Fruitland ekes out semifinal victory over Homedale

The Grizzlies avenge earlier loss to Homedale, advance to 3A state championship game.

rroberts@idahostatesman.comNovember 17, 2013 

HOMEDALE — Jerred Seamons didn’t recognize the signal Fruitland coach Ryan Tracy was trying to relay from the sideline.

So instead of spiking the ball to stop the clock with just seconds left in the game, the junior quarterback told Parker Stanger to run a slant route.

Tracy couldn’t be happier about the misunderstanding.

Seamons hit Stanger with a 5-yard touchdown pass with 7 seconds remaining, and senior Chase Fiddler punched in the two-point conversion for a 30-29 victory over Homedale in the 3A state semifinals Saturday at Deward Bell Stadium.

“We were scared that we weren’t going to get the ball off and we were wasting time,” Tracy said. “By the time I was telling him to spike it they were already going to the line, so good thing he didn’t listen to me.”

Stanger’s touchdown brought the Grizzlies within 29-28, and Tracy felt confident he’d rather go for the win.

“We were banged up, and I’ll take my kids one play against anybody,” Tracy said. “The coaches were in my ear wanting to (go for two). When everybody wants to do it, it makes it an easy call.”

The Grizzlies (10-1) will play Shelley (10-1) in next week’s championship game at Holt Arena in Pocatello. The game is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. Saturday.

It will be the eighth year in a row that Fruitland has advanced to the title game, and the Grizzlies hope to add to championships in 2006 and 2010.

Tracy made it clear that whether it is the Grizzlies’ first time playing for the championship — or hundredth time — history is of little significance.

“We don’t look at the past. We’re going to the future,” he said. “It just happens to be eight years running, and these kids are sick of hearing of the past.”

The recent past did serve as motivation for the Grizzlies heading into Saturday’s rematch with 3A Snake River Valley foe Homedale.

The Trojans topped the Grizzlies 34-12 in October to win their first regular-season title at the 3A level, ending Fruitland’s run of seven in a row.

“This time we came out pumped up, and we came out as a family,” said Fiddler, who finished with 85 rushing yards and two TDs. “Before when things went wrong, we kind of fell apart and we didn’t stay together. This time, we really did. We had our highs and we had our lows, but we stayed together as a family, and that’s what it’s really all about.”

Fruitland took advantage of three Homedale turnovers in the first half — two interceptions and a fumble — to take a 14-0 advantage into the break.

But Homedale stormed back for two touchdowns in the third quarter and a 15-14 lead.

The score was tied 22-22 with 8:37 remaining in the game.

Homedale responded with a 12-play, 82-yard drive finished off by an 18-yard touchdown pass from sophomore quarterback Lawsen Matteson to senior receiver Lane Sale for a 29-22 lead with 3:45 to play.

The Trojans’ defense did its best to contain the Grizzlies, but a pass interference call with just more than a minute to go turned a failed pass on fourth-and-12 into a fourth-and-inches opportunity.

Seamons got the first down on a quarterback sneak, and three plays later found Stanger in the end zone for the winning score.

It was a heartbreaking loss for Homedale (9-2), which was enjoying its best run in the 3A SRV since joining the classification in 2004.

“In the big scheme of things, to have the best season that we’ve had at the 3A level, to make the run like we did as deep as we did, it’s kind of that stepping stone that you have to have in place in order to have a successful program,” Homedale coach Matt Holtry said. “So I’m just really happy for the program and where the kids brought it along this year.”

Rachel Roberts: 377-6422, Twitter: @IDS_VarsityX

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