It feels like the kind of football game that should be reserved for a season finale or a playoff showdown, not Week 2 of the 5A Southern Idaho Conference’s regular-season schedule.
Nonetheless, preseason favorites Rocky Mountain and Mountain View meet at 7 p.m. Thursday at Mountain View High.
Mountain View and Rocky Mountain do not play in the same SIC pod, which means this game likely won’t have an impact on either team’s playoff potential unless they end up competing for the final at-large bid.
That fact does little to dispel the drama of the first big game of the season.
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“I think it will be the best game in the state this week,” Rocky Mountain coach Scott Criner said. “You have a chance to see two of the elite teams, without question I think two of the elite teams at the 5A level. It may not have league-standing ramifications, but it will have bragging-right ramifications.”
Although Mountain View’s runner-up finish at state last season was tops among Treasure Valley teams, the Mavericks have lost five straight games to the Grizzlies.
“We’ve got to beat some of the people that are consistently beating us or consistently considered those upper-level great teams, and Rocky is one of those teams for us,” Mountain View coach Judd Benedick said. “For a long time here, they’ve got the better end of the deal. They’ve beat us a bunch of times in a row, and for us to take that next step, we feel like we’ve got to beat one of those teams that is always at the top.”
The Grizzlies were the unanimous No. 1 pick to win the 5A SIC’s Pod A in the Statesman’s preseason coaches’ poll, and the Mavericks were the consensus No. 1 in Pod B.
Both teams started the season with dominant victories. Rocky Mountain toppled 2014 semifinalist Lake City 49-21 on the road last week, while Mountain View walloped Nampa 63-6.
They also feature senior running backs with big-play potential in Mountain View’s TreyTon Bell and Rocky Mountain’s Jake Roper. Bell ran for 171 yards and two touchdowns against Nampa, and Roper scored four first-half touchdowns for 151 yards at Lake City.
“Both of those guys are great players, but I sort of feel like football always is won or lost in the trenches, and they have a really good offensive line,” Benedick said. “... As good as those two guys are and as fun as that matchup is, if we don’t win the battle up front, then I fear it’s a long night.”
Rocky Mountain beat Mountain View 30-6 last season. It was part of a 1-2 start for the Mavericks, who went on to win nine games in a row en route to the program’s first appearance in the state title game, where they lost to Highland 56-21.
The Grizzlies lost to Highland 42-25 in the semifinals.
Both teams are expected to be playoff contenders again in 2015. In the latest state media poll, Rocky Mountain ranked No. 2 with three first-place votes, and Mountain View moved up one spot to No. 3. Rocky Mountain also received a No. 24 ranking in the MaxPreps Regional High School Football Computer Rankings for the West Region.
“I don’t really pay attention to the rankings too much, but I know they are a good team and it should be an exciting game,” Roper said.
Added Mountain View quarterback Tucker Rovig: “There’s a lot of emotion going into this game. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”