MIDDLETON — State championships aren’t supposed to be this easy, this creative or this fun. They weren’t designed to be won in this fashion, like the way Skyline throttled Emmett 42-22 Saturday afternoon in the 4A state title game. They weren’t made for teams like the Grizzlies, who made this state championship game look like a preseason jamboree, pulling off double passes and two-point conversions and screen passes for enormous chunks of yards.
State title games are supposed to feature more tension, more theater, more stress. Skyline felt only a dash of each Saturday evening. That’s why they dismantled the Huskies, winning their third championship in the last five seasons.
“We struggled a little bit at the start. We had a few stupid turnovers,” said receiver Connor Maloney, who hauled in three touchdown passes from quarterback Cade Marlow. “But we came out and our offensive coordinator went into the playbook and pulled out a few gadgets, and we came out and executed well.”
Did they ever. Marlow completed 14 of 20 passes for 238 yards and four touchdowns, torching the Emmett secondary and helping the Grizzlies overcome two early fumbles and cruise to the championship. Maloney added four touchdown receptions, including a 55-yarder from Marlow.
A series later, Marlow dropped back and tossed a pass to Davien Cruz, who completed another pass downfield to Maloney, who outran everyone for 56 yards and a touchdown.
Double pass. In a state title game.
All told, Maloney finished with five receptions for 152 yards and four touchdowns.
“No surprise there,” Maloney said. “That was our offensive coordinator (Brett Taylor) getting into his gadgets and doing what we like to do at Skyline.”
There were few facets of this game that Skyline didn’t dominate. The 12-1 Grizzlies posted 133 rushing yards, good for 4.8 yards per carry, plus the damage that Marlow inflicted through the air, connecting with Maloney and Eli Ames and Kenyon Sadiq and Abrahn Silverio. Skyline’s Ferrari offense hummed all night.
Its defense did the same. The Grizzlies held Huskie quarterback Caden Young to a paltry 9-for-25 passing effort, which included two rushing touchdowns, one in garbage time. Running back Westyn Smith, the other key cog in his team’s offense, managed 18 carries for 74 yards.
That means excluding garbage time, top-seeded Skyline’s defense allowed just 28 points in four playoff games.
“Chet Taylor, our defensive back coach, he does a fantastic job,” said Skyline coach Scott Berger, who has now authored three state championship seasons in the last five years. “We play a lot of man cover, and we put them out there on an island. They step up and they make plays.”
The culprits were many. Defensive lineman Brixton Gilbert erupted into the backfield for tackles for loss. Adrian Alvarez recorded a crucial pass break-up. Ditto for Ian Galbreaith, who added two of those.
The Huskies generated just 3.8 yards per carry. It never amounted to much, especially not late.
“The nicest thing is having experience at that defensive back position,” Berger said.
Really, Skyline boasts tons of experience. The team rosters 26 seniors, including nine returners in the secondary and six senior offensive weapons. Few play both ways, too, which keeps everybody fresh, and fired up.
That reality is by design. The Grizzlies could employ lots of two-way players, Berger will tell you, mostly because their best players are athletic and rangy and tough.
“We want to do that same thing, but do it with 40 kids,” Berger said. “We feel they practice better, they meet better, they’re more focused during the game.”
The Grizzlies will cherish the championship, of course, but it means more to the ones who were around for the last one. In 2017, Skyline captured its second-straight title. In that game, Maloney received kickoffs — “I was shaking in my boots,” Maloney said earlier this week — but most of his freshman teammates watched from the sidelines and the stands.
Before Saturday, the closest these seniors had come to winning together came in middle school, when the two Skyline teams — there were too many players, so they were split into two teams — squared off against each other in that championship game.
That was four years ago, though, when they set a goal to win a high school state title but couldn’t grasp what such an accomplishment could require.
Now they do. They’ve done it.
“It’s unreal,” said Ames, who snared four passes for 50 yards and two total touchdowns. “Me and my whole team has been dreaming about this moment our entire football career, and for us to have the chance to go out here and show what we can do and show how good we are, it’s just unexplainable. It feels great.”
SKYLINE 42, EMMETT 22
E — Young 1 rush (Solis kick), 10:38
S — Ames 23 pass from Marlow (Sadiq pass from Eames), 3:04
S — Maloney 55 pass from Marlow (Eames pass from Cruz), 0:30
S — Maloney 56 pass from Cruz (Cruz kick), 10:18
S — Maloney 13 pass from Marlow (2-pt failed), 6:30
E — Smith 7 rush (Solis kick), 2:28
S — Maloney 19 pass from Marlow (2-pt failed), 10:29
S — Ames 3 rush (Cruz kick), 3:07
E — Young 20 rush (Lockett pass from Young), 0:55
RUSHING — Emmett: Young 13-42, Smith 18-74, Maxwell 1-3, Pearson 1-11. Skyline: Swafford 11-40, Silverio 4-20, Marlow 3-23, Maloney 1-2, Galbreaith 1-4, Taggart 1-5, Ames 7-39.
PASSING — Emmett: Young 9-25-0 133. Skyline: Marlow 14-20-2 238, Cruz 1-1-0 56.
RECEIVING — Emmett: Owens 1-45, Pearson 2-27, Lockett 2-9, Smith 1-5, Wilkerson 2-20, Howe 1-27. Skyline: Sadiq 2-45, Eames 2-28, Maloney 5-152, Silverio 1-13, Ames 4-50.