POCATELLO – Make it two straight 3A state championships for the Sugar-Salem football team.
After winning its first title last year, there were many questions for Sugar-Salem entering the 2019 season.
Who would step up to replace the talented group of seniors?
Would there be a letdown after claiming that first trophy?
None of that mattered on Saturday as Sugar-Salem erased an early deficit against Homedale on the way to a 48-14 win before a spirited crowd at Holt Arena.
“It’s good to be a Digger,” said Sam Parkinson, who ran for two touchdowns and also added a touchdown on a 35-yard interception return in the fourth quarter as Sugar-Salem pulled away in the second half.
The game was expected to be close as Sugar-Salem and Homedale finished 1-2, respectively, in the final regular-season state media poll.
Homedale (11-1) scored on its first possession, but Sugar-Salem (10-1) quickly tied the game on Parkinson’s first touchdown run, and then the Diggers took the lead when Browning Bennion picked off a pass and returned it 50 yards for the go-ahead score.
It was the first time all season that Homedale had trailed in a game and the interception turned the momentum in the Diggers’ favor.
“Our kids are relentless and they fight with everything they got,” coach Tyler Richins said, noting the goal was to take advantage of opportunities and turnovers.
“He got that pick and you could see all of us pick it up,” Parkinson said. “We said if we could get up a couple of scores before half that would be big for us.”
The Diggers went into the break leading 27-7 and added to their advantage in the second half. Sugar-Salem defeated Homedale in last year's state title game 30-22, but this one was all but sealed early in the third quarter as the Digger defense shut down the Trojans.
Homedale quarterback Daniel Uranga came into the game with 31 touchdown passes but was held to none on Saturday.
“We knew at the beginning of our season that this was the goal,” said Bennion during a postgame celebration outside of Holt Arena. “It helped last year because we knew what we needed to do.”
Bennion said the first score by Homedale didn’t cause a panic on the defensive side.
“We couldn’t give up,” he said. “We kind of got punched in the mouth coming out and then it was ‘All right. This is how it’s going to be.’”
Hadley Miller finished with 115 yards rushing and a touchdown and Bennion also added a rushing score. Tanner Harris was an efficient 5-for-9 for 64 yards and a touchdown.
Kenny Copley and Brayton Pope led the team with four tackles each and the defense recorded three sacks and five tackles for loss.
“These kids have been thirsty for this for years,” Richins said. “They’ve been watching since they were little and talking about it. For them to get this their senior year and go back-to-back is really special.”
SUGAR SALEM 48, HOMEDALE 14
Homedale 7 0 0 7 – 14
Sugar-Salem 14 13 7 14 –48
H – Daniel Uranga 1 run (Nelson Lomeli kick), 5:19
S – Sam Parkinson 38 run (Crew Clark kick), 3:21
S – Browning Bennion 50 INT return (Clark kick), 2:37
S – Parkinson 13 run (kick fail), 11:00
S – Hadley Miller 10 run (Clark kick), 2:38
S – Bennion 18 run (Clark kick), 0:39
S – Sam Parkinson 35 INT return (Clark kick), 10:01
H – Jacob Collett 4 run (Lomeli kick) 4:28
S – Keayen Nead 32 pass from Tanner Harris (Rylan Bean kick), 1:36
RUSHING: Homedale, Hayden Kincheloe 19-74, Daniel Uranga 12-8, Dawson Fox 4-35, Spencer Fisher 1-(minus-12), Jacob Collett 1-4, Caleb Smith 1-3. Sugar-Salem, Sam Parkinson 12-83, Tanner Harris 9-16, Hadley Miller 8-115, Browning Bennion 5-66, McKay Schulthies 2-23.
PASSING: Homedale, Uranga 15-29-200-2, Spencer Fisher 0-1-0-1. Sugar-Salem Harris 5-9-64-1-0.
RECEIVING: Homedale, Collett 8-117, Lomeli 4-57, Dominic Quijano 2-22, Kincheloe 1-4. Sugar-Salem, Miller 2-30, Keayen Nead 1-32, Schulthies 1-7, Crew Clark 1-(minus-5).