Three weeks ago, the Bishop Kelly High football team found itself in unfamiliar, and unexpected, waters.
The two-time defending state champs lost back-to-back games for the first time since 2011 and sat 2-2 entering their 4A Southern Idaho Conference schedule.
But the Knights leaned on their physical running game and stout defense. Both placed the Knights back on track, and both lifted them Friday to their third straight win with a 35-14 victory at Kuna High.
Bishop Kelly (5-2, 3-0 4A SIC) senior offensive lineman Caden Finkley said the Knights accelerated the pace of practice after losses to Timberline and Borah, and that work has paid off.
“We’ve just picked it up in practice and said we’re tired of losing. That’s not Bishop Kelly football,” said Finkley, a reigning first-team All-Idaho lineman. “We’ve just played to our full potential and realized that (nothing less is) going to cut it if we want another state championship.”
The Knights are searching to become the first 5A or 4A team to win three straight titles in the Idaho High School Activities Association era, which began in 1977.
Bishop Kelly asserted its will early Friday, opening the game with an 11-play, 67-yard drive Vince Sengelmann capped with a 27-yard field goal after draining 5 minutes, 27 seconds off the clock.
Sandwiching three straight three-and-outs, the Knights’ defense forced to start the game, Bishop Kelly mounted a 12-play, 65-yard that Jake Jorgensen capped with a 6-yard TD run that took 5:19 off the clock, as well as an 11-play, 62-yard drive that Jon Baumgardner capped with a 1-yard TD run that bled another 4:17 off the clock.
The Knights entered halftime with a 21-0 lead and ran 38 plays, including 29 on the ground, to Kuna’s 18.
“It’s somewhat demoralizing when a team runs the ball and you can’t stop them,” Bishop Kelly coach Tim Brennan said. “It’s hard. That’s the way we’re going to play football.”
Bishop Kelly finished the night with 406 yards of offense to Kuna’s 199, and the Knights ran for 317 yards, averaging 5.2 yards per carry.
Junior Luke Burley led the way with 137 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries, and senior Ivan Torrez added 113 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries.
“You’ve just got to maximize your time with the ball. However you do it, you’ve got to control the ball. And they did it,” Kuna coach Ian Smart said. “Hats off to them. They just continually found a way to drive the ball down the field.”
Kuna posed its only threat when it took the opening kickoff of the second half and drove 64 yards on seven plays for a Duston Taylor 11-yard TD run to pull within 21-8. The Kavemen (4-3, 2-1 4A SIC) mounted just 67 yards in the first half.
But Bishop Kelly stuck with its game plan, rattled off a seven-play, 75-yard touchdown drive and never looked back after Burley’s 24-yard TD run.
“I didn’t tell the kids at halftime they were going to score,” Brennan said. “But I knew they were a good football team, and I knew if they scored, we had to respond. We responded, and that made the difference in the game.”
The Knights’ win sets up a battle for first place with Middleton (4-3, 3-0 4A SIC) at Bishop Kelly on Oct. 16.