POCATELLO — On his way down the stairs to the Holt Arena field at halftime, a Bonneville assistant coach stopped and laughed.
“Pete Carroll just called in and made that play call,” he joked.
Then the coach jetted away.
He was talking about one of the final plays of Friday’s first half between Bonneville and Pocatello, the one where Bees sophomore Tim Williams picked off a pass in the end zone, in all reality an important turnover that kept the Bees in this 4A playoff opener. But for the other two hours, the Bees had little else to laugh about, producing an eyesore of an offensive outing, failing to create anything resembling a potent attack.
That explains the main reasons why Bonneville’s season ended with a 24-6 loss to Pocatello, the conclusion of the Bees’ two-win season. They totaled just 220 yards. They did score once, on a nine-yard jet sweep from Ty Martinson, but the extra point was blocked. For Bonneville, even the positives turned to negatives, the points into missed opportunities.
“We just played a very, very good football team,” Bonneville coach Kevin Kempf said. “Pocatello is so balanced. They are extremely well-coached. They’ve got a great tailback, great wide receiver, great quarterback, great defense. They’re just a good football team. They made more plays than we did.”
The Thunder made a million more plays than the Bees did, but really, Bonneville is hardly looking at this result like a loss. The Bees did get throttled — they averaged just 2.3 yards per carry, for one — but they did so making their first playoff appearance in nine years, sneaking into the postseason as a No. 15 seed. They won two games all year, but those two were critical district wins, which opened the door for their entrance into the bracket.
Which is why Kempf and Co. can live with all the ways the Bees came up short Friday night. Quarterback Jacob Perez completed 17 of 30 passes for 145 yards and four interceptions. Martinson, the team’s main running back, registered 14 carries for 24 yards. Bonneville’s offense only came to life in garbage time, and even that drive ended in a nightmarish way: Perez was picked off at the goal line by Pocatello’s Krue Hales, who raced 100 yards the other way for a pick-six.
None of it came as a particular surprise, considering Bonneville entered averaging just 10 points per game. Instead, what it did was give the Bees something to build on, a stage to experience. Few of Bonneville’s key cogs are seniors. This team is young.
“This is a program game for us,” Kempf said. “We taught our young kids what it’s like to be in the playoffs. We’ve got great senior leadership. No sense in us hanging our heads. We’re OK.”
If the Bees want to draw encouragement from this game, they can flip the film to their defense. Pocatello quarterback Ryan Payne completed 16 of 25 passes for 205 yards and two scores, but he only threw so many passes because he had no choice. Bonneville’s defensive line generated consistent pressure and penetration, enough to discourage the Thunder from even attempting to run the ball, where they finished with negative-24 rushing yards.
On offense, Pocatello logged just 180 total yards. The Thunder did hit on a 71-yard touchdown screen pass from Payne to Julian Bowie, and they did score on a two-yard touchdown pass from Payne to Matt Christensen, but that was about all the success Pocatello found. More often, the Bees stuffed the Thunder’s run attempts and kept their passing attempts in front of them.
“Our defensive line, our linebackers — that’s the strength of our team,” Kempf said. “That was definitely good.”
“The defensive line, I’ve been worried sick about them all week,” Pocatello coach Dave Spillett said. “I’ve been losing sleep because I thought on film they looked like the best defensive line we’ve seen. And that proved to be the case tonight. They were nasty. They were physical. It was tough for us to get anything going in the run game.”
That’s exactly why Bonneville was never quite out of this one. The Bees had their chances. In the second quarter, Bonneville recovered a muffed punt at the Pocatello 32. That drive ended when Perez was intercepted on a tipped pass. In the fourth frame, the Bees drove all the way down to the Thunder 5, only for a miscommunication to lead to another Bonneville interception.
That’s the thing about all this, though: Bonneville doesn’t view it as a complete failure. Failure was last year, when the Bees went winless. It was the year before that, when they won just two games all year.
For Bonneville, this season wasn’t a wild success in the win/loss department. The success was in the experience, the games, the taste of being in the playoffs. On Monday, Kempf says, the Bees are kicking off their offseason with max lifting. For now, the Bees will focus on winning those types of days before they get to the end of the week.
“We haven’t won a lot on Friday nights,” Kempf said, “but this team wins on Tuesday nights and on Wednesday nights and Sundays at church. They’re doing service projects all week long. They’re a great bunch of kids.
“I’m not just saying this: When someone asks me what the team is like, I say, ‘Ask me in 10 years.’ If they’re great fathers, if they’re great sons, if they’re great husbands, then I’ll tell you we had a really successful year in 2021.”
POCATELLO 24, BONNEVILLE 6
Bonneville 0 0 6 0 — 6
Pocatello 10 7 0 7 — 24
P — Bowie 71 pass from Payne (PAT good), 11:10
P — Jensen 27 field goal, 4:51
P — Christensen 2 pass from Payne (PAT good), 2:27
B — Martinson 9 rush (PAT blocked), 1:21
P — Hales 100 interception return (PAT good), 3:14
RUSHING — Bonneville: Martinson 14-24, Dahlke 3-13, Perez 6 (-9), Walker 5-36, Williams 3-14, Hansen 1-5. Pocatello: EchoHawk 4 (-3), Payne 4 (-21), Aplington 2-0.
PASSING — Bonneville: Perez 17-30-0 145. Pocatello: Payne 16-25-2 205.
RECEIVING — Bonneville: Williams 1-5, Hansen 2-18, Dahlke 6-46, Hart 1 (-2), Martinson 4-61, Neal 1-7, Scoresby 1-6. Pocatello: EchoHawk 3-21, Bowie 3-91, Park 2-20, Christensen 6-41, Killian 1-22, Hales 1-10.