Armando Gonzalez remembers the vibe, remembers the sigh that mushroomed over the stadium when his Rigby team raced to a three-score lead last week. Here we go again. The Trojans were showing why they’re one of the best teams in the state, but two weeks into the season, they had already made that so routine that players and fans alike seemed jaded.
“We went to sleep — literally,” Gonzalez said. “It was sloppy, unenthusiastic. Everybody seemed like they were bored.”
Eventually, Rigby secured a blowout win over Post Falls, the Trojans’ second straight rout to open the season. They played well, to be sure. They just didn’t have to for the entire game.
That’s why Rigby is looking forward to its date with Skyline, set for 8:15 p.m. Friday at Holt Arena in Pocatello.
“I think Skyline will be a team that’s going to challenge us in that way,” Gonzalez said. “I’m confident that it’s going to be a good football game, and it’ll really test us in the fourth quarter, because that’s what we need.”
The game represents a clash of two of the best teams in Idaho, certainly between two of the best on this side of the state: Perennial 5A power Rigby against defending 4A state champion Skyline, at Idaho State’s indoor football stadium, kicking off roughly an hour later than usual. The Trojans handed the Grizzlies their only loss last season. Neither team has started this one perfectly — the Trojans sleepwalked through part of last week, and the Grizzlies coughed up a late turnover that led to a Week 1 loss — but that belies the nature of this tilt.
It will likely be one of the best this season.
Neither Rigby (2-0) nor Skyline (1-1) feature many weaknesses. Both employ fast, spread offenses that put skill players in space. Both use sturdy defenses to wreak havoc in backfields and get off the field at most opportunities. Trojan quarterback Tiger Adolpho, owner of two D-I college offers, boasts a blend of speed and arm accuracy that few can match. Grizzly quarterback Lachlan Haacke is starting his first season of varsity football, but he threw for nearly 300 yards last week.
The one big difference between the teams may be that only Skyline has been tested so far. In Week 1, the Grizzlies jumped out to a two-touchdown lead on Utah’s Green Canyon, only for a bad snap on a fourth-quarter punt to set up Green Canyon for the game-winning field goal. Last week, Skyline beat Thunder Ridge 39-18, but injuries turned that game from thriller to blowout. “It was a test,” Skyline coach Scott Berger said.
Meanwhile, Rigby faces an interesting conundrum. The Trojans dismantled Utah’s Sky View — which entered on a 27-game win streak — 43-6, then dispatched Post Falls, 49-14. That’s an average win margin of plus-36. It puts Gonzalez in a weird spot: Ahead of what may be a tight game, does it work to our advantage to come in fresh off two enormous wins?
“In one sense, it’s a positive because we have good confidence going into this game, in terms of where we’re at on both sides of the ball,” Gonzalez said. “I think we’ve only given up 20 points so far. So on offense and defense, we have some confidence.
“But at the same time, our players haven’t played a full game yet. So whenever you haven’t played a full game, where you actually have to execute in the fourth quarter where you’re tired, I think you’re going to be at a disadvantage. So I think that’s something we need to overcome if this happens to go this distance and we are in a fourth-quarter, competitive game.”
The other intriguing twist to this game is where it’s happening. It's a Skyline home game, and since no Pocatello high schools were playing at Holt Arena on Friday and neither was Idaho State, both teams agreed to play the game in Pocatello.
Plus, weather won’t be a concern, and the arena offers more seating than either team’s home venues — capacity is 12,000, though fewer will attend Friday’s game — but it also changes the geometry of the game. Most importantly, the hash marks sit 60 feet from each sideline, compared to the ones on high school fields, which are 53 feet, 1/3 inches away. In simpler terms, the field is wider.
That may not seem like much of a difference, but remember, these two teams rely on speed and space. “That’s going to affect both offense and defense,” Rigby linebacker Hunter Nield said.
“It allows more room for fly sweeps, misdirections, for them to throw the ball out on the perimeter,” Nield added. “It definitely helps both offensive sides of the ball. Good for us, and good for them.”
That will put an onus on both teams’ defenses to keep outside action contained. Last week, Haacke connected with receiver Caden Taggart seven times for 152 yards and Kenyon Sadiq six times for 116 yards. Will Rigby find ways to stop that? Maybe, but the Trojans have bigger goals defensively.
“We want to see if they can run the football against us,” Gonzalez said.
That tracks. Excluding a late run for chunk yards in garbage time, in that game against Thunder Ridge, Skyline recorded 22 carries for 66 yards. The Grizzlies may be a spread team, but they prefer the pass. Haacke and Skyline may be tested on that front on Friday.
Either way, though, both teams likely will be. In the stadium where Berger won a national championship with Idaho State back in 1981 — “I try not to talk about stuff that long ago,” he said with a laugh — he will lead the Grizzlies into one of their bigger regular-season contests in some time.
Not that any of them are overthinking it.
“I just want to treat it like another game. I don’t want this game to be more important than the others,” Haacke said. “So I expect that out of myself every game. In all my games, I want to prove something. I’ve just got to treat it like another game.”