This weekend’s high school football state semifinal previews

rroberts@idahostatesman.comNovember 15, 2013 

CAPITAL HEADS NORTH Coeur d’Alene will be starting a backup quarterback in its 5A state semifinal game against Capital after senior starter Gunnar Amos broke his ankle last week. Capital coach Todd Simis wants the Eagles to put pressure on sophomore Austin Lee from the get-go. “We don’t want him to get into a comfort zone or a groove,” Simis said. “He’s going to be nervous and we’ve got to take advantage of that youth and make it hard early.” Capital practiced at home Thursday and then drove to Grangeville, where Simis said the team planned to take in the new movie “Thor: The Dark World” and then stay overnight in a hotel. Capital will drive the rest of they way to Coeur d’Alene on Friday. Above, Capital running back Alex Kingmixay is congratulated by teammates Isaiah Jackson, left, and Blake Dittman, right, after scoring a touchdown against Borah on Oct. 17.

KATHERINE JONES — Statesman file

  • PLAYOFF TICKETS

    General admission is $5 for this weekend’s state playoff games, and discount admission is $4. Senior citizens, junior and senior high school students with an activity card and students in grades 1-6 may purchase discount tickets. Children 6 and younger are admitted free. Prices at Holt Arena are $1 more per ticket.

5A SEMIFINALS

Rocky Mountain vs. Highland

This game will showcase some of the state’s top talent, assuming several of Highland’s players are cleared. Junior offensive lineman Tristen Hoge pulled a groin muscle in the quarterfinals, and running back Thad Hasen suffered a concussion. Highland coach Gino Mariani said both are game-time decisions. Hoge (6-4, 285) could be one of the best players to come out of the state of Idaho. He has offers from Notre Dame, Boise State, BYU, Cal, Duke, Florida, LSU, North Carolina, Northwestern, Oregon State, Penn State, Stanford, UCLA, Utah, Washington and Washington State. Quarterback Tommy Jewell leads a Highland offense that averages 40 points per game while giving up 12.2. Rocky Mountain features Boise State commits Khalil Oliver (DB) and Kekoa Nawahine (DB/WR) and Oregon State recruit Jake Knight (TE).

Capital vs. Coeur d’Alene

Heading north for a playoff game hasn’t gone well for a 5A SIC team since Eagle won at Coeur d’Alene in 2009 on its way to a state title. Capital hopes to leave Coeur d’Alene with a victory, and helping the Eagles’ cause is the fact that the Vikings will be playing without their starting quarterback. The Coeur d’Alene Press confirmed that senior Gunnar Amos broke his right ankle in two places in the first half of last week’s 52-9 victory over Timberline. Sophomore Austin Lee is expected to start for Amos. Capital, which earned the District Three’s No. 1 seed, last advanced to the state championship game in 2009 and hasn’t won a title since 1991. The Eagles have a diverse group of offensive weapons, headlined by junior quarterback Conner Poulson, who has passed for 2,165 yards and rushed for 956 with 39 touchdowns.

4A SEMIFINALS

Jerome vs. Skyview

Skyview hosts a state semifinal for the first time in school history, and the Hawks are hoping it is a night to remember. Skyview has won nine games in a row since a season-opening loss to top-ranked Bishop Kelly. Skyview has rushed for more than 2,000 yards and passed for more than 2,500. The Hawks have scored more points than any other 4A team this season, averaging 42.6 per game. Jerome, the District Four runner-up, has four losses this season, including a 56-22 defeat to 4A SIC regular-season champion BK, which edged Skyview 14-10. The Tigers have won their past four games and are in the semifinals for the first time since 2008. Jerome last won a state title in 1986, and Skyview is chasing the first title in program history.

Bishop Kelly vs. Century

Century won a state championship three times in four seasons from 2000 to 2003, but has not appeared in the semifinals since 2003. Although playoff experience won’t be on their side, the Diamondbacks have been tested in tough games this season. Their three losses to Highland, Skyline and Rigby were by a combined seven points. Unbeaten Bishop Kelly has been dominant in the majority of its games. The Knights have limited their past five opponents to a touchdown or less, including shutouts against Mountain Home and Middleton. BK is the only team in the 4A classification to have limited its opponents to a combined total of less than 100 points. The Knights have given up 88 points, and their next closest playoff competitor is Century with 126.

Read more about the Bishop Kelly-Century matchup here

3A SEMIFINALS

Fruitland vs. Homedale

These teams met once during the Snake River Valley regular season, with Homedale winning 34-12 on Oct. 11. It was Homedale’s first win against Fruitland since the Trojans joined the 3A classification in 2004. Homedale had lost 11 games in a row to the Grizzlies. Fruitland aims to advance to the state championship for the eighth consecutive season, and add to victories in the 2006 and 2010 title games. This is Homedale’s first appearance in the semifinals at the 3A level, but the Trojans have been nothing short of dominant. In their first two playoff games, the Trojans have won by a combined score of 119-0. Sophomore running back Josh Tolmie scored five TDs in last week’s win over Bonners Ferry, and Homedale’s defense held the Badgers to 145 total yards.

Read more about the Fruitland-Homedale matchup here

Gooding vs. Shelley

These teams met in the semifinals last year, with Shelley rolling to a 47-7 victory on its way to a third championship in six seasons and fifth overall since 2003. The Russets have not lost to an Idaho team this season and have shut out three of their past four opponents, including a 26-0 win against Snake River in last week’s quarterfinals. Gooding is led by 2012 All-Idaho first-team selections Josh Finley (RB) and Cole McGinnis (OL/DL), but the Senators have been vulnerable at times, losing to Homedale 27-14 and 2A Grangeville 24-17.

2A SEMIFINALS

West Side vs. Firth

Firth has won the past three meetings with West Side, dating back to the start of the 2012 season, including a 24-12 victory in both teams’ 2013 season opener. That doesn’t mean the Cougars are destined to continue their recent hold on the Pirates. West Side has qualified for the semifinals four consecutive seasons and has the most recent state championship among the two teams with a victory in 2010. Firth is attempting to advance to the title game for the third season in a row, but hasn’t won it all since back-to-back titles in 2005 and 2006.

Declo vs. Wendell

These conference rivals have met once this season, with Wendell winning 7-6 in early October to claim the top spot in District Four. Since the loss, defending state champion Declo has won five games in a row, including a tough quarterfinal win on the road last week at Grangeville. Wendell’s only loss came against 3A playoff team Gooding. Wendell, which is coached by former Boise State running back Jon Helmandollar, last won a state championship in 2003.

1A DIV. I SEMIFINALS

Prairie vs. Troy

In the first seven games of the season, Troy limited each opponent to a touchdown or less, including five shutouts. The past three games, however, Troy has allowed 28, 30 and 20 points, which should give Prairie some hope. Troy finished as the District Two champion, while Prairie was the runner-up following a 53-28 loss to the Trojans on Nov. 4. This is the first semifinal appearance for Prairie since 2010, when it lost to Troy 34-14. The Trojans went on to win the championship that year. Prairie’s most recent title was in 2008.

Raft River vs. Hagerman

Unbeaten Hagerman has not played a close game all season, scoring an average of 60 points a game while allowing 11.1. Senior quarterback Kade Kress — the 2011 1A All-Idaho Player of the Year — has passed for 2,217 yards and 32 touchdowns with one interception. Kress was injured in the playoffs last season, likely costing the Pirates a shot at back-to-back titles (they won in 2011). All this is bad news for Raft River, which lost 56-8 to Hagerman on Sept. 20. Raft River did avenge one of its two losses this season with a 30-26 victory over Challis in last week’s quarterfinals.

1A DIV. II SEMIFINALS

Salmon River vs. Dietrich

Despite being the defending state champions with an unbeaten record and the top ranking in the state media poll, Salmon River must hit the road for the semifinals. The Savages have played only one full game this season; the rest have ended early because of the 50-point mercy rule. Senior quarterback Leighton Vander Esch leads the Savages’ attack, passing for 1,657 yards and rushing for 1,134 yards with 45 total touchdowns. Junior Jimmy Shepherd has combined for 1,292 yards with 20 TDs. Dietrich’s only loss this season came against Lighthouse Christian in late October, and the Blue Devils are coming off a 50-0 win over Castleford.

Lighthouse Christian vs. Council

Lighthouse Christian, based in Twin Falls, aims to advance to the championship game for the third consecutive season. The Lions, like Salmon River, are unbeaten but don’t host this semifinal. Instead, Lighthouse Christian travels to District Three runner-up Council. The Lumberjacks proved their playoff potential with a 38-28 win over District Two champion Deary last week, but their defense will need to be at its best against the Lions. Lighthouse Christian has posted 50 or more points seven times this season with the help of 2012 All-Idaho first team running back Adam Taylor, who has rushed for 1,348 yards and 23 TDs this season. Council is led by senior QB Mick Wilson, who has passed for 1,338 yards and rushed for 1,112 with 33 TDs.

Rachel Roberts: 377-6422, Twitter: @IDS_VarsityX

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