POCATELLO High-powered offenses were dominant throughout the 5A Southern Idaho Conference football season.
It was a different picture Friday night at Holt Arena.
Highlands defense refused to budge, holding Rocky Mountain to a single touchdown in a 24-6 victory in the 5A state semifinals.
The Grizzlies scored on their opening drive and never saw the end zone again as the Rams forced two interceptions and a pair of fumbles.
Defensively we kept their receivers in front of us and made them make plays, Highland coach Gino Mariani said. I think they dropped a lot of balls that they normally dont drop. We made them earn everything they got, and that was big.
Rocky Mountain did a good job of disguising an injury to senior quarterback Riley Bradshaw, who hurt his knee in the fourth quarter of last weeks quarterfinal win against Eagle.
But after taking several big hits in the first half, Bradshaw had a noticeable limp when he returned from the locker room after the break.
Riley was playing on a bad knee tonight and we tried to hide it, Rocky Mountain coach Scott Criner said. It threw him off on his rhythm a little bit in his passing game. We tried to do a couple things run-game-wise and theyre good on defense.
Rocky Mountains first drive started with promise. Criner made a bold move to go for it on fourth-and-7 from Rockys own 36.
Bradshaw hit Jason Crimmins with a 12-yard pass to make the gamble look good, and the Grizzlies completed the drive three plays later with a 38-yard pass to Kekoa Nawahine in the end zone.
Bradshaws two-point conversion pass to Jake Knight was called back for an illegal formation penalty, and that was the beginning of the end for the Grizzlies.
Highland went up 14-6 just 33 seconds before the end of the first quarter, as senior Thad Hansen scored his second TD. Hansen caught a pass from quarterback Tommy Jewell in the flat and juked a defender to rumble 33 yards for the score.
Hansen opened the game with a 5-yard TD run after Rocky fumbled on the return of the opening kickoff. Hansen, who sustained a concussion in last weeks quarterfinals, finished with 20 carries for 87 yards and three total TDs.
Rocky Mountains first two possessions of the second quarter ended with interceptions. The first was picked off by Highland sophomore Greg Gwinn and the second by senior linebacker Danny Rasmussen.
The Rams were able to convert the second pick into a field goal, which senior kicker Dallan Rodriguez made from 22 yards out with 1:44 left before halftime.
The Grizzlies got one more look at the end zone before the break. Bradshaw drove the Grizzlies to the Rams 34-yard-line in four plays and then completed a 30-yard pass to Elijiah Armstrong with 6 seconds remaining, but Armstrong was stopped short of the goal line by a Highland defender that hit him so soundly his helmet was knocked off.
The Grizzlies were never able to get further than the Rams 25-yard-line the rest of the way, and Bradshaw was pulled several times in the fourth quarter as running back Jake Roper took over in the wildcat.
The kid is a warrior, he does a great job, Criner said of Bradshaw.
Bradshaw completed 18-of-42 for 245 yards, but the Rams held the Grizzlies ground game to 63 total yards.
We played as a team. We played fast. We played smart, Highland quarterback Tommy Jewel said. All those guys on defense did a wonderful job. They won the game for us.