As the buses carrying the Capital High football team pulled out of the lot at Dona Larsen Park, the cheers from on board were loud enough to reach the ears of stragglers inside the stadium.
The Eagles had ample reason to celebrate.
For the first time since 2010, Capital got the best of 5A Southern Idaho Conference rival Eagle, holding the Mustangs scoreless in the second half of a 21-14 victory Saturday afternoon.
Since the two teams met for the 5A state championship in 2009 — a game Eagle won 22-21 in the final seconds — their regular-season matchups have only grown in intensity.
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Three of their past four meetings have been decided by three points or less, including Eagle’s 24-23 win last fall.
For head coaches Paul Peterson of Eagle and Todd Simis of Capital, it’s hard to take the other by surprise.
Peterson was an assistant coach when Simis played quarterback at Idaho State, and they’ve been going head-to-head as 5A SIC coaches for more than a decade.
“There’s just a mutual respect. I love coach Peterson,” Simis said. “I just think he’s a great guy, and they have a classy program.”
On this Saturday, at least, Simis got the best of his mentor.
“I always tell our guys, ‘It’s Eagle. It’s going to come down to the last little bit,’ ” Simis said.
Despite three lost fumbles, Eagle (1-1) led 14-13 at the half on a pair of second quarter touchdown passes by sophomore quarterback Devan Bridgewater to receivers Kade Eborall (20 yards) and Karl Thomas (74 yards).
But Capital (1-1) retook the lead for good when junior quarterback Drew Korf hit senior receiver Sam Brixey in stride with a 50 yard pass. Brixey — the reigning state champion in the 110- and 300-meter hurdles — strolled into the end zone for a 21-14 lead with 6:19 left in the third quarter.
Brixey caught five passes for 121 yards and two touchdowns to give an inexperienced offense a crucial boost following last week’s 48-20 loss at Madison.
“Our momentum and our vibe in practice wasn’t what we wanted it to be (last week),” Brixey said. “The seniors last year gave us a lot of craziness and a lot of hype, so we kind of got together and said ‘Hey, we need to step it up. We need to be hyped. We need to have better momentum in practice.’ This week we went crazy, and it helped a lot for the game.”
Capital’s defense set up the game-winning drive on linebacker Brandon Thorell’s interception of Bridgewater on the previous play. The Gurkha defense came through again on Eagle’s next drive, this time getting an interception from junior Jessie Healy.
“I think we came out a little bit cocky. We’d been watching film all week and thought we were going to blow them out,” Thorell said. “We got humbled in the first half, so I think the second half we really locked it in.”