Coaches Sam Thorngren of Butte County High School and Travis Drussel of Mackay High School have gone from rivals to co-workers this year as they lead Mackay and Arco kids on the same football team.
Thorngren last May broached the idea to Drussel to combine the two teams. He said the idea was borne out of necessity.
"We were low on numbers last year," said Thorngren. "We struggled a lot because of injuries."
Drussel was in an equally dire situation. In May just seven boys had committed to the Mackay team.
"We were way down," said Drussel. "We only had three seniors, three juniors and one sophomore sign up."
The decision to become one team seems to have paid off, as the Lost Rivers Pirates are undefeated in regular-season play. Both coaches say it's because the players are willing to work hard and work together.
"The kids have been fantastic. They just want to play football," Drussel said.
Thorngren said the only people who had trouble getting along initially were the coaches, and that was because they were more familiar with the kids from their communities. Thorngren said once they practiced for awhile, old rivalries were set aside and they became one team.
"Travis is a good friend of mine so we made it work," said Thorngren.
Quarterback Bridger Hansen echoed his coaches' beliefs. Hansen lives in Arco and said the Mackay kids bring a lot to the field.
"We're all good buds," said Hansen. "It's really not that big of a deal."
Thorngren said he is happy with the success so far, but is worried about the future of the team. He said next year the two schools won't be able to play together because they will be over the player limit for 1A, 8-man football. Thorngren and his staff appealed to the board of the Idaho High School Activities Association, which responded by saying Butte County should play 2A football. Thorngren said that's unrealistic.
"We would have to pull up every sophomore, every freshman, we wouldn't have a JV and honestly we would have a hard time making it through a 2A year," said Thorngren.
Thorngren is annoyed by the decision because it will also leave Mackay with only four to six returning players next year.
Despite the association's decision, both Drussel and Thorngren said they are grateful for the opportunity to work together and make the best of their situation this year.
"That's what it's like in a lot of small towns," said Drussel. "You've got to work with what you got."
The Pirates most recent victory was against the Challis Vikings last week, beating them 68-0. They head into the playoffs undefeated and ranked No. 1. The Pirates play the Clearwater Valley Rams in Pocatello's Holt Arena at 5:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 8 in the first round of the playoffs.