POCATELLO — At Sugar-Salem High School, 90 percent typically qualifies as “A” work.
With nine scores on 10 possessions Saturday afternoon at Holt Arena, the defending 3A champion Diggers definitely flashed their “A” game during a 52-14 runaway semifinal playoff win over the Snake River Panthers.
The win sends Sugar-Salem (9-1) into a rematch of the 2018 title game against Homedale (10-0), who similarly made short work of Timberlake (51-7).
Sugar-Salem left tackle Ben Funk was all smiles after the game, noting any success his Diggers had on the day was the product of a sustained act of brotherhood.
“So much of it comes out of the positive culture we have and the fun we have together,” Funk said. “We are always joking and having fun. And when it’s time to play, we are introduced as a team, and we win as a team.”
In addition, they stuff fourth-and-1 as a team.
On each of Snake Rivers’ first two drives, the Sugar-Salem defense forced them into 4th-and-1 situations deep in Snake River territory.
Twice the Panthers gambled.
Twice they lost.
And twice Sugar-Salem converted those short fields into touchdowns.
Snake made things easy on the defending state champs throughout the first half as the average Sugar-Salem drive started on the Panthers’ 41.
Regardless of where the Diggers started their first-half drives, all five ended in scores, including one TD run by Samuel Parkinson and two more by Tanner Harris.
Crew Clark got some work in as well, popping a pair of late field goals to make the halftime score 30-6.
Snake River came out of the halftime locker room inspired, getting its only defensive stop of the game on Sugar-Salem’s first drive.
But the Sugar train kept on a-chuggin’ from there with three more TDs and one more field goal.
One score that wasn’t for Sugar came midway through the third quarter when senior Ryley Thurber returned an interception 82 yards.
The score didn’t count due to a clipping penalty, but that flag couldn’t keep young Mr. Thurber from getting his name in the paper.
Thurber wasn’t looking back to the highlight reel that wasn’t, but forward to the state title game that will be.
Thurber has distinct memories of the title game against Homedale (10-0), and he knows he and the Diggers are in for a fight to defend their 3A title. Sugar won the 2018 title match 30-22.
“Homedale is big, they’re physical, and they are going to want it,” Thurber said. “But so are we. I think it will be close, but I expect us to come out on top.
The two teams will meet Saturday at Holt Arena with kickoff scheduled for 3 p.m.
SUGAR-SALEM 52, SNAKE RIVER 14
Sugar-Salem 15 12 3 22 — 52
Snake River 0 6 0 8 — 14
SS — Sam Parkinson 14 run (Crew Clark kick) 9:24
SS — Tanner Harris 3 run (Parkinson run) 2:37
SS — Harris 11 run (kick failed) 8:29
SR — Ty Belnap 5 run (kick failed) 4:24
SS — Clark 25 FG :21
SS — Clark 21 FG :00
SS — Clark 27 FG 3:38
SS — McKay Schulthies 10 pass from Harris (Clark kick) 7:48
SS — Parkinson 14 run (Clark kick) 4:55
SR — Chandler Coombs 5 run (Treyton Young run) 1:37
RUSHING: Sugar-Salem, Parkinson 14-80, Hadley Miller 6-80, Harris 12-48, Browning Bennion 6-28, Schulthies 2-(minus-2). Snake River, Young 20-68, Coombs 7-24, Belnap 1-5, Armando Garza 2-1, Conner Ranstrom 1-1, Cole Gilbert 4-0, Nick Parris 1-(minus-6).
PASSING: Sugar-Salem, Harris 15-23-156-0. Snake River, Gilbert 4-12-106-1, Young 1-1-27-0.
RECEIVING: Sugar-Salem, Clark 4-44, Keayen Nead 3-37, Schulthies 4-35, Miller 1-24, Carter Harris 1-3. Snake River, Ranstrom 2-68, Young 2-38, Bridger Wray 1-27.