoot by a single point is one of the reasons for that happening but it probably won’t this week. It would be hard to think of a way that even if Blackfoot were to play a perfect game against the Trojans that they would be able to keep the score low enough that the Trojans won’t come out on top.
Rigby has a dual threat quarterback who runs and throws with equal ability and it is hard to keep him corralled in the pocket so Blackfoot will have to become really innovative in order to contain him on Friday night. If he gets loose, he will run the Blackfoot defense ragged in this game.
Blackfoot has some weapons of their own, but to get them into the open against a team that is only giving up 10 points per game will be the problem. Ja’Vonte King, Jaxon Grimmett and Austin Ramirez lead the offense in receiving, throwing and rushing, but combined they will have difficulty in gaining a lot of yardage this weekend. The best chance Blackfoot will have will be to catch Rigby looking ahead to a game against Highland next week or Madison the week after, but even then, they should be able to handle what the Broncos bring to town.
Blackfoot, on the strength of being able to get a long play connection in the passing game, will be given a puncher’s chance in this game, but Rigby just looks too strong, too fast and too tough for the Broncos this week.
Rigby 42, Blackfoot 14
FIRTH (4-1) vs SALMON (2-3) Friday night 7 pm at Salmon
Just when you get to thinking that Salmon was having a pretty good season with a 2-2 record, they get the chance to play North Fremont a week ago and Firth this week. North Fremont made a statement last week as they took Salmon to the woodshed for a good old-fashioned whipping to the tune of 64-0. That was the Huskies’ highest output of the year, but Firth did them one better in their whipping up on Ririe by the score of 75-0. The Nuclear Conference is a case of the haves and the have-nots and Salmon definitely falls into the latter category.
It is ludicrous to even think that Salmon has a chance in this game, although it is being played in Salmon, where strange things have happened before. It is a long drive up and a long drive back home for any team that has to make that trip and you just never know what is going to happen when you head up the mountain to get there.
It is not really what you expect to happen, but if Firth can put up 75 points on Ririe and North Fremont can score 64 on Salmon, then it is almost a contest between those two as to who can score the most.
Salmon on the season is averaging nine points on offense, while giving up 35 per game on defense. Firth is averaging 46 per game on offense and only giving up a dozen on defense, so you can figure that the Cougars will score a lot in this contest and probably not give up very many.
It may not be as bad as last week was when Firth scored 75, but then again, it may be worse, you just don’t know and if the Cougars get things going early like they did against Ririe, where they scored 34 points in the first quarter, they may not be able to reel in the offense to keep it from happening again. Firth is simply a well-oiled machine offensively and they have a lot of weapons at quarterback Gage Vasquez’s fingertips to use and use and use again.
Defensively, they Cougars are playing at a very high level and they can stop a freight train coming at you at a high speed and do it seemingly without a lot of effort.
They have a strong running game with Sam Park, Burton Park and Gage Vasquez and an equally strong passing game and they can just beat you a lot of different ways.
This one should be over early, how far the score can get out of hand will be up to the Cougars’ coaching staff and how much they want to show the Huskies of North Fremont about their offense and defense. The feeling here is that they will win big, win comfortably and that a lot of junior varsity players will get a lot of playing time and still keep their numbers up in the stratosphere.
Firth will win this one very easily.
Firth 54, Salmon 6
SHELLEY (5-1) vs. POCATELLO (4-2) 7 pm at Shelley High School
Shelley was rolling along with a 5-0 record a week ago when Bonneville came to town and upset the apple cart on the Russets. The same thing happened to Pocatello a couple of weeks ago, sitting on top of the 4A standings in the polls with a 3-0 record before losses to a pair of 5A schools in Highland and Idaho Falls.
The Thunder were able to right the ship a week ago when they traveled to Burley to take on the Bobcats and came away with a 48-13 win over the 3-3 Bobcats. The Thunder rebounded with a 48-point effort after two lackluster efforts against the Rams and Tigers.
For Shelley, it was a disaster from start to finish a week ago. They muffed a punt in the first quarter and while that didn’t give up any points, on their next position they fumbled on their own five yard line and Bonneville was able to stuff the ball into the end zone for a touchdown.
The Russets came back to tie the score before halftime and the second half began with the two teams tied at seven. That is when the wheels fell off the bus, thanks to four turnovers, a pair of fumbles and a pair of interceptions.
The Bees got a pair of field goals out of those turnovers and Shelley, although they had a chance as the game was winding down, couldn’t get the ball into the end zone. They pushed and pushed the ball and on fourth and one from the one, they couldn’t get into the end zone and that is how the game would end, with Bonneville on the good side of a 13-7 game.
Shelley will have every chance to get back with a win as the Thunder has proven that they can give up some points as they did against Highland and Idaho Falls and their defense is the strongest point of the Russets team. This team has been built on defense and you can count on the defense showing up from the outset and making the Thunder prove they can score. If the Russets can hold the scoring down and the Russets can get the running game going early on, it could be a big night for the Russets as they work to rebound in a big way.
This game is more important for the Russets as it will take two wins in the High Country Conference to virtually assure the Russets a spot in the playoffs, while the Thunder will still have to beat one or both of the Preston Indians or the Century Diamondbacks.
The guess here is that Shelley will get the job done on their home turf and move to 6-1 on the year and get back to the top of the High Country Conference standings as they, the Broncos of Blackfoot, and the Skyline Grizzlies battle things out to the end of the regular season.
Shelley is the most improved team in 4A this year and they will have the chance to prove it once again in this game. The Russets should win, although it won’t be easy and it may come down to the last series as the two teams battle it out.
Shelley 24, Pocatello 21
ABERDEEN (3-2) at NORTH FREMONT (5-0) 7 pm in Ashton at Husky Stadium
The Tigers have lost their two games to Declo and South Fremont. Declo is a highly ranked team in the 2A classification and when the Tigers were dropped by South Fremont, they were still unbeaten and the talk of 3A. A lot has changed since then, when Aberdeen was 1-2.
Since then, Aberdeen has flexed its muscles and downed Soda Springs and Malad by big scores and regained a lot of machismo for their team.
North Fremont, for who knows how many times in the past five years, finds themselves with an unbeaten record into the contest looking ahead to their match up with Firth and eventually a contest against West Side.
Aberdeen can run the ball and are good enough to pass when it is called for. That makes them dangerous to a team like North Fremont. The Huskies will fight and claw for all they are worth, so the question will become is Aberdeen, with their seven point per game differential good enough to beat North Fremont and their 21-point differential between offense and defense.
The answer is probably no simply because North Fremont has been doing this for a long time and they know how to win and how to beat teams like Aberdeen.
Aberdeen will learn from this game and will most likely handle their season closer against Bear Lake. The unfortunate thing is that between now and then, they have to play both North Fremont and then West Side. That looks like a pair of losses before a rebound win that will get them into the playoffs.
North Fremont is simply too good for Aberdeen to handle this week, but it won’t be for a lack of trying. The Tigers will give their all as they always do, it will come down to just not quite enough talent to overcome what the Huskies will offer up on their side of the ball.
This one will go the way of North Fremont unfortunately for the Tigers and they will have to face West Side next week as well.
North Fremont 35, Aberdeen 24