As fifth graders, Keegan Thompson, Tanoa Togiai, Christian Fredericksen, Trey Talbot, Zhigy Falevai and Brigham Youngstrom were bonded by football and friendship.
While the spirited youngsters may have talked about one day doing something special once they reached Rigby High, it’s hard to imagine anyone writing a script as wild as what happened to the Rigby football team in 2019.
“I love my guys,” Thompson said. “… We’re all brothers now.”
The Trojans won their first state championship in November, knocking off rival Madison and conference power Highland along the way, and then upsetting defending state champion Rocky Mountain in the state semifinals.
That set up a dramatic double-overtime win over Coeur d’Alene to earn Rigby the state championship and set off a celebration that’s been a long time in the making.
The Post Register’s All-Area football team is heavy with Rigby players, including Togiai, Fredericksen, Talbot, Falevai and Youngstrom, but it was Thompson’s emergence as a true dual-threat quarterback that fueled the team’s historic run to the championship and his selection as All-Area Football Player of the Year.
“He was a threat every time he had the ball,” Hillcrest coach Kevin Meyer said,
The threat was real. Since Thompson had the ball on every play, opposing defenses had to game plan for ways to slow him down. That proved difficult because of the Trojans’ other weapons, including Youngstrom at running back, Fredericksen at receiver and a powerful line.
Thompson said his natural instinct in prior seasons was to run first and take off whenever there was pressure. Rigby head coach Armando Gonzalez and his staff worked to get Thompson more comfortable in the pocket and take advantage of his other skill players. He worked on his mechanics and tweaked his approach.
“A lot of it comes down to confidence,” Thompson said. “My reads, everything comes quicker and once you make your reads faster, the throws come easier.”
Thompson passed for 1,858 yards and 24 touchdowns and ran for 1,364 yards and 17 touchdowns this season, averaging nearly 300 yards of total offense per game.
“As the season progressed he developed as a quarterback throwing the ball,” Bonneville coach Matt Virgil said. “(But) it was his running ability that kept us up at night when preparing for him.”
It was the championship game that turned a great season into a historic one. Thompson accounted for 411 yards and passed for six touchdowns as the Trojans rallied late to beat Coeur d’Alene 57-56 in double overtime. Rigby won the game with a two-point conversion run by Youngstrom.
“That was the craziest game I’ve ever been a part of,” Thompson said. “I didn’t know what just happened. I looked to the sideline and the ref’s arms go up. I see the team storming on and getting hugs and I started crying. That was the most mentally excruciating game I’ve ever played in. So many highs and so many lows, it was crazy.”
Thompson has since signed with Idaho State and will join the Bengals when he finishes a two-year Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints mission. He said ISU was interested in his dual-threat capabilities.