THOMAS — Mistakes nearly ended the Snake River Panthers football season on Saturday afternoon. Five turnovers will normally lead to defeat but the Panthers found a way to overcome that with a strong running game and some timely passing for a 32-26 comeback victory over Salmon in the first round of the state football playoffs.
"It was ugly but our kids played through a lot of adversity and they played with a lot of heart," Snake River head coach Jeff Dalley said. "You can't take anything away from them. Martin Hrabik was puking his guts out during half time and then came out and had a great game for us, I don't think that he missed a pass and our o-line stepped it up for us when we needed them. It was a great team effort all the way around."
The game started ominously enough for the Panthers as a C.J. Toulouse pass was picked off on the 41-yard line in the games first possession.
Salmon promptly turned that interception into 8-points as they marched the ball down the field for the games first score and a two-point conversion.
Snake River then fumbled the ball on the ensuing kick off and it looked as if they were going to be in big trouble less than four minutes into the game.
The defense stepped up big on the next play however, forcing a fumble that was recovered by Yoni Rodriguez, giving the ball back to the offense on their own 26-yard line.
Six minutes later Emmett Smith plunged across the goal line for the first of his three touchdown afternoon from 2-yards out and after a two-point run by Toulouse, the game was tied at 8-8.
After a Salmon touchdown midway through the second quarter that same duo combined for 8 more points late in the half.
With :39 remaining on the clock, Toulouse powered his way into the end zone from 2-yards out. Smith capped the 2-point conversion and the score stood at 16-14.
Salmon wasn't done however, using the last remaining seconds to march down the field, courtesy of some big plays in the passing game, eventually scoring with 0:01 on a 29-yard pass into the end zone. The point after attempt was no good but Salmon led 20-16 heading into the half.
"We talked about some adjustments that we needed to make and coach Dunn, our motivator, I wouldn't call it a win one for the gipper but a lets get it done speech," coach Dalley said. "They got that score at the end of the half and then they score on the kick off and that could have broke our hearts but the kids showed what they are made of and played through all that stuff."
Whatever was said at half time failed to manifest itself on the kick off as Salmon took the second half kick, returning it 86-yards for a touchdown and a 26-16 lead.
That was all the Panthers allowed for the remainder of the half though, as they turned up the pressure on the Savages, holding them to just 1 first down for the remainder of the game.
The offense then went to work, behind a fired up offensive line, the Panthers reeled off huge chunks of yardage in the running game, mainly on the back of Smith who finished the day with 83-yards on 27 carries none bigger than his 24th carry which was his third touchdown and the eventual game winner with 3:53 remaining in the game.
"I just wanted to come out and try to help the team get a win and just play my hardest," Smith said. "Our offensive line started calling out their blocks which was a big difference for us."
SHS 8 12 6 0 - 26
SRHS 8 8 0 16 - 32
Snake River 32, Salmon 26
SHS 8:13 Blake 5 yd run (Brekke 2-point run) 0-8
SRHS 2:23 Smith 2 yd run (Toulouse 2-point run) 8-8
SHS 7:38 Nooner 32 yd pass from Tibbitts (Kick failed) 8-14
SRHS 0:39 Toulouse 2 yd run (Emith 2-point run) 16-14
SHS 0:01 Blake 29 yd pass from Tibbitts (run failed) 16-20
SHS 11:47 Brekke 86 yd kick return (pass no good) 16-26
SRHS 11:25 Smith 1 yd run (Toulouse pass to Van Orden) 24-26
SRHS 3:53 Smith 1 yd run (Toulouse 2-point run) 32-26
Passing: Toulouse 10-15 176 2int Rushing: Smith 27-83 3 td, Toulouse 7-14 td, Williams 9-51, Castaneda 2-9 Receiving: Hrabik 5-99, Williams 3-50, Van Orden 2-27