POCATELLO — Before this state semifinal had turned five seconds old, the alarm bells rang. In the moments after Lachlan Haacke tossed an interception on his team’s first play from scrimmage, digging Skyline an immediate hole against Pocatello, Holt Arena became familiar territory: A place the Grizzlies know well, where disastrous starts like these had unfolded in all three of their playoff games.

So when the red lights illuminated, signaling another emergency in these 4A state playoffs, Skyline remained composed. The Grizzlies’ defense yielded only a field goal. Even on the Thunder’s very next series, when they used a touchdown to stretch their lead to two scores, the Grizzlies kept an unflappable gaze.

That’s the thing about the way Skyline has played, how the defending state champions followed a 1-3 start to the season with a postseason run that has made fools of nonbelievers. The Grizzlies recognize the sirens. They’ve almost taken a liking to the tune. With a 36-31 win over Pocatello Saturday night, they’re singing along, dancing right back into the state championship game with smiles on their faces.

“That’s hard to do,” Skyline receiver Kenyon Sadiq said. “Once you think about it, no one thought we were going to be here in the first place. So I think that gave us a lot of heart and grit to go get it done.”

Skyline’s defense gets the credit for holding things down, but the truth is the Grizzlies are moving onto next week's state title game — against Sandpoint, 7 p.m. Friday the Kibbie Dome — because their offense revved to life like it never has this postseason. The interception was one of the few blights on the night for Haacke, who completed 22 of 25 passes for 240 yards and three touchdowns, plus another score on the ground. Sadiq came up sublime: 12 catches for 136 yards and two scores, hauling in catches that bordered on absurd in the game of his life.

“He’s going to go get the ball,” Haacke said. “He’s not scared of anything.”

Haacke, Sadiq and Skyline playmakers Caden Taggart and Abrahn Silverio produced their best work when the alarms resonated loudest. The Grizzlies rattled off 22 unanswered points from the second to the third quarters, flipping an 11-point deficit into an 11-point lead. Even when Pocatello running back Ryken Echo Hawk surged in for his second touchdown of the night, trimming Skyline’s lead to five in the third, the Grizzlies responded with a long touchdown pass from Haacke to Sadiq, ballooning their advantage back to 12.

No Grizzly ever felt daunted, not even when Pocatello quarterback Ryan Payne completed an 82-yard touchdown strike to Krue Hales, the team’s second score of 80-plus yards on the night. That connection made it a game: Skyline 36, Pocatello 31, eight minutes left.

So when the Thunder got the ball back with a shade over three minutes left, nothing changed. Poise settled over Skyline like a warm blanket. The Grizzlies felt the same when Payne slung a 16-yard pass, moving closer to their territory. They felt even better moments later — when Skyline linebacker Isaac Farnsworth reached up and snared an interception, falling out of bounds, disappearing under a white-and-blue mob on the sideline.

Game over.

“We know they like to run that comeback on second and long, third and long,” Farnsworth said. “So as soon as I saw that rollout, I knew it was coming back, so once again, I just made a play.”

The Grizzlies are one step short of glory, in large part, because of their defense, because of players like Farnsworth. On Saturday, linebacker Chandler Robinson delivered a hellacious hit for a sack. Lineman Alex Cortez wrestled Payne down for another. Even freshman Kaeson Smith recorded his own.

The Grizzlies’ secondary did yield a couple big plays, both of them 80-yard touchdown passes, but that’s the thing about this group’s approach: They play almost exclusively man coverage. They trust their defensive backs. They stuff running plays. They bet their pressure can get home before the quarterback can unfurl one deep. More often than not, they’re holding the winning ticket.

“You just gotta stay focused. They make a big play, you’ve just got to focus on the next play,” Farnsworth said. “You gotta let it all wipe away and focus on the next play.”

The Grizzlies made a habit out of it. They never folded: Not when Matt Christensen turned a fake punt into a 34-yard gain, which later turned into a touchdown. Not when Payne hit Julian Bowie on an 86-yard score, which gave the Thunder an 18-7 lead in the second frame. When they dangled over the edge, their spellbinding journey hanging on by a thread, the Grizzlies found their balance.

In truth, they’ve found the fuel to do so in others’ doubt. Skyline lost 30-odd seniors to graduation last year, so while the club returned a healthy dose of talent and playmaking for this season, this group never felt like the favorite. When the Grizzlies lost three of their first four to kick off the season, they really weren’t. When they lost the Emotion Bowl for the first time in eight years, well, the sky wasn’t falling — but it was on its way down.

Around that time, though, the Grizzlies first heard the alarm bells. They heard the whispers. They learned to like them. They felt fired up when they heard them. Now they’re headed back to the promised land, the place few expected them to return, the alarms soundtracking the adventure there.

“We were never supposed to be here,” Sadiq said. “We want to prove to everyone that we were.”

Greg Woods is a sports reporter at the Post Register. Reach him 208-542-6772 and follow him on Twitter at GregWWoods.

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