Rocky Moun­tain back to state cham­pi­onship fi­nal

The Idaho Statesman (Sunday) - - SPORTS - BY RACHEL ROBERTS rroberts@ida­hostates­ MERID­IAN

Nick Ro­mano gave ev­ery­thing he had and then some.

Rocky Moun­tain’s se­nior run­ning back started the third quar­ter puk­ing into a trash can on the side­line. But he fin­ished the game with 205 rush­ing yards and three touch­downs to send the top-ranked Griz­zlies to a 42-14 vic­tory over No. 2 Coeur d’alene in the 5A state semi­fi­nals Fri­day night at Brighton Sta­dium.

“I know he’s re­ally tough, so that’s no ques­tion,” Rocky Moun­tain coach Chris Culig said. “... Nick’s just re­ally strong. He has tremen­dous willpower, so he wasn’t com­ing out no mat­ter what.”

Af­ter los­ing in the state semi­fi­nals the pre­vi­ous two sea­sons, Rocky Moun­tain (11-0) will play in the state cham­pi­onship game against High­land (10-1) at 10 a.m. Satur­day at Al­bert­sons Sta­dium. It will be the sec­ond ti­tle ap­pear­ance in pro­gram his­tory for the Griz­zlies, who beat Moun­tain View 41-22 in 2015.

“We started lit­er­ally the Mon­day af­ter the sea­son ended last year in the weight room,” Culig said. “We didn’t wait a week. We started, and ev­ery­body’s bought in to giv­ing just a lit­tle bit more.”

Ro­mano opened the sec­ond half with a 70-yard run on the Griz­zlies’ first play, and he

scored on a 9-yard run two plays later to put the Griz­zlies up 28-14 with 10:45 left in the third quar­ter. When he came off the field, Ro­mano went straight to the trash can.

“There was a lot of emo­tions go­ing into it, and it just seemed to end up like that,” Ro­mano said. “I had to let it all go.”

While the Rocky Moun­tain of­fense rat­tled off three sec­ond-half touch­downs, the Griz­zlies’ de­fense did its part with a sec­ond-half shutout of the Vik­ings (9-1).

“Our team, when we play to our best po­ten­tial, we can do that to any­one,” Ro­mano said. “I re­ally think that if we keep be­ing united as a team, then we can do any­thing.”

Se­nior line­backer Gar­rett Beck and se­nior de­fen­sive back Jaxon Pabst each came up with in­ter­cep­tions of Coeur d’alene quar­ter­back Kale Ed­wards in the third quar­ter. It was the first pick of the sea­son for Beck and the fifth for Pabst, giv­ing Rocky Moun­tain a state­lead­ing 34 take­aways.

“We knew Coeur d’alene was go­ing to be tough. They’re good on both sides of the ball. They’ve got a lot of ath­letes up there. They’re well-coached,” Rocky Moun­tain quar­ter­back Colby Jack­son said. “But we knew we were good, too.

“The first half it was a bat­tle, but the sec­ond half we just took off.”

Jack­son, a 6-foot, 190pound ju­nior, com­ple­mented the Ro­mano bat­ter­ing ram, pass­ing for 151 yards and two touch­downs, both to ju­nior re­ceiver Kaden Birch.

The Griz­zlies and Vik­ings were tied at 7-7 in the first quar­ter and 14-14 in the sec­ond af­ter Ed­wards jumped the pile for a 1-yard touch­down with 3:54 left be­fore half­time.

But Rocky Moun­tain didn’t let Coeur d’alene carry that mo­men­tum into the break. The Griz­zlies ex­e­cuted a seven-play, 80-yard drive in a lit­tle more than two min­utes for a 21-14 ad­van­tage that only grew big­ger in the sec­ond half.

“We’re united, and we’ve still got work to do,” Jack­son said. “We’ll be ready to go next week.”

WILLY HAR­RIS Spe­cial to the States­man

Nick Ro­mano (24) rushed for 205 yards and three touch­downs to leadRocky Moun­tain to a 42-14 vic­tory over Coeur d’alene in the 5A state semi­fi­nals on Fri­day.

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