POCATELLO – The Snake River Panthers took the lead on the second play from scrimmage and then out slugged the defending 3A state champion Fruitland Grizzlies 35-33 to capture yet another state title for the historic Panther football program at Idaho State’s Holt Arena on Friday evening.
“You only get so many moments like this in your lifetime and I am just so proud of the kids and what they accomplished tonight,” Snake River head coach Jeff Dalley said.
The fireworks started early as Wyatt Wray hit Bret Parkinson on a five yard slant that turned into a 96-yard touchdown when Parkinson split the defense and out raced the safeties to the endzone.
“I can’t say enough about Wyatt,” Coach Dalley said. “To stand on your own goal line and hit your first pass of the night like that was just huge.”
Wray was a monster all night as he stood tall in a pocket that was nearly perfect all evening long courtesy of one of the finest offensive line games of the season. Wray finished with 304 yards through the air, which included a pair of touchdown strikes.
“Fruitland is a great team and they had us outsized by a bit but our offensive line held up all night,” Coach Dalley said. “You just can’t say enough about those guys heart that they played with.”
Fruitland answered the opening salvo with a quick score of their own, midway through the first quarter making the game 6-6. On the ensuing possession the Panthers turned to their senior tailback Emmett Smith.
Smith, who finished the night with 116 rushing yards, took the hand off and then waltzed through a gaping hole in the Grizzly defense. Sixty-two yards later, Smith was in the endzone and the Panthers led 13-6.
“I’m so proud of our offensive line,” Smith said. “They held their own all night and gave me huge holes to run through.”
Fruitland pulled to within one point at 13-12 late in the first quarter and it looked as if the Grizzlies were going to take the lead early in the second quarter but Jett Bingham picked off an errant Grizzly pass giving the Panthers the ball on their own 36.
Two plays later, Wray found Chad VanOrden on a screen pass and 66-yards later, VanOrden was celebrating a touchdown catch. A Smith 2-point run made the score 21-12 Panthers, a score that held through the remainder of the half.
“The coaches always tell us to keep playing and that at the half it was 0-0,” Smith said. “We practice hard and we came out in the second half ready to play just as hard as we did in the first.”
Fruitland received the second half kick off and four minutes later they were in the endzone making the score 21-19. Wray and the Panthers answered right back however, as Wray found Parkinson for a 20-yard pitch and catch in the back of the endzone to push the lead back out to 28-19.
Parkinson would make another key play midway through the fourth quarter when he took away a sure interception from the Fruitland defender for a 32-yard gain when the Grizzlies were threatening to take the momentum away from the Panthers.
“What an incredible play by Bret,” Coach Dalley said. “I called an out and up which we were able to hit a couple times earlier in the game but the kid didn’t bite on it. That’s how our receivers have played all year though. When Wyatt throws the ball our receivers go out and get the ball.”
Moments later, Smith capitalized on the effort as he capped the drive with a hard fought 5 yard touchdown run which saw the big back break at least five would be Grizzly tackles.
“I don’t know what was going on,” Smith said. “My head got pushed down and I just was trying to keep my legs moving and when I looked up, I was in the endzone.”
That was all the scoring for the Panthers and Fruitland was able to notch a touchdown with 6:00 remaining in the fourth, pulling the score to 35-33.
Fruitland held on the next defensive possession forcing a punt. The Panthers punt coverage team was equal to the task as they pinned the Grizzlies on their own 7-yard line.
Two minutes later, Travis Robertson turned in one of the finest plays of his prep career when he forced a Grizzly fumble, giving the Panthers the ball back on their own 35 yard line and after a pair of first downs by the Panther offense, the Panthers had wrapped up their state title.
“Travis has a motor that just won’t quit,” Coach Dalley said. “I have to say, great kids make big plays and they did that tonight.”
SNAKE RIVER 35, FRUITLAND 33 Fruitland 12 0 14 7 - 33 Snake River 13 8 7 7 - 35 First quarter SR – Bret Parkinson 96 pass from Wyatt Wray (Cooper Peterson kick wide left), 11:07 F – Joe Martarano 17 run (Sid Rangel kick wide right), 8:11 SR – Emmett Smith 62 run (Peterson kick), 5:51 F – Daulton Blackwell 32 run (Martarano run failed), 2:45 Second quarter SR – Chad Van Orden 66 pass from Wyatt Wray (Smith run), 6:23 Third quarter F – Alec Dhaenens 21 pass from Martarano (Rangel kick), 8:37 SR – Parkinson 20 pass from Wray (Peterson kick), 1:31 F – Dhaenens 50 pass from Martarano (Rangel kick), 0:43 Fourth quarter SR – Smith 5 run (Peterson kick), 6:52 F – Hagen Graves 37 pass from Martarano (Rangel kick), 6:00