These four Trea­sure Val­ley foot­ball teams will ad­vance to the state cham­pi­onship

The Idaho Statesman - - Sports - BY MICHAEL LYCKLAMA mly­ck­lama@ida­hostates­man.com

The more things change, the more they stay the same in the 5A state play­offs.

Rocky Moun­tain, Moun­tain View, High­land and Coeur d’Alene are all back in the state semi­fi­nals – the same four teams that played in last year’s fi­nal four, al­beit with dif­fer­ent matchups. In fact, those four peren­nial pow­er­houses have claimed 19 of the 24 spots in the semi­fi­nals in the past six years.

But 4A re­mains an­other story. A clas­si­fi­ca­tion that de­fied ex­pec­ta­tions all sea­son doesn’t have a sin­gle team from last year’s fi­nal four in the semi­fi­nals. And two of them, Nampa and Val­livue, fin­ished the reg­u­lar sea­son un­ranked in the fi­nal state me­dia poll.

So who’s mov­ing on to the state cham­pi­onship? I’ll hand­i­cap the Trea­sure Val­ley teams still alive be­low.

COEUR D’ALENE AT ROCKY MOUN­TAIN, 7 P.M. FRI­DAY

The pre­drawn brack­ets for the 5A play­offs re­ward the clas­si­fi­ca­tion’s No. 1and No. 2-ranked teams — and its only un­de­feated squads — with a semi­fi­nal

matchup. But that’s a topic for an­other day.

No. 2 Coeur d’Alene (9-0) es­caped an up­set bid from Borah last week, forc­ing five turnovers and ral­ly­ing with two touch­downs in the fi­nal 3 min­utes for a 37-34 win at home. That late come­back show­cased the Vik­ings’ fire­power, prov­ing they are never out of games as long as se­nior quar­ter­back Kale Ed­wards is un­der cen­ter.

The dual quar­ter­back/ safety with an of­fer from Mon­tana has racked up 2,861 to­tal yards and 38 to­tal TDs with just four in­ter­cep­tions this sea­son.

“Their quar­ter­back is huge,” Rocky Moun­tain coach Chris Culig said. “He re­minds me of an old-school Johnny Uni­tas.”

But Ed­wards and the Vik­ings will face the tough­est de­fense they’ve seen this sea­son. No. 1 Rocky Moun­tain (10-0) leads the state, sur­ren­der­ing just 12.1 points and 72 rush­ing yards per game. The Griz­zlies bring pres­sure from all over the field, and no quar­ter­back has with­stood the on­slaught of ex­otic looks, lead­ing to a state­lead­ing 31 turnovers.

At 6-5, 210 pounds, Ed­wards has the strength to shake off a would-be tack­ler or two and catch Rocky Moun­tain in a blitz. But Coeur d’Alene will need more than a cou­ple to keep up with the Griz­zlies.

Coeur d’Alene strug­gled to han­dle Borah’s elite ath­letes, and Rocky Moun­tain has the horses to run with any­one in the state. Run­ning back Nick Romano (1,696 rush yards, 27 TDs) re­ceives top billing, but Rocky Moun­tain can take to the air just as eas­ily. Ju­nior quar­ter­back Colby Jack­son threw for three TDs last week when Madi­son stacked the line of scrim­mage.

“When they are go­ing to pack the box with peo­ple and bod­ies, we have the abil­ity to throw the ball,” Culig said. “It was work­ing, so we went that di­rec­tion.”

Coeur d’Alene also has to make the long bus trip to the Trea­sure Val­ley this week. The Vik­ings are 9-1 on their home field in the play­offs the past nine sea­sons but just 4-4 out­side of North Idaho.

No. 4-ranked Moun­tain View (8-2) heads to Po­catello with a for­mi­da­ble task.

No. 3 High­land (9-1) is the de­fend­ing state champ. The Rams re­turn their start­ing quar­ter­back, Kobe Tracy, and top play­maker, Landon De­muzio, from last year’s ti­tle team. And High­land re­mains next to un­beat­able in Holt Arena, where they are 40-5 the past six years, in­clud­ing 8-1 in the play­offs.

The lone team to ven­ture into that dragon’s lair and win in the play­offs? Moun­tain View in 2016.

The Mav­er­icks pack up the state’s top scor­ing of­fense (43.3 ppg) for the road trip, one that has found an­other gear the sec­ond half of the sea­son. Moun­tain View has scored 50.3 points per game dur­ing its six-game win­ning streak after mak­ing a cou­ple tweaks to its of­fen­sive line.

Se­nior quar­ter­back Noah Bryant has flown un­der the radar this sea­son with all the weapons around him. He hasn’t piled up the yards (2,000) other gun­slingers have, but his 26-to-3 touch­down-to-in­ter­cep­tion ra­tio re­mains un­par­al­leled.

That ef­fi­ciency will come in handy against a stout High­land de­fense. While the Rams grad­u­ated Ohio State signee Tommy To­giai, they still rank sec­ond in the state (16.3 ppg).

“(Bryant) is a two-year starter, so he’s seen pretty much every de­fense and cov­er­age,” Moun­tain View coach Judd Benedick said. “He’s real com­fort­able in our of­fense and re­laxed in big games, so he can make the right reads and de­ci­sions. He’s a re­ally good de­ci­sion maker.”

The Mav­er­icks have a path to pull the up­set in Po­catello. But after High­land throt­tled Ea­gle 41-14 last week, the Rams have estab­lished them­selves as de­served fa­vorites against any SIC team not named Rocky Moun­tain.

VAL­LIVUE AT BISHOP KELLY, 7 P.M. FRI­DAY

Let’s hope the re­match is half as ex­cit­ing as the first matchup.

Bishop Kelly beat Val­livue 46-39 on Aug. 31 when full­back Thomas Rizzo scored on a 1-yard touch­down run with 1.8 sec­onds left. But that game was 10 weeks ago, mean­ing both the Knights and Fal­cons look a lot dif­fer­ent than they did in Week 2.

“It could be a 10-7 game,” Bishop Kelly coach Tim Bren­nan joked.

Bishop Kelly has mor­phed into a de­fen­sive jug­ger­naut since then. The Knights have posted four shutouts and own the state’s sec­ond-stingi­est de­fense at 14.8 points per game. Take away the 39 points Val­livue scored, and Bishop Kelly would have the state’s top unit.

Line­backer Luke McLaugh­lin leads the crew with 9.6 tack­les per game and 10 sacks. But the Knights rely on a bounty of tough, hard­nosed, throw­back play­ers to live up to their de­fen­sive tra­di­tion.

“BK is very dis­ci­plined in what they do, very well coached and con­fi­dent,” Val­livue coach Layne Cof­fin said. “You’re not go­ing to be able to just go in there and play foot­ball. They’ve been to the state cham­pi­onship three of the last four years for a rea­son. So you’re go­ing to have to go in there and fight for ev­ery­thing you get from those guys.”

Mean­while, Val­livue’s of­fense has grown into an ex­plo­sive unit only seen in video games. The Fal­cons lead the 4A clas­si­fi­ca­tion with 46.5 points and 501 yards per game, in­clud­ing 374 on the ground. Ju­nior quar­ter­back Lan Lari­son (3,458 to­tal yards, 40 TDs) head­lines the group with his abil­ity to run through, around and past de­fend­ers, and he’s nearly as dan­ger­ous through the air.

He’s not alone as run­ning back Car­son Childs (1,194 rush­ing yards, 14 TDs) and jack-of-all­trades Jay­den Mo­ran (1,280 to­tal yards, 22 TDs) keep op­po­nents hon­est. And the Fal­cons’ de­fense has scored three TDs in the past three weeks.

But make no mis­take, any plan to slow Val­livue starts with Lari­son.

“He’s the leader of their of­fense. There’s no dis­pute of that,” Bren­nan said. “He’s as good of a foot­ball player that I’ve coached against in a long time. He’s go­ing to make plays. We’ve just got to try to limit the num­ber of plays he makes.”

Set­tle in for a shootout. Val­livue has made a his­toric run and could reach the fi­nals for the first time since 2000. But ex­pect Bishop Kelly’s ex­pe­ri­ence deep in the play­offs to carry the day. and No. 1 Hill­crest (11-1) en­ter this matchup with a lot of sim­i­lar­i­ties. Both are run­ning for more than 300 yards per game. Both fea­ture dual-quar­ter­back sys­tems. And both are any­thing but tra­di­tional pow­ers.

Hill­crest’s beefy line and dom­i­nant run­ning game over­pow­ered Mid­dle­ton last week to run for 465 yards. Any chance Nampa has of win­ning its first state ti­tle since 1984 starts with slow­ing that freight train.

“Look­ing at the sit­u­a­tion, we are glad we had the op­por­tu­nity to pre­pare for a back like (Columbia’s Al­la­mar Alexan­der) last week,” Nampa coach Dan Holtry said. “It kind of set us up for this week. The kids feel pretty con­fi­dent. We just have to be stout against the run and stop any big plays.”

Nampa fea­tures its own bevy of ex­plo­sive weapons. Take one away, and an­other steps up to fill the void as the Bull­dogs are putting up 39.3 points per game.

Hill­crest fields the 4A’s top de­fense at 12.2 points per game and is hold­ing op­po­nents to 62 yards on the ground. But Holtry said the Bull­dogs won’t aban­don a ground game cru­cial to their his­toric turn­around.

“We’re go­ing to open things up and get our ath­letes in space and make some things hap­pen,” he said.

But Nampa hasn’t left the Trea­sure Val­ley since 2012, when it played in Twin Falls. That will come back to haunt the Bull­dogs on Fri­day.

HOMEDALE AT TIM­BER­LAKE, 2 P.M. SATUR­DAY

This is the lock of the week as our com­puter model gives No. 1 Homedale (10-0) the best odds of mov­ing on at 84 per­cent. The 3A Tro­jans have blown out each and every op­po­nent they’ve faced this sea­son. A 20-point win over Good­ing last week is the clos­est game they’ve played so far.

Un­ranked Tim­ber­lake (7-3) stands as a sur­prise semi­fi­nal team and the 3A In­ter­moun­tain League’s first fi­nal four team since 2012. Homedale must take a long bus trip to Spirit Lake north of Coeur d’Alene, but it won’t find much trou­ble on the way to its first state cham­pi­onship game since 1999, when it played at the 2A level.

WILDER VS. VAL­LEY AT HOLT ARENA, 1:30 P.M. SATUR­DAY

The 1A Divi­sion I West­ern Idaho Con­fer­ence has long strug­gled in the play­offs. But un­ranked Wilder (10-1) con­tin­ued to prove the doubters wrong last week, up­set­ting Lap­wai 44-36 when Gar­rett Sed­lacek scored the gamewin­ning TD with 52 sec­onds left.

An­other up­set would re­ally send shock waves through the state. But No. 2-ranked Val­ley has ap­peared des­tined for the fi­nals all sea­son, rout­ing Clear­wa­ter Val­ley 56-0 to open the play­offs.

SAL­MON RIVER VS. LIGHT­HOUSE CHRIS­TIAN AT HOLT ARENA, 4 P.M. SATUR­DAY

No. 3 Light­house Chris­tian (10-1) en­ters with a rare com­mod­ity for an 8-man team, a de­fense hold­ing op­po­nents to 10.8 points per game.

But no one has stopped No. 5 Sal­mon River (7-3) since Canyon Harper re­turned from an in­jury.

DARIN OSWALD doswald@ida­hostates­man.com

Rocky Moun­tain se­nior Kee­gan Echevar­ria dives for the ball on a muffed punt re­turn as Skyview’s Hec­tor Capetillo ap­proaches. Skyview re­cov­ered the ball in the sec­ond quar­ter Oct. 12 at Rocky Moun­tain High School.

KATHER­INE JONES kjones@ida­hostates­man.com

Val­livue quar­ter­back Lan Lari­son has the Fal­cons in the state semi­fi­nals for the first time since 2000.

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