BOISE — Sugar-Salem won on a goal-line stand. Hillcrest dominated.
No matter how the victories looked, both District 6 schools return to east Idaho as champions.
Saturday in Boise, Hillcrest won its first 4A state title in a decade by handing usual 4A powerhouse Bishop Kelly its worst loss since 1996, according to the Idaho Statesman.
Sugar-Salem won its first 3A state title ever at Middleton High School, holding Homedale out of the endzone from the 1-yard line with just eight seconds left in regulation.
“This is what happiness looks like,” Sugar-Salem senior Hayden Crapo tweeted Monday — posting pictures of him and his teammates holding the Diggers’ first blue trophy ever, smiling.
In 4A, Hillcrest dominated Bishop Kelly, 55-21, Saturday at Albertsons Stadium — setting a new Idaho all-classification state title game record in rushing yards (587) en route to its first state title in a decade. Hillcrest also set a new 4A record for yards in a game and tied the record for most points scored in a 4A championship game.
Playing its best football without one of its best players for the final eight weeks of the season, Hillcrest jumped out to a 42-14 lead by halftime. That was 13 points shy of the points record it set 10 years ago against Jerome.
The Knights eventually cruised to its second state title ever, allowing back-ups to play and once-starting running back Jordan Neuerburg to take two snaps.
Rushing for 587 yards through four different ball carriers may sound strenuous, but the Knights made it look easy.
By halftime: Oakley Hussey had 98 yards and three rushing touchdowns. Kyle Austin had 189 yards and two touchdowns. Trae Henry had 119 yards and touchdown on just five carries.
By the final horn: Hussey finished with 173 yards, Austin finished with a game-high 224, and Henry finished with 137 yards and two touchdowns on 10 carries. Kanon Young joined in on the fun, rushing for a 66-yard touchdown during the third quarter. Tre Kofe got two carries in, too.
“No one can take this away from us,” said Hillcrest lineman Jacob Brock, hugging his teammates on the sideline.
After losing Neuerburg for the season due to a torn ACL, the Knights simplified its offense — leaning on quick pitches, counters, quarterback sneaks and strong-I sets to run past teams.
After one-point wins over Skyline and Rigby, Hillcrest outscored its opponents 285-78 during the last seven games of their season. They scored 40-plus points six times during that span. They never surrendered more than 21 points all season.
“I went back to some old stuff with my old offensive coordinator in Beatrice (Nebraska), and visited with him a little bit, and we needed to put one of our best athletes back there,” Kevin Meyer said of the mid-season schematic change. “About a week and half later, Trae wasn’t playing and I was kind of mad in a meeting because he wasn’t playing on defense and I looked at myself and said, ‘I’m need to play him on offense’ cause we’re playing a double-tight wing. So we got (Henry) involved and to have him with our quarterback and switch Oakley around — Oakley is kind of a power guy — and Trae as a slasher, it’s really hard to manage. It made us really hard to stop.”
The Knights finish their season 12-1 and with one more “STATE CHAMPS” red lettering inside its halls.
“We always said it was about us executing and about us doing what we were supposed to do,” Meyer said. “And if we did that, we were going to be pretty hard to beat so I’m really, really proud of our kids and proud of our staff.”
Sugar-Salem, meanwhile, won a 30-22 thriller over Homedale thanks to a goal line stand. With eight seconds left in regulation, Sugar-Salem held Homedale running back Mason Kincheloe out of the endzone — ending the Trojans’ one-loss season at the 1-yard line.
The defensive stand gave the Diggers — a program with state titles in almost every other sport — their first-ever blue trophy in football.
“I just think it comes down to grit and determination,” Sugar-Salem coach Tyler Richins said Saturday. “The stuff we did in the offseason, the work we put in in the weight room, the camaraderie with the boys, truly believing that this was a possibility for us. When you’re on the 1-yard line with the game on the line, that’s where that stuff comes out.”
Sugar-Salem’s offense — similar to Hillcrest — leaned on the run to finish the season 10-1 and with a state title banner.
The Diggers ran the ball 54 times for 223 yards Saturday. Quarterback Tanner Harris led all of his teammates with 92 yards on 22 carries.
On the season, Sugar-Salem rushed for 2,754 yards on 443 carries (good enough for 250.4 yards per game and 6.2 yards per rush).
But it was Sugar-Salem’s defense — capitalizing on a safety and a fourth quarter, fumble recovery for touchdown — that made the difference.
The Diggers allowed just 121 points all season. They allowed just 868 on 355 carries (2.4 yards per carry).
Homedale was held to 293 yards on 73 plays.
“This was a crazy game,” Rasmussen said Saturday. “But we have a lot of studs on defense, and when it came down to it, we made the plays that needed to be made.”