Senior running backs TreyTon Bell of Mountain View High and Jake Roper of Rocky Mountain have been regulars in the headlines this season, but offensive success in football is never dependent on a single player. Here are two other storylines to follow going into Saturday’s 5A state championship game (12:30 p.m., Albertsons Stadium):
MOUNTAIN VIEW’S EMERGING STAR
Yes, Tucker Rovig is a quarterback. Those guys do get their fair share of attention, but quite often this season, Rovig has taken a back seat to his teammates when it comes to reaching the end zone.
That doesn’t diminish the importance of the 6-foot-5, 195-pound junior. Mountain View’s no-huddle spread begins with Rovig, and if he falls apart, so do the Mavericks.
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As a backup last season to Garrett Collingham, who is now a walk-on at Boise State, Rovig soaked in more than coaches expected.
“To be honest, I think that Game 1 was a pleasant surprise, because you don’t know how a junior is going to react to his first live action as the starting varsity quarterback,” Mountain View coach Judd Benedick said. “He was phenomenal in that first game against Nampa, and we all looked at each other and we were like, ‘Alright, this could be good. This could be really good.’
“I really thought it was going to take a little bit longer, and it was going to take a while for him to develop. But he was mentally ready from the get-go and didn’t seem phased or scared or anything like that.”
Of Mountain View’s 43 rushing TDs, Rovig has scored just four, but he’s thrown 20 of the team’s 25 passing touchdowns and completed 131-of-214 attempts for 2,134 yards with four interceptions.
His poise and leadership have carried the Mavericks this season, particularly in the past three games. In their first eight games, Mountain View led from start to finish and won by an average of more than 46 points. Against Eagle, Capital and Madison, the Mavericks had to come from behind for the win.
Rovig never panicked under the pressure.
“He doesn’t get too high or too low. He doesn’t really get rattled,” Benedick said. “He just kind of seems to have ice water in his veins. Whether he is performing well or not performing well, he just understands the gig.”
Rovig’s size fits the mold for college football. He’s made unofficial visits to Washington and Boise State, Benedick said. And with a senior year still ahead, his stock could go up.
“I don’t usually talk much on the team, because we’ve got guys like (senior linebacker Jared) Gibson that are the vocal leaders,” Rovig said. “I just have to be the guy that’s always being positive with the team and sticking up for them.”
ROCKY MOUNTAIN’S ‘FILTHY FEW’
The Grizzlies have amassed 3,119 yards on the ground this season for an average of 283.5 yards per game.
Rocky Mountain’s success running the ball has translated into fewer yards through the air, where it is averaging 11.5 pass attempts and approximately 110 yards a game.
While opponents are aware of Rocky’s tendency to run, they’ve had little success stopping it. Credit starts with the Grizzlies’ dominant offensive line.
“Any time in any offense, regardless of what you do, it’s about the physicality of the offensive line to set the tone,” Rocky Mountain coach Scott Criner said. “We have to be able to set the tone and move forward. Our offensive line the last couple years has been outstanding in setting the tone.”
This year’s starting group features just one senior — 6-2, 265-pound left tackle Zack Bennett, who has scholarship offers from Nebraska and Iowa, Criner said.
Joining Bennett are a quartet of juniors in center Zach Redd, right guard Connor Jacobs, and Jake Wilkerson and Connor Wood, who split time at right tackle.
Wood missed part of the season with a broken left ankle that required 14 pins to repair. Wilkerson filled in for Wood at the beginning of the season and has continued to earn playing time even with Wood’s return.
Sophomore Keeghan Freeborn rounds out the group at left guard. The 6-1, 295-pounder, and Redd, are receiving recruiting interest from schools such as Boise State, Washington and Arizona, Criner said.
With a high talent level and good size, the Grizzlies’ line has helped Roper average 7.2 yards per carry. Dual-threat quarterback Christian Blaser checks in at 6.2 yards per carry, and senior running back/defensive back Calin Criner averages 7.0 yards per touch.
The line calls themselves the “Filthy Few,” and they take pride in creating space for players like Roper.
“Roper, Blaser and Cal, they get a lot more credit than we do, but they all know deep down they wouldn’t be able to do what they do without us,” Redd said. “I think that’s just how it is for every offensive line out there.
“Football teaches people how to work as a group. I think it really teaches us to be better as people in general, that we don’t always need the glamor and glory to do what we do.”
Mountain View vs. Rocky Mountain
▪ When: 12:30 p.m. Saturday
▪ Where: Albertsons Stadium
▪ Radio: KAWO (104.3 FM)
▪ Records: Mountain View 11-0, Rocky Mountain 10-1
▪ Series: Rocky Mountain leads 5-3 (Mountain View won 44-20 this season)
▪ Parking lots open at 11 a.m., and doors open at 11:30 a.m. No tailgating allowed.
▪ Mountain View fans will be seated on the west side and enter through Gate A and potentially Gate B on the southwest side.
▪ Rocky Mountain fans enter through Gate N on the southeast side.
▪ Tickets ($7 adults, $6 students/seniors) can be purchased in advance at idhsaa.org.
▪ Fans should expect long lines and increased security.