MERIDIAN — All season long, the undefeated, top-ranked Rocky Mountain Grizzlies have relied on star tailback Nick Romano to carry their offense.
Friday night at Brighton Stadium, the Grizzlies showed they can win in more ways than one. With Madison selling out to contain Romano, Rocky Mountain turned to its efficient passing game and playmaking defense to earn 28-7 playoff victory.
Junior quarterback Colby Jackson threw for 205 yards with three touchdowns and the Grizzlies racked up four interceptions as Rocky Mountain (10-0) advanced to host Borah/Coeur d’Alene in the state semifinals next weekend.
“We’re a very multidimensional offense,” Jackson said. “We’ve got a lot of skill all around the ball, and if we need to throw it, I know we’ve got the receivers to do it.”
A promising start ended in disaster for Madison (7-4). The Bobcats drove the length of the field on their opening drive, only to see Jaxson Pabst intercept a trick play pass attempt in the end zone.
Rocky Mountain cashed in the turnover with a long, methodical drive capped by Jackson’s 6-yard touchdown strike to Justin Jones for a 7-0 lead.
The early sequence set the tone for the game, with Rocky Mountain repeatedly taking advantage of mistakes by the visiting Bobcats.
“We were playing with fire a little letting them get down the field, but it was good to come up with those stops,” said sophomore safety Brayden Rundell, who had two of the Grizzlies’ four interceptions. “It was bend, don’t break, and it was great to see our DBs come up with four picks.”
In the second quarter, Jackson finished another long drive with a 5-yard TD pass to Jordan Erickson to make it 14-0. Then the Grizzlies defense struck again, with Braden Cureton making a diving interception on the first play of a Madison drive.
Rocky Mountain immediately capitalized, with Jackson launching a 30-yard TD bomb to Brayden Hamilton that gave the Grizzlies a commanding 21-0 halftime lead.
“We moved the ball, we just couldn’t finish,” Madison coach Mitch Buck said. “When we tried to take away their run game, they hurt us in man coverage situations. We have great kids that play really hard, but we’re not perfect. And I think we had to play closer to a perfect game to beat these guys.”
The action slowed in the second half as both teams struggled to sustain drives. After a scoreless third quarter, Madison got on the board with a 7-yard pass from Jordan Porter to Spencer Hathaway with 10 minutes left in the fourth.
Now leading 21-7, Rocky Mountain needed one solid drive to seal the win. And the Grizzlies delivered, marching 80 yards in more than 7 minutes, punctuated by Erickson’s 12-yard TD run.
“We wanted to finish the game out right there,” Rocky Mountain coach Chris Culig said. “Good teams are going to hurt you if you don’t put the game away, so I thought that was a great drive to ice it.”
Romano finished with 106 yards on 23 carries, including several key first down pickups on the clinching drive. Hamilton (63 yards) and Jones (62 yards) led the Grizzlies receiving corps.
Porter threw for 237 yards to lead Madison, completing 20 of 32 passes with one touchdown and three interceptions.