The Fruitland High football team has no trouble winning at home. Since 2006, the Grizzlies are 41-1 at the Ben Kerfoot Athletic Complex.
This season, coach Bruce Schlaich wanted to take his Grizzlies out of their comfort zone, agreeing to play five of eight regular-season games on the road.
Including playoff games, Fruitland has emerged from its schedule with an unblemished record, earning victories in Middleton, El Dorado Hills, Calif., Baker City, Ore., Payette, Homedale, Moscow and Spirit Lake.
The kids are just resilient, Schlaich said. No matter what is thrown on their plate, they seem to be able to deal with it.
Schlaich drew up the schedule with the intent of better preparing his team for the one game the Grizzlies value most the 3A state championship.
Fruitland has played in the title game every year since 2006, losing four of six, but winning championships in 2006 and 2010.
The Grizzlies (11-0) have their eye on another title when they play Shelley (11-0) at 8 p.m. Friday at Eagle Highs Thunder Stadium.
The two teams have met twice before in the championship game, with Shelley winning 19-13 in 2007 and 25-14 in 2009. Both games were played at Holt Arena in Pocatello.
Having a great program and the commitment from the kids, I think that earns you the right to get there, but once you get to the championship game, youve got to be good and youve got to be lucky, Schlaich said. In a couple of those games we had some breaks go against us and they were able to make some plays toward the end that made the difference in the ball game.
Fridays game has been in the making since the start of the season.
Fruitland has been ranked No. 1 in the state media poll since late August. Shelley which spent the two previous seasons in the 4A classification has been the states No. 2 team in the 3A poll since the second week.
In the final poll of the regular season, Fruitland finished No. 1 with seven first-place votes, and Shelley was second with five first-places votes.
In the back of the kids mind, and Im sure in the back of their kids minds, weve always been hanging out there and theyve always been hanging out there for us, Schlaich said.
We were thinking that if we take care of business, we felt like those were the two best teams in the state, and now people are going to get what they want because (this matchup) is all theyve talked about since day one.
Quarterback Joe Martarano and running back Kris Olinger were freshmen when the Grizzlies lost to Shelley in 2009.
As senior leaders this time around, theyre hopeful for a championship to end their football careers.
Martarano a four-year starter, Boise State football recruit and professional baseball prospect has passed for 1,272 yards and 15 touchdowns, while adding 473 rushing yards and nine more TDs. Olinger leads the Grizzlies in rushing with 750 yards and 10 touchdowns. Both also start at linebacker.
I think this is the most motivated weve been, Martarano said. Everyone has been doubting us after last year, and Shelley is a pretty big rival. We want to come out on top.
Said Olinger: This means everything to me. Ever since last year Ive just wanted to get right back to this game so I could finally get another ring and win it for my team.
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SHELLEY AT A GLANCE
Rushing leader: Josh Gutteriz, 62 carries, 508 yards, 4 touchdowns.
Passing leader: Chad Leckington, 114-of-167, 2,055 yards, 30 TDs, 6 INTs.
Receiving leader: McKay Cannon, 48 receptions, 1,068 yards, 17 TDs.
Team offensive totals: 2,117 rushing yards with 26 TDs; 2,656 passing yards with 38 TDs.
Tackling leader: Trevin Swensen, 111 tackles.
Sacks leaders: Trevin Swensen, Trevor Smith, 4 sacks.
Interception leader: McKay Cannon, 7 INTs.
Forced fumble leaders: Trevin Swensen, Bryce Jensen, 3.
Team defensive totals: 1,015 rushing yards with 7 TDs; 1,296 passing yards with 6 TDs.