Conference titles, bragging rights, and playoff seedings were on the line Friday night. So were a couple of win streaks, which turned out to be good news for Rigby, but not so much for Sugar-Salem.
Here’s this week’s wrapup.
Strong second half propels Skyline past Hillcrest
The last time Skyline won a conference football title was 2017. The Grizzlies also went on to claim their second straight 4A state championship that season.
So where does the current team stand?
After Friday's 33-15 win over Hillcrest, the Grizzlies, who have held the No. 1 ranking in the state media poll for the past month, look like they have their sights set on challenging for another trophy.
The defense was able to contain the Knights' running game Friday and the offense took advantage of late turnovers to pull away in the second half.
With the win, Skyline (7-1, 3-0) secures the top spot in the 4A District 6 standings with one week left in the regular season. Hillcrest (4-4, 2-2), with losses to Skyline and Blackfoot, is currently third, but will have to rely on MaxPreps rankings to earn a spot in the postseason.
"It is very special," defensive lineman Brixton Gilbert said of winning the District 6 title, noting the last two seasons Skyline has been the bridesmaid in the conference standings. "This is the biggest thing to get that first seed, especially on senior night. It's a big win for us."
Hillcrest led early when Keegan Porter busted loose for a 37-yard score and the Knights powered in the two-point conversion on a handoff to 6-foot-4, 315-pound lineman JT Roberts.
The Grizzlies responded on the next series when Cade Marlow hit Connor Maloney for 14-yard touchdown. Skyline missed the two-point conversion but took the lead in the second quarter. A 40-yard touchdown run by Hillcrest quarterback Demik Hatch put the Knights back up 15-12.
Skyline again answered, this time on a 1-yard touchdown run by Bridger Swafford to send the Grizzlies into the half with a 19-15 lead.
The second half belonged to the Skyline defense, which kept the Knights in check. Porter and Hatch were the workhorses, combining for 229 yards, but they never did find the end zone in the second half.
"We've been preparing for it all week," Gilbert said of the run game. "We just lined up and stopped the run and that was basically it."
Hillcrest drove down to the Grizzlies' 14-yard-line to start the fourth quarter, but Christean Thomas came up with an interception in the end zone. The offense then put together an 80-yard drive, capped again by Swafford, who scampered in from three yards out.
"We had a chance and we just couldn't put it in," Hillcrest coach Kevin Meyer said. "It's on me."
That turnover proved costly. Then things got worse for the Knights when the Grizzlies recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff and capitalized when Marlow threw his third touchdown pass of the night, this one to Eli Ames to seal the game with 2:23 left.
Rigby takes down Highland in 5A battle
POCATELLO — For all of the hype about Rigby and Highland being two of the top teams in the state, the matchup between the two East Idaho powers Friday night at Iron Horse Stadium swung not on great plays, touchdowns and tackles, but mostly on mistakes.
The Trojans bungled an end-of-half situation to go into halftime down 14-7, but two crucial Highland errors on special teams helped Rigby score 21 straight points to open the second half to take a 28-20 win and the 5A District 5-6 title.
It was the 17th consecutive win for Rigby dating back to last season.
Just minutes after Rigby tied the game at 14 midway through the third quarter, Highland's Raimon Barela bobbled a punt and Rigby recovered at the Rams' 7-yard line, leading to an easy touchdown and a 20-14 lead for the visitors — a headsnappingly quick turnaround from a first half Highland dominated.
On the ensuing kickoff, Highland returner Jaxon Shuman dropped the ball out of bounds at the 5, and although it wasn't as immediately costly as the muffed punt, the field position reversal eventually led to another Rigby touchdown and a 28-14 lead with fewer than six minutes remaining, all but putting the game away.
"We weren't sharp," Highland coach Gino Mariani said. "They were better than us. … We were just not taking care of the ball. The punt return where we fumbled that, that's kind of tough. When they got up two touchdowns, that's kind of tough to recover from."
That sequence defined the game, but Highland's special teams misadventures were far from the only unforced errors in a matchup between two of the top programs in Idaho.
Highland and Rigby had combined to win two of the last three 5A state championships, with the Rams winning in 2017 and the Trojans triumphing last year — and both are looking for another in 2020.
Coming into the game, neither had lost to an Idaho team, with Rigby 6-0 and ranked second in the 5A media poll and Highland 6-1 and ranked fourth.
"To come in here and get a win for the district championship, it feels great," Rigby wide receiver Taylor Freeman said. "Especially against a team like Highland. They're a great team, great players and a great program, so it feels even better to get the win here."
-Andrew Houghton/Idaho State Journal
South Fremont ends No. 1 Sugar-Salem's win streak
It’s been four long years since South Fremont last handed Sugar-Salem a loss. This year’s victory was extra sweet as the Cougars played spoiler to their No. 1-ranked rival, handing the Diggers their first loss, winning 27-21 in a back-and-forth heavyweight bout.
The loss snapped a 14-game win streak for two-time 3A state champion Sugar-Salem.
The Cougars led for nearly the entire game but Sugar-Salem kept it close throughout.
After South Fremont went up 21-7, the Diggers rallied with a touchdown drive of their own, then linebacker Ryan Harris took back an interception 20 yards for the score to tie it up seconds later making the score 21-21 at halftime.
As the third quarter came to a close, South Fremont drove into the red zone again but after its first three downs netted negative yards, quarterback Kaimen Peebles hit receiver Dallin Orme in the corner of the end zone for a toe-tapping catch to put the Cougars up 27-21.
The Diggers had a couple of chances to tie or take the lead with drives in the fourth quarter, but South Fremont's defensive line enveloped Sugar-Salem quarterback Kyzon Garner.
“They were getting after it,” South Fremont head coach Chad Hill said. “I don’t know how many pass deflections they had but it seems like we had a bunch."
South Fremont’s defense ended Sugar’s night when Cooper Hurt tipped down Garner’s pass on fourth-and-15 with under a minute to play.
-Koster Kennard/Standard Journal
Watersprings rallies past North Gem
The Warriors staged an epic comeback Friday afternoon, defending their Rocky Mountain Conference football championship with a 28-20 win over the North Gem Cowboys.
Playing in front of a packed house at Watersprings High School on Homecoming Day, the Warriors flipped the script on a 20-6 deficit, scoring three touchdowns over the game's final nine minutes.
After managing just 60 yards during the first half, Watersprings (4-2) put up 222 in the second half, including a 7-for-7, 105-yard passing effort from sophomore standout quarterback Jrew Plocher.
Plocher finished with four passing touchdowns on the day, including two to senior Gavin Tomlinson.
"Finishing this way in my final home game is more than I could ask for," Tomlinson said. "I almost puked before this game, I was so nervous. But once we got out here, all that went away, and I knew we were never out. We just had to keep going."
Watersprings gave up two early scores to the Cowboys, and a Plocher-to-Tomlinson score in the final minute of the first half kept the game in reach at 14-6.
North Gem had other ideas, taking the ball 55 yards on seven plays on the first possession of the second half to make the score 20-6.
But that was the last time the Cowboys threatened the red zone, stoned on their next four possessions by a determined Watersprings defense.
"Down the way we were, I just figured we needed to start making things happen," Tomlinson said. "And we had to start making them happen now."
The Warriors were stopped on downs on their first possession, and didn't get the ball a second time until the 11:54 mark of the fourth quarter.
With the clock running and the home fans in fits, Plocher found Tomlinson again in the east flat for what turned out to be the winning score with 17 seconds left.
"It really all comes down to the O-line blocking and allowing the play to happen," Plocher said, with junior lineman Parker Strahm standing at his elbow. "I've been part of a lot of organizations, but this one has to be the one with the most heart."
-Paul Lambert/For the Post Register
Butte County falls to Raft River
The Pirates dropped a 58-6 decision to Raft River.
The Pirates, who head coach Sam Thorngren said were missing around eight of their 30 players, move to 3-2 with the loss.
That sets up a Butte County-Grace matchup next Friday, which will determine the conference lead in the final week of the regular season. The game would ordinarily determine the conference champion, but because of limited numbers, Butte County couldn't play Grace in the teams' first matchup this year.
Skyline 33, Hillcrest 15
South Fremont 27, Sugar-Salem 21
North Fremont 46, Ririe 0
Rigby 28, Highland 20
Grace 42, Challis 6
Firth 14, West Jefferson 0
Watersprings 28, North Gem 20
Raft River 58, Butte County 6