For the Shelley Russets, there’s just something about playing the Fruitland Grizzlies in the 3A state championship game.
Shelley’s last two titles came directly at the expense of Fruitland. In 2007, the Russets prevailed 19-13, and it was a 25-14 final in 2009.
This year’s title rematch wasn’t nearly as close.
From the opening snap, Shelley held the game’s momentum and cruised to a 37-10 victory to claim the 3A state championship Friday night at Eagle High School.
It is the school’s fifth title.
Shelley took the game’s opening drive 65 yards for the score. Chad Leckington, on a quarterback keeper, sprinted in from 37 yards, untouched for the early 7-0 lead.
Fruitland responded with a long drive of its own. But on fourth and two from Shelley’s 10-yard line, Grizzlies’ quarterback Joe Martarano was stuffed on a sneak attempt.
Shelley took over and from its own nine-yard line. Three plays later, facing a fourth and one from their own 18, the Russets went decided to go for it on an early gamble.
This time, quarterback Chad Leckington was stuffed.
But the Russets defense held firm and limited Fruitland to a field goal.
From there, it was all Russets, because in the biggest game of the year, the special teams, defense and offense all excelled.
Shelley’s punt team pinned Fruitland deep in its own territory. The defense was relentless the entire night with seven, eight defenders flying to the ball. And senior quarterback Chad Leckington repeatedly found his favorite senior receiver McKay Cannon open downfield on a variety or routes — and Cannon consistently made mid-air adjustments to go up and get the ball.
Leckington found five different receivers, completed 15 of his 20 pass attempts for 170 yards and two touchdowns. Plus, he ran for another 45 yards and one score.
Just like all season, Leckington’s best connection in the air was with Cannon. Cannon had 9 catches for 117 yards. Along with a touchdown catch, Cannon had a seven-yard interception return in the second quarter that put the Russets up 14-3 early.
Once Shelley had built a double-digit lead, the Grizzlies and their power running game was ill-equipped to strike quickly.
When Fruitland quarterback Joe Martarano did drop back to throw he struggled to find open receivers, and Shelley defenders constanly harassed the 6-foot-4-inch signal caller.
The Boise State commit finished with 82 yards on 17 carries and 4-of-13 for 69 yards and two interceptions.
Shelley 37, Fruitland 10
Shelley 7 14 13 3 — 37
Fruitland 0 3 0 7 — 10
S — Chad Leckington 37 run (Matt Scarr kick failed)
F — Sid Rangel 33 field goal
S — McKay Cannon 7 yd interception return (Dalton Nelson catch from Leckington)
S — Dalton Nelson 17 catch from Leckington (kick good)
S — McKay Cannon 34 catch from Leckington (kick good)
S — Josh Gutierrez 3 run (kick failed)
S — Matt Scarr 32-yd field goal
F — Joe Martarano 34 run (Sig Rangel kick)
Rushing: Shelley — McKay Cannon 1-9, Chad Leckington 8-45-1, Josh Gutierrez 4-19-1, Randy Bauer 8-34, Cameron Waite 1-8, Dakota Robinson 1-(-3), Jason Hathaway 1-(-1), Jaco Sutherin 1-8, Tyler Fredrickson 2--(-2). Fruitland — Joe Martarano 17-82-1, Lan LaCrone 5-0, Kris Kolinger 10-9.
Receiving: Shelley — McKay Cannon 9-117-1, Dalton Nelson 4-45-1, Jason Hathaway 1-12, Garrett Nelson 1-6, Josh Peterson 1-2. Fruitland — Graves Hagen 3-30, Chase Fidler 1-39.
Passing: Shelley — Chad Leckington 15-20-170-2-0, Tyler Fredrickson 1-1-12. Fruitland — Joe Martarano 4-13-69-0-2.