Three fingers said it all.
The Bishop Kelly High football team held three fingers in the air Saturday at the Kibbie Dome, the symbol representing the third straight 4A title the Knights won with a 34-21 victory over Sandpoint.
No 5A or 4A program had won three straight state football titles before.
“It’s relief. It’s a lot of happiness, and also a lot of sadness leaving this amazing program,” Bishop Kelly senior Jon Baumgardner said. “But we left a good dynasty for the teams ahead of us. And I hope when I come back next year, we see these guys tearing it up like we know they can.”
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The Knights held three fingers up to each other on the sideline in the final seconds, to their crowd at the Kibbie Dome and for cameras with the state championship banner. Bishop Kelly even became so immersed in the moment, players forgot to grab the trophy for the first round of celebratory team photos.
“We’ve worked all season for this goal, and we’ve had it in our mind all season,” senior two-way player Joe Sarabia said. “To accomplish it is big.”
Bishop Kelly (10-2) relied on the same formula it has all year to deliver another banner to Franklin Road — a powerful running game, an opportunistic defense and a few timely play-action passes.
Junior quarterback Bronson King hit Baumgardner for a wide-open, 38-yard TD to open the scoring, then he found Sarabia on a corner route for a 24-yard TD catch and a 12-0 lead in the second quarter.
“We got some big pass plays early because they were putting everybody in the box,” Bishop Kelly coach Tim Brennan said. “We figured we needed to throw the ball and get somebody behind them, and we were able to do that twice.”
After a combined 27 yards on its first three possessions, Sandpoint started ripping off yardage in chunks, mounting a nine-play, 80-yard scoring drive that it followed with a six-play, 72-yard scoring drive.
But Bishop Kelly got the last word in the first half, draining all but 19 seconds off the clock before the first of two Ben Hruby TD runs.
The Knights’ defense then made it a two-score game when Sarabia didn’t bite on a reverse pass in the third quarter and dropped into his zone. Out of options on a long-developing play, Sandpoint’s Wyatt McCormick-Cox threw it right to Sarabia, and the outside linebacker returned it 22 yards for a pick-six and a 27-13 lead.
Bishop Kelly ran for 177 yards, spreading it between eight ball carriers. Hruby led the Knights with 66 yards on eight carries, and he iced a third straight title with another 2-yard TD run with 2:24 left in the fourth quarter.
Like many of his teammates, senior offensive and defensive lineman Caden Finkley has been a part of all three championships for the Knights. He said the final one is the most satisfying.
“This one is definitely the best just because I’m a senior,” Finkley said. “It’s the last time being able to go out to battle with my brothers. We’re a big, huge family, and it’s just awesome to be out here.”
Knights join dynasties
Bishop Kelly became the fourth team in IHSAA history to win three-straight titles Saturday.
NOTE: Mackay (1A), Snake River (3A) and Madison (3A, now competes in 5A).