And now things get interesting.
The top teams tend to rise to the top at this stage of the playoffs and that was the case this weekend as defending 5A state champion Rigby, 4A No. 1-ranked Skyline, and North Fremont all earned berths to the state semifinals.
They weren’t the only teams to punch their ticket to the next round.
Skyline rolls into semis
REXBURG — The image was striking if not foreboding as Skyline receiver Eli Ames and defensive back Cooper Owen sat injured on the sideline, unable to help their team build a comeback early against Nampa in Friday’s 4A state quarterfinal.
The Grizzlies needed help. Two of their most important players couldn’t provide it.
“We always talk about ‘next man up,’” Skyline coach Scott Berger said. “You’ve got to step up and make plays.”
That the Grizzlies had few problems doing so, securing a 42-21 win over Nampa Friday night, illustrates why they hold the top seed in 4A. Skyline has something resembling an embarrassment of riches on offense. They weaponized them in their second straight win at Madison’s Bobcat Stadium.
Quarterback Cade Marlow completed 12 of 17 passes for 126 yards and one touchdown, receiver Abrahn Silverio erupted for 12 carries and 127 yards and two scores and Connor Maloney scored three touchdowns. It was a combination No. 1 Skyline (10-1) has used often this season. It was just never so important.
“That’s nice, when you can have people step up and take a spot of an impact guy like Eli,” Berger said. “Hopefully Eli can play next week. It takes everybody to win games.”
Skyline’s reward is a spot in the 4A semifinals on Friday. The Grizzlies will host Sandpoint at Madison High.
“It’s amazing,” said running back Bridger Swafford, who supplied five carries for 46 yards and a touchdown. “We haven’t done it (advanced to the semifinals) since my freshman year, and it blows my mind that we’ve gotten this far. We’re this close to getting there.”
-Greg Woods/Post Register
Rigby holds off Eagle
RIGBY — Rigby advanced to the 5A state semifinals after a 35-28 win over Eagle on Friday night.
The second-ranked Trojans (9-0) ran their win streak to 19-straight games dating back to last season and looked like a veteran and seasoned playoff team in a back-and-forth fourth quarter to hold off a late charge by the Mustangs (6-2).
“Once the fourth quarter came around our defense just picked up a different level and gave us the ball back,” said quarterback Tiger Adolpho, noting a few stalled drives and missed opportunities that could have been costly.
Eagle scored on the second play of the game as Jackson Stampfli burst through the middle and outran defenders for a 74-yard touchdown.
That seemingly caught the Trojan defense off guard, but it did spotlight what the Eagles do on offense. The Mustangs pound the ball with quarterback Ben Ford carrying the load and Stampfli can punish defenses.
“That’s all we did,” Rigby linebacker Landon Johnson said of preparing to stop the Mustangs’ running game.
The Trojans also have a quarterback who can run, but Adolpho can also pass and his dual-threat abilities allowed Rigby to overcome the early deficit and take a 14-7 lead into the half.
Adolpho’s 11-yard touchdown run early in the third quarter put Rigby up 21-7 and the defense seemed to have Ford under control. Eagle’s senior quarterback took a beating as the workhorse runner and was pressured in the pocket when he tried to pass.
With the third quarter winding down, Ford connected with Cannon Morgan for a score.
Eagle got the ball back at its own 3-yard-line and quickly moved downfield to tie the game on a 24-yard scamper by Stampfli.
Gabe Mobley scored from a yard out with 6:34 left to give Rigby the lead, and after the defense held Eagle on a fourth-down attempt, Adolpho found Colton Edwards on the next possession for his second touchdown of the night and a 35-21 lead.
Eagle closed the gap with a score with 3:27 left, but would get no closer.
Rigby hosts Mountain View next week. Details to be determined.
-Allan Steele/Post Register
North Fremont takes down Soda Springs
Looks can be deceiving. Such was the case Friday when it looked like Soda Springs was going to be able to keep up with North Fremont in the first half but then the Huskies pulled away for 58-18 win to earn a trip to the 2A semifinals for the third straight season.
“We had a little bit of trouble with their spread pass,” North Fremont head coach Ben Lenz said of the first half. “We just couldn’t get them out on fourth down on a couple of big plays they converted on us.”
In the second half, North Fremont received the kickoff, drove down the field for a score and stopped Soda Springs scoreless on back to back possessions
North Fremont continued to score when defensive back Luke Hill hauled in an interception late in the fourth quarter to seal the game before the Huskies scored one final time.
The Huskies rushed for almost 400 yards. Jordan Lenz led the way with 12 carries for 124 yards and five touchdowns and AJ Hill added nine carries for 113 yards.
North Fremont will play a rematch with Nuclear Conference rival Firth next week.
-Koster Kennard/Standard Journal
South Fremont rallies to beat Gooding
For the first time in school history South Fremont is headed to the state 3A semifinals after getting by Gooding 26-20 in Bobcat Stadium.
Despite coming out with the victory, South Fremont played from behind for most of the back-and-forth game.
Down one score with four minutes left in the fourth quarter, South Fremont drove down the field then scored on a Kaimen Peebles play action bootleg pass to Cooper Hurt in the end zone.
“It was smooth,” said South Fremont head coach Chad Hill. “It was a really good looking play from the sideline. You could see it developing and Kaimen had time and made a good fake on the run. Then Cooper ran a good route and Kaimen hit it on the money.”
Gooding threatened on its final possession, driving to the 20-yard line where they eventually turned the ball over on downs.
Peebles ended the evening with four touchdown passes and about 275 yards.
-Koster Kennard/ Standard Journal
Late safety dooms Blackfoot
EMMETT — This one’s going into Huskies lore.
“No, that wasn’t fun, probably for the fans, but not for me. It’s just so tough in a game like this, but so great when you win it,’’ Emmett coach Rich Hargitt said after his Huskies’ 28-27 thriller over Blackfoot in a 4A state quarterfinal. “I feel for them. It breaks your heart to lose one like this, but it’s something else when you win it.’’
Friday’s contest featured a rollercoaster final minutes that brought out all emotions.
“Yes, this is disappointing. I hurt for these guys,’’ Blackfoot coach Jerrod Ackley said looking over his sullen squad and coming off a five-game win streak. “In a game like this, fewest mistakes usually wins. That’s what happened tonight.’’
And that mistake may have been one missed block.
Trailing 27-26 with 9:15 remaining for a chance to take on Century (7-3) in a state semifinal, Emmett quarterback Caden Young did what he did all night, move the football.
Young, who attempted only one pass in the second half, led the Huskies ground attack 69 yards on 14-play mark, highlighted by a pair of fourth-and-1 conversions, down to the Broncos 9-yard line. Two straight Young dives set up a fourth-and-goal from the 1.
This time, the only time all night, he came up short.
Blackfoot quarterback Jace Grimmett handed off to running back Teegan Thomas, but, according to Ackley, a missed assignment up front let Huskies Jeff Lockett and James Mallory slip inside for the game-winning safety.
-Greg Kilmer/Idaho Press
Firth earns 2A semifinal berth with win over Bear Lake
FIRTH – Firth defeated Bear Lake 30-20 Friday afternoon in a 2A quarterfinal matchup.
The Cougars will face North Fremont in next week’s semifinals.
Quarterback Gage Vasquez ran for a touchdown in the second quarter, but Bear Lake took an 8-7 lead with 2:29 remaining until half.
Firth drove downfield and Burton Park scored with 33 seconds remaining in the half. A two-point conversion put the Cougars up 15-8.
Bear Lake cut the lead to 15-14 in the third, but Alex Vasquez picked off a pass and returned it 30 yards to all but seal the victory with 4:16 left.
-Fred Davis/Bingham News Chronicle