BLACKFOOT – Whether or not we want it to happen, the regular season is winding down for high school football.

Most teams have only three games remaining before we head into the playoffs. Some teams have only two games left to make a statement and claim a spot in the playoffs, others will need to win out to claim their spot, but in either case, each and every remaining game will have some meaning for the season and the teams who are playing.

Blackfoot will lead the charge into the postseason and they are flying high behind “Mercury,” their new-found running back named Teegan Thomas who has set the world afire with his 1,268 yards rushing and 14 touchdowns in the first six games of the season. Running behind a line that has been opening holes and a passing game that can strike from anywhere on the field, the Broncos have been reborn with a sense of being able to beat anyone who comes their way.

Snake River has also been rejuvenated with a strong 4-2 start that has relied on a hustling and scrambling defense and a good running game behind running backs Treyton Young and Conner Ranstrum. The Panthers literally slipped last week when they played at Teton in the midst of a heavy snowstorm and the footing kept them from establishing any kind of a running game and the miserable conditions left them on the wrong end of 12-6 score. They will be gunning for a rebound against a huge rival in Marsh Valley.

Aberdeen has struggled since its opening-game win against American Falls. Their opponent this week, Marsing, has also struggled since their opening win against Wendell. This game could right the ship for one of these two proud programs that are used to making the playoffs.

Shelley will travel to Bonneville in the other Bingham County game and between the two teams, they have lost 10 games this season. This one could be a great game between two teams that have proud histories and want to get back on the winning track.

Let’s kick off this edition of Friday Night Lights with a closer look at Blackfoot-Madison, the “Buck Bowl” where Blackfoot coach Stan Buck squares off with his brother Mitch Buck in the traditional game between the two teams.

Blackfoot (5-1) vs. Madison (2-4), 7 p.m. at Bronco Stadium in Blackfoot, Blackfoot’s Homecoming

Face it fans, the Broncos’ offense has turned to junior running back Teegan Thomas and the young man has responded with an outstanding campaign to date. The offense of years past — which read like a shampoo bottle’s instructions was run to the right, run to the left, incomplete pass, punt — has become run Thomas to the right, run Thomas to the left, repeat if necessary, pass only when you have to and turn the ball over to the defense when you don’t score.

More times than not, the offense has produced points. The defense has been what Blackfoot has put on the field many times in the past, a hustling, scrambling unit that gambles at times, but comes up with enough stops to give the offense plenty of chances to win the game. It has worked five out of six games this year and this week will likely make it six out of seven games if they can muster enough to come up with a win.

If the weather is cold and wet like it has been forecast, count on the Broncos to rely on the running game to control the ball and the clock and Thomas to add to his stats on the season in a big way. The Broncos should be able to do both, control the clock and the ball and the result should be another win for the Broncos.

Madison has struggled all season, evidenced by losses to Rigby, Hillcrest, and Skyline this season. They haven’t been beaten badly, which makes them dangerous to the Broncos, but they’ve been beaten and the Broncos have handled Hillcrest and Skyline, so the advantage is to Blackfoot.

If the Broncos do what is expected and the defense plays its type of game, it is Blackfoot’s game to win or lose. If they do not, then the Bobcats could upset things and spoil the Homecoming game for the students. My guess is that the Broncos will want to win this game as much as any they have played this season and will have it pretty well salted away sometime in the third period.

Blackfoot 34, Madison 21

Snake River (4-2) @ Marsh Valley (3-3), 7 pm at Marsh Valley Stadium, Arimo, Idaho

This is a grudge game if there ever was one. There is bad blood between the two teams and there has been for a number of years. This year will likely be no different.

The Panthers of Snake River are the better team, especially if you just look at the rosters and compare player to player, the Panthers are better. That doesn’t always give you the winner as when two rivals meet, emotions plays a big part in the outcome. That will be the case in this contest.

The Panthers need to take charge in this one from the outset. They need to get the running game going and then just dare the Eagles to try and fight back against the hustling and scrambling defense that the Panthers possess.

This game should be the first of three straight wins to close out the regular season for the Panthers and probably earn them a first round bye in the 3A state playoffs.

There are two common opponents between the schools in West Side and South Fremont. The Panthers slipped past West Side in the second week of the season and that must have really ticked the Pirates off because they came back in week three to totally thrash the Eagles by the final of 40-8. That game alone should heavily favor the Panthers in this one until you look at the game both teams had against South Fremont. Snake River handled the Cougars by the score of 28-14 while Marsh slipped by the Cougars 20-19 last week. This score again favors the Panthers who should be able to gather up a win and take the lead in the South East Idaho Conference.

The two big questions will be how the Panthers will handle what will be a hostile crowd and how they will rebound from what was a throw-out game in my estimation from a week ago when they slipped and slid around the field in Driggs when they battled Teton. The Panthers were the better team, but they just had trouble with the field. This one should be all Panthers, but we will be a bit conservative and only favor the Panthers by a bit smaller margin than you might think.

Snake River 28, Marsh Valley 19

Shelley Russets (0-5) @ Bonneville (1-5) 7 p.m. at Thunder Stadium in Idaho Falls

The Russets and the Bees have been anything but consistent and quite frankly good this season. Both teams had high hopes, especially the Russets who welcomed in a new coach in Josh Wells, but the Russets have struggled with the new offense and defense and just haven’t produced on the field for whatever reason. The kids did turn out for Wells and they seem to be learning a lot about football, but in the High Country Conference, you have to come to play each and every night and that has worn them down a bit. Offense has been the toughest part for the Russets, who just haven’t much in the way of skill players to go to when they get in trouble.

The Bees haven’t been much better, but they have managed to pick up a win this year, downing Canyon Ridge by the score of 22-6. Not exactly the stuff that legends are made of, but a decent win nonetheless.

This game could go one of two ways. It will either be a game where neither offense can score against the other and it will become a game of wills, where one team will have to just flat out take it to the other to get the one score that will propel the team to a win. Or, both teams will find that they can score and the defense will be worn out by the second half from chasing the other team up and down the field all night. Most likely, it will be the former rather than the latter and whichever team gets a break will come out as the winner. Bonneville has the home field advantage and the confidence advantage since they have posted a win on the season.

I hate to go with Bonneville, but I really don’t know of another way to go in this one.

Bonneville 28, Shelley 14

Aberdeen (1-4) vs. Marsing (1-4) 7 p.m. at Aberdeen High School, Aberdeen, Idaho

Both of these teams had visions of a much better season than what has happened. Aberdeeen, as usual, opened the season with a lopsided win over American Falls. That may have given the Tigers a false sense of where they were as a team, especially after a close game against two-time defending state champion Declo beat them 21-6 in a game that the Tigers reportedly should have won. Injuries began to pile up and suddenly they were on a four-game losing streak and they will have to really muster a closing kick to get back into the playoffs where they feel they belong.

Marsing plays in the Treasure Valley, where football is king and wins are hard to come by. They opened the season with a win and then came four losses in a row, the last two by a total of 124–0. That severe lack of scoring ability is the primary reason that I am leaning towards Aberdeen. They have also been scoreless in their last two games, but the defense has kept them in games and they have faced better opposition, so I am going to take the Tigers in this one.

Aberdeen 24, Marsing 12

That is it for another week of Friday Night Lights. There are only a couple of weeks left in the season, so bundle up, grab your honey and an extra blanket or two and head out to see your favorite high school team as they fight their way into the playoffs this season.