POCATELLO - Fruitland can't solve the Shelley puzzle.
The Grizzlies came close - oh, so close - but a final game-winning drive stalled before it ever started and Fruitland dropped a 17-14 decision to the Shelley Russets in the 3A state championship Saturday at Holt Arena in Pocatello.
Fruitland (10-2) has reached the state title game each of the past eight seasons, but the Grizzlies have lost six of those, including four times to Shelley (11-1).
"It's tough. It's something that drives me crazy," Fruitland head coach Ryan Tracy said. "It drives the kids crazy. We'll just regroup next year."
The Grizzlies trailed 17-7 at halftime, but a strong defensive effort in the final two quarters kept it close.
Fruitland picked off Shelley quarterback Kaden Schmitt twice in the third quarter.
Parker Stanger's interception set up the Grizzlies' lone scoring drive of the second half.
Fruitland drove 74 yards in nine plays - which included a fake punt on fourth-and-7 from the Grizzlies' own 29 that Ryan Phillips rumbled 39 yards downfield - and scored on a 6-yard pass from Jerred Seamons to Patrick Murphy to whittle the margin to three with 2 minutes, 17 seconds left in the third quarter.
And the momentum swung solidly to Fruitland on Shelley's ensuing drive when the Russets' punter botched a snap and the Grizzlies recovered 20 yards from the end zone.
But Shelley's defense, allowing less than 10 points per game for the season, turned back Fruitland's Austin Stelling on a fourth-and-1 at the 11-yard line.
The Grizzlies finished with 93 yards rushing on 35 carries and another 124 yards through the air.
"The defense knocked it out of the park, every one of them," Shelley head coach Travis Hobson said. "That was a heck of an effort from the defense. That's a good football team over there. To hold them to 14 points is a feat."
The Grizzlies had one last chance to tie or win the game when they took over possession at their own 35-yard line with 2:22 left and no timeouts. Four plays later, a reverse-pass dropped to the turf and Shelley knelt three times to kill the clock.
"We talked about finishing all year, and they finished," Tracy said. "We didn't feel like we played the best in the first half. So we wanted to come out regardless of the score and just finish. So we felt like the kids played hard. ... As coaches we're excited about that."