In 4A football — one of the best classifications in Idaho — only two Districts remain in the playoffs: District 3 and District 6.
Other teams play, too, of course. Madison looks to upset Rocky Mountain; Mackay looks to upset Carey. South Fremont, Sugar-Salem look to go deep in this year’s 3A tournament. North Fremont and West Jefferson meet again for the 2A state quarterfinals.
With football quarterfinals beginning this week, here’s a breakdown of how each team is looking into one of the final weeks of football.
The Bobcats will try to reach their first semifinal round appearance since 2015.
The team standing in their way: undefeated Rocky Mountain — the best team in the state, according to coach and media polls.
Madison will play 7 p.m. Friday at Rocky Mountain.
The Bobcats, who are 2-2 when playing away from Rexburg, are averaging close to 30 points per game this year.
Their offense revolves around quarterback Jordan Porter, his mobility and a wide receiver corps (Mason McWhorter, Spencer Hathaway, Bolder Murray, Karson Hastings) that provides length and some big-play ability.
Under Porter’s leadership — the senior quarterback has thrown for more than 2,000 yards and more than 800 yards — the Bobcats’ offense has improved later in the season, not due to throwing more, but because of throwing less.
The Bobcats have leaned on running back Malachi Valora (he has over 700 yards rushing this season) and over 200 yards rushing last week.
Madison has been bumped out of the quarterfinals for three of the previous four seasons.
Hillcrest enters Friday’s matchup as the No. 1 team in 4A, according to the media and coaches polls.
The main reason: the Knights’ running game.
Hillcrest has thrown the ball just nine times in the previous two weeks. Meanwhile, its rushed for 12 touchdowns with quarterback Kyle Austin, flex players Oakley Hussey, Trae Henry, Josh Norman and Taylor Sloan.
This is the Knights’ first playoffs appearance since 2011. It hasn’t won a state championship since 2008, when then first-year Hillcrest coach Darin Owens used a double wing-T to dominate teams.
In its new, run-first offense (the Knights were mostly spread during the previous five seasons), the Knights have outscored opponents 349-117. They’ve scored 40-plus points in four-straight games.
It faces a Middleton team that’s gone 2-2 during the previous four games in an stadium it is undefeated in (Hillcrest is 5-0 at home this season).
Idaho Falls (7-3) at Vallivue (7-3)
The Tigers have been catching fire as of late, winning five-straight to meet Vallivue in the 4A quarterfinal round.
Historically, the playoffs have not been nice to the Tigers. Idaho Falls has not reached the semifinal round since 2007.
But since Sept. 28, Idaho Falls — led by running back Cameron Conrad — have outscored opponents 195-101 to win its past five games.
Part of a talented senior class, Conrad has already rushed for more than 2,000 yards this fall. He finished with 317 yards and a 95-yard touchdown during last week’s 33-14 win over Twin Falls.
And the senior will most likely see another heavy workload against a Vallivue team that allows close to 28 points per game this season.
Skyline (8-2) at Bishop Kelly (8-1)
For the third-straight year, Skyline and Bishop Kelly will meet in the 4A state playoffs.
After dramatic (50-49 in 2016) and commanding (40-14 in 2017) wins during the previous two postseasons over the Knights, the Grizzlies head into this week’s quarterfinals matchup more healthy than they have been in weeks prior.
After losing Cruz Taylor for two weeks due to a cracked left collarbone (Skyline’s lone losses this year) — the junior scatback has returned to help Skyline win its previous three games.
The wins, though, haven’t been easy or pretty for the back-to-back state champions. Skyline has won by margins of two, seven and eight during the previous three weeks.
But as the well-worn cliche goes: a win’s a win. And Skyline will try to get its third-straight victory against a Bishop Kelly team that has won four in a row and averages about 40 points per game.
South Fremont (6-3) at Timberlake (6-3)
South Fremont comes into the 3A quarterfinals riding a two-game win streak and a 35-28 win over Weiser.
Like most teams that reach this point in the playoffs, the Cougars have a variety of talent across the board including a 1-2-3 backfield committee of Kyler Yancey, Tristan Olson and Jace Neville.
The Cougars accumulated 271 total rushing yards last week and will look to do so again this week against a Timberlake team that has outscored its previous three opponents (all wins) 125-20. Timberlake is coming off a 55-6 win over Bonners Ferry.
A win Saturday at Timberlake would break new ground for South Fremont: the Cougars have not gotten past the quarterfinal round since, at least, 1998.
Kickoff for Saturday’s game is 1 p.m.
Sugar-Salem (7-1) vs. Marsh Valley (6-2)
After receiving a bye week, Sugar-Salem opens up its 3A playoff run with a slugfest against a well-known foe.
The Diggers previously beat the Eagles, 21-14, on Sept. 14. The Diggers — ranked the No. 2 3A team by media and coaches — have taken eight of the previous 10 meetings. The last time the Eagles defeated Sugar-Salem was in 2011.
Marsh Valley is amid one of its best seasons in the past decade. Entering this fall, Marsh Valley hadn’t had a winning season since 2011-12). The Eagles are averaging 37 points per game and are coming off a 69-0 win over American Falls on Oct. 19.
Sugar-Salem, meanwhile, is also coming off a lopsided win. The Diggers are coming off a 79-3 win over Parma on Oct. 19 and have won seven straight.
The Diggers are averaging 44 points per game this fall.
These two well-versed opponents meet Friday in Holt Arena. Kickoff is at 8:15 p.m.
North Fremont (9-0) vs. West Jefferson (7-2)
Regardless of the outcome of this all Nuclear Conference game, the winner will reach the semifinals for the first time in more than a decade.
North Fremont hasn’t reached the semifinals since 1989. West Jefferson hasn’t reach a semifinal round since 2007.
Last time each team reached the semifinal round, they went on to win state titles.
The Huskies have beaten the Panthers before (53-12 on Oct. 5). West Jefferson’s only losses this year have come from programs with the name “Fremont” in it (South Fremont beat West Jefferson, 38-12, on Aug. 31).
West Jefferson is coming off a thrilling, 49-47 win over Aberdeen, a win in which the Panthers stopped the Tigers on a two-point conversion before recovering an onside kick in the final minute.
It will now be tasked with a Huskies team on the cusp of history. With all its starters returning from a season ago, North Fremont has dominated the Nuclear Conference by outscoring its opponents 394-62.
Its closest win during its nine-game win streak was a 27-6 win over Ririe in the final week of the regular season.
This two teams meet again Friday in Ashton at 6 p.m.
Mackay (4-4) at Carey (9-0)
With just 12 players dressed for last Friday’s win over Murtaugh, the Mackay Miners will look to play spoiler Thursday against Carey, the No. 1 ranked team in 1A Division II per coaches and media.
Carey, coming off a bye due to Camas County forfeiting last week’s 1A DII opening game, has scored 34 points or more every game this year. The Panthers average 58.5 points per game this year and have scored 50-plus points during their past five games.
Mackay, though, has made its own history as of late — winning three of its final four regular season games to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2014 (losing to Carey during the opening round).
After not fielding varsity teams in 2015 and 2016 and missing the playoffs a year ago, the Miners are back.
The Miners have not reached the state semifinal round since 2009.
They’ll try to do so with an offense that has averaged 44 points during the previous four games.