BLACKFOOT — Well the opening round of the 2A and 3A state football tournament are in the books and as expected, Firth, Shelley and Snake River all advanced through the great eight playoffs and into the quarterfinal round.
Blackfoot won their final regular season game in the snow globe bowl with Rigby and they will kick off their playoff run on Friday. My fearless predictions were a perfect 5-0 last week, although I must confess I was hoping that Aberdeen would spoil my perfect week with a road win at Declo but alas, that was not to be. So, without further ado, my breakdown for this weeks intriguing week of playoff football.
Blackfoot (8-10 vs Bishop Kelly (8-1), Friday 6 p.m. @ Blackfoot High School
We start with the 4A quarterfinal match up between Blackfoot and Bishop Kelly. It's a shame that this game will be played in the quarterfinals because these two teams should be playing each other in the state championship game, they are both that talented.
For most of the season these two teams were ranked 1-2 in the state media polls and then on the same Friday evening Blackfoot lost to Madison and Bishop Kelly lost in double overtime to Middleton. Blackfoot remained on top of the 4A ranks with Middleton leapfrogging the Knights for second in the polls and in doing so, wrestling the conference championship away from the Knights.
On Friday, Blackfoot fans will be treated to a game which features two of the highest scoring teams in the state with Blackfoot rolling up 40 points per ball game and Bishop Kelly topping that at 48 points per outing.
Defensively, the two teams are close again with Blackfoot allowing just 19 points per game and the Knights surrendering just 14.
Speaking of defense, the Broncos will need to account for a pair of explosive players Knights with Cory Brady leading the way. The senior has been a demon, especially on special teams where he has several punt return touchdowns to his 2012 resume.
Junior quarterback Bowen Ogata took over the Bishop Kelly offense last year as a sophomore and under the tutelage of former Bishop Kelly standout and Colorado quarterback Cody Hawkins, Ogata has turned into a composed quarterback who seems to be able to make all the right decisions at just the right time.
Blackfoot will have some defensive players back from injury however led by the return of senior Cody Evans who should solidify a secondary who will need to be on their game to cool off the hot handed Ogata.
Blackfoot will then rely on their offense to come out swinging hopefully from the opening kick off where they have a talented return man in their own right with Colby Pearson. It is unlikely that the Knights will kick the ball to Pearson but if they do, don't be surprised if Pearson doesn't take it to the house.
In Bishop Kelly's lone loss Middleton was able to win the game with a strong rushing attack and Blackfoot has a stable of running backs who could pose a problem for the Knights.
All in all, I expect this game to be a shootout from the opening kick off and with all things being equal, don't be surprised if the game comes down to one of those superb athletes making a play in the special teams.
In a close one…..Blackfoot 48, Bishop Kelly 42.
Firth (9-0) vs Wendell (5-4), Thursday 5:15 p.m. @ Holt Arena
Fresh off of their destruction of Valley last Thursday evening the Firth Cougars return to the scene of the crime when they host the Trojans of Wendell tonight at 5;15 in Holt Arena.
Wendell enters the game coming off of a nice little win against McCall-Donnelly which they won on their home field.
Wendell averages 20 points on average per game and allow 24 points per ball game on the defensive end.
Meanwhile, Firth has been rolling people all season long to the tune of a 43-9 advantage and in the final two weeks of the season, Firth cracked the sixty point barrier in each contest with 62 and 63 points respectfully.
At the moment Mitch Orme is nearly untouchable behind a big offensive line that is creating offensive holes so big, that a fat sports writer like myself could scoot through.
In common opponents there was just one during the season as both teams easily dispatched with the team from Valley. In the game, Wendell had their highest offensive scoring outburst of the season in a 37-8 win while everyone remembers the 63-14 drubbing that the Cougars handed the Vikings last Thursday.
This should be another lop sided affair for the boys in blue with the biggest concern being when to bring in the back ups and keeping the starters healthy.
Firth cruises into the semi-finals… Firth 56, Wendell 12.
Shelley (9-0) vs Snake River (7-3), Friday 8:15 p.m. @ Holt Arena
What a shame that this game couldn't have been played one week later but beggars can't be choosers and in a classic Bingham County Clash, the two long time 3A rivals will square off on the turf at Holt Arena in the late game Friday evening.
The two teams played back-to-back last Saturday with Snake River avenging an earlier season loss to Sugar-Salem with a 28-24 win and Shelley putting a 60-7 whipping on an obviously overmatched Buhl squad.
For the Panthers, this season is eerily reminiscent to last years state championship run as they once again started with a win on opening night, lost three games in a row and then closed the season strong, currently riding a six game winning streak. In conference play, the Panthers outscored their conference foes by a dominating 129 - 12.
Nate Martin and an improving offensive line are the biggest reason that the Panthers are rolling at the moment as Martin ran behind that line to a school record for yardage in their win at American Falls and then he racked up an additional 141 yards last week in the dome.
In their seven wins it was the defense that carried the day though, allowing a paltry 9 points per ball game.
On the flip side are the Russets. Shelley are back in the 3A ranks following a two year hiatus in the 4A field and it's as if they never left. The Russets are in a word, dominant on the season thus far rolling through the season by outscoring their opponents 395 to 90. Perhaps most impressing about the season is the fact that each and every one of their five non-conference foes were either 4A or 5A schools so it's not like they are padding their statistics with cupcakes.
Shelley rushes the ball fairly well but in the end it's their passing attack which does the most damage with Chad Leckington finding McKay Cannon more often than not for big plays and big scores.
Of course all of the fan fare is trumpeted towards the offense but as Shelley head coach Travis Hobson is quick to point out, it is his underrated defense which has been the catalyst so far on the season as they regularly force three and outs and tons of turnovers.
On paper the edge goes to Shelley. Of course, in last years 3A state title game the edge went to Fruitland but the feisty Panthers found a way to rise to the occasion to win the blue trophy.
Expect the Panthers to come out and play their best game of the season on Friday just as they did against the Grizzlies last year.
That said, the Russets will not be caught off guard and quoting coach Hobson after last weeks win over Buhl, "The Shelley - Snake River relationship is not lovey-dovey. There's no hugs and kisses. They don't like us and we don't like them. They are a well coached team and I don't think that we will have any trouble getting the kids up for this one."
In a hard hitting and emotional affair…..Shelley 35, Snake River 21