EAGLE Charlie Shepherd Sr. wasnt the least bit shy about celebrating with his team.
The Salmon River High football coach jumped up and down on the sideline, shouting and congratulating his players as the Savages took a knee for one final time.
The ensuing celebration involved tears, a lot of laughter and one proud papa.
Shepherd Sr. successfully led Salmon River of Riggins to its second 1A Division II state championship in four seasons with a 53-38 victory over defending champion Lighthouse Christian on Friday night at Eagle Highs Thunder Stadium.
Charlie Shepherd Jr. was the Savages senior star of the night and the District Threes player of the year finishing with 14 catches for 184 yards and two touchdowns.
As a coach, this is the most proud Ive been of a team, Shepherd Sr. said. As a dad, it just leaves me almost speechless.
Salmon River entered Fridays game as the underdog after losing 48-0 at home to the Lions in last years state quarterfinals.
But this time around, the Savages didnt leave anything on the field.
To be honest, it was just a constant battle, Shepherd Jr. said. We just kept at it and kept at it until the other team started wearing down. The turning point was when that clock ran out in the end and it was over for sure.
For three quarters, the Lions and Savages matched each other blow for blow.
Lighthouse Christian of Twin Falls scored on its first possession, driving 75 yards in less than two minutes. Junior quarterback Logan Bosma completed the drive with an 11-yard touchdown pass to senior receiver Eli Berndt. Sophomore running back Adam Taylor added a two-point conversion run to put the Lions out front 8-0.
Salmon River didnt falter on its ensuing possession, tying the game at 8-8 on junior quarterback Leighton Vander Eschs 1-yard stroll into the end zone.
It was the first of two touchdown passes for Vander Esch, who completed 28-of-45 passes for 340 yards and added 169 rushing yards and four more TDs.
Weve just been dreaming of this for so long, Vander Esch said. Its finally happened so, its just awesome. It feels so awesome.
The Savages held a 15-14 advantage at the end of the first quarter, highlighted by Shepherd Jr.s 78-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.
Last year we were young and we hadnt been battle tested, Charlie Sr. said. Today, the toughness came through in the end because I think the teams were fairly evenly matched as far as skill level.
We could play smashmouth football with them this year, and last year we couldnt.
Salmon River led 23-22 at the end of the first half and 31-30 at the end of the third quarter.
But by the fourth quarter, the Lions began to lose step with the Savages. Salmon River scored three unanswered touchdowns to amass a 53-30 lead with 3:25 remaining in the game.
We just wore them down with toughness, Shepherd Sr. said.
Rachel Roberts: 377-6422; Twitter: @IDS_VarsityX