High school football follows cycles.
One year, a league is on top of the world and appears unbeatable. The next, another league rises up and reclaims the throne.
The 5A Southern Idaho Conference reached a new height last season, earning all four state semifinal berths for the first time in history. This year, the 5A SIC is down to two representatives in Mountain View and Rocky Mountain.
And after three years of having at least one team reach the championship, it’s not hard to see the league having none this year.
In fact, that’s exactly what I’m predicting.
Mountain View vs. Coeur d’Alene, 5 p.m. MT Friday at Kibbie Dome
Mountain View (10-0) and Coeur d’Alene (8-2) finished tied for first in the final state media poll rankings this season. But the predetermined brackets unfortunately have them meeting in a semifinal.
As the undefeated defending state champ, Mountain View’s bona fides are obvious. But even with two losses, Coeur d’Alene deserves the No. 1 spot just as much due to its schedule. The Vikings’ only losses came on the road at Camas (9-1), Washington’s defending state champ, and on the road at California power Folsom (10-0).
Senior quarterback Colson Yankoff missed the first two games of the year, but the reigning 5A All-Idaho Player of the Year has made up for lost time since. He’s completed 68 percent of his passes for 1,912 yards and 19 TDs, and added 856 yards and 10 TDs on the ground, averaging 346 total yards per game.
Watch any film of the four-star recruit, U.S. Army All-American and Washington commit and it’s clear he’s a man amongst boys. He glides where others run, he sees holes before they open and he can make every throw in the book.
And he’s not alone. Coeur d’Alene fields two more Division I commits in tight end Cole Ramseyer (Boise State) and offensive lineman Noah Gunn (Air Force).
Mountain View doesn’t have the kind of blue-chip prospects the Vikings will field, so Mavericks coach Judd Benedick said his team will have to remain steady and disciplined to contain 5A’s top-scoring offense (45.5 ppg). It’s a formula that has worked for the Mavericks all season, forcing opponents to drive down the field and make play after play against a tenacious defense.
Add in one of the state’s most dominant running games at 283.5 yards per contest, and Mountain View has a path to victory — eat up the clock, limit Coeur d’Alene’s touches and get just enough stops.
“I would say we have been able to run the ball on everybody, and so we want to be able to sustain drives like we have in other games,” Benedick said. “It’s kept us close, and we’ve just found ways to gut it out in the end and make enough plays to get it done.”
But that’s a narrow path on the turf of the Kibbie Dome, where Coeur d’Alene’s speed will stand out. Mountain View’s run of three state championship game appearances ends here.
Coeur d’Alene 28, Mountain View 20
Highland at Rocky Mountain, 7 p.m. Friday
Purists will love this matchup as two of the state’s top linemen duke it out.
The return of guard Keeghan Freeborn, a Boise State commit, has turned No. 3 Rocky Mountain’s (9-2) rushing attack into an imposing force averaging 379 yards per game and 7.3 yards per carry. But on the other side lines up No. 4 Highland (8-1) and defensive tackle Tommy Togiai, another U.S. Army All-American with nearly every top program in the country chasing him, including Ohio State, Washington and USC.
“It’s awesome watching him on film,” Rocky Mountain coach Chris Culig said of Togiai. “You can see why he’s one of the top players in the country at his position. We think we’ve got a pretty good O-lineman that we can put on him, and hopefully that matchup benefits us. But it’ll be a heck of a war between Keeghan and Togiai.”
17 Times Highland has reached an IHSAA-sanctioned state football championship game in school history. Rocky Mountain has played in one championship game since opening in 2008.
Togiai’s presence will throw a wrench in the dive portion of Rocky Mountain’s triple-option attack that has keyed their late-season run. The Grizzlies have plenty of other weapons, including Air Force-bound running back Carter Kuehl. But Togiai isn’t alone on a defense that allowed a 5A-low 12.3 points per game this season and took SIC power Capital to the woodshed last week.
The Rams held the Eagles to 163 total yards and a meaningless late touchdown in a 42-7 quarterfinal victory. Two months ago, Rocky Mountain needed a last-second punt return to top Capital 28-21.
Highland 20, Rocky Mountain 14
Skyview at Minico, 7 p.m. Friday
No. 5-ranked Minico (8-2) and the Twin Falls-based Great Basin Conference are making a rare appearance in the semifinals. It’s just the second in school history for Minico, and the first for the Great Basin since 2013.
But even though the league is 3-24 in the playoffs since 2009 when playing teams outside the conference, Skyview coach David Young knows the Spartans are no pushover.
“You can’t window shop and compare numbers because we don’t have any common opponents,” Young said. “They’ve lost two tough games, but they are undefeated in 4A just like us.”
Skyview’s defense will have to focus on slowing the Spartans’ pistol-based running game led by Larry Vega, who set a school record with seven rushing TDs against Canyon Ridge.
But No. 1-ranked Skyview (10-0) is no Canyon Ridge. And the embarrassment of riches on 4A’s top-scoring offense (42.1 ppg) will prove too much to handle.
Quarterback Wyatt Storer (2,822 passing yards, 38 TDs) has led the way all season, relying on receivers DeMonte Horton (88 catches, 1,235 yards, 13 TDs) and Wade Carpenter (40 catches, 751 yards, 12 TDs). Even if Minico can slow them, it still has to contend with running back Tyler Crowe (1,104 total yards, 15 TDs) in and out of the backfield.
Skyview is searching for its first state title in school history. It will come one step closer Friday.
Skyview 35, Minico 20
Skyline at Middleton, 7 p.m. Friday
After both teams started the season 0-2, this 4A semifinal matchup shows how little early-season results matter in a long football season.
Defending state champ and No. 2-ranked Skyline (8-2) has won eight straight since its slow start, including a 40-14 quarterfinal rout of Bishop Kelly that saw the Grizzlies physically dominate the Knights up front.
Despite switching to a spread offense this year, No. 4 Middleton (8-3) can bulldoze opponents up front, too. The Vikings dominated Bishop Kelly just as thoroughly five weeks ago.
“It’s kind of ingrained in our kids,” Middleton coach Bill Brock said. “We still feel like we can run it when we want to or need to.”
But the Vikings are now built around throwing the ball, with Darin Post racking up 2,896 yards and 34 TDs through the air. With rain expected Friday night, that favors the Grizzlies and their read-option attack.
Skyline 28, Middleton 21
Semifinal high school football picks
Each week, Michael Lycklama of the Idaho Statesman will pick the winner of every high school football game in the Treasure Valley. Computer picks are made by using the Elo rankings popularized by FiveThirtyEight.com. The odds Elo gives each team of winning is also listed.
Mountain View vs. Coeur d’Alene
Mtn View (54%)
Highland at Rocky Mountain
Rocky Mtn (57%)
Skyline at Middleton
Skyview at Minico
Snake River vs. Gooding (Sat.)
Shelley at Fruitland (Sat.)
New Plymouth vs. Firth
New Plymouth (54%)
West Side vs. Declo
Challis vs. Genesee (Sat.)
Oakley vs. Prairie
Deary vs. Carey (Sat.)
Butte County at Tri-Valley
Idaho’s top recruits on display
The 5A and 4A high school football state semifinals will showcase some of the state’s top talent, including five players already verbally committed to FBS programs. Highland’s Tommy Togiai has offers from many of the nation’s top programs, and Skyview’s DeMonte Horton has offers from Air Force, Army and Idaho State, according to 247Sports.com.