The defending 5A football champions are still defending, but their ticket to the state quarterfinals may have come at a high price.
Rocky Mountain (8-2) won its playoff opener with ease Friday, riding its prolific rushing attack and a stifling defense to a 25-0 victory over visiting Kuna (4-6) at Brighton Stadium. But the Grizzlies had several starters exit with injuries, including sophomore quarterback Tre Page, who left late in the second quarter and did not return.
Junior tailback Carter Kuehl scored two rushing touchdowns — giving him 19 on the season — and standout kicker Jonah Dalmas booted three field goals for the Grizzlies, who held Kuna to 99 total yards while advancing to play Lewiston (9-0) next Friday at the Kibbie Dome.
“On our team, we know no matter who it is — second-string, third-string — we have guys who are going to step up and get the job done,” said Kuehl, who ran for 90 yards on 19 carries. “It’s all about relying on your brothers and playing 11-man football, and that’s what we did tonight.”
Page rushed for 107 yards on 14 first-half carries, but he wasn’t in uniform after halftime. Fellow sophomore Jaxon Pabst played a turnover-free second half, leading two scoring drives while completing 4-of-5 passes for 54 yards.
“There’s not a whole lot separating our three sophomore quarterbacks,” Rocky Mountain coach Scott Criner said. “We thought Jaxon practiced well enough to be the No. 2 guy this week. Our offensive line played physical, we ran the ball well and we threw the ball well, so I was pleased with all of that.”
No matter who was playing quarterback, Rocky Mountain’s offense got plenty of help from its swarming defense. The Grizzlies racked up six quarterback sacks and forced five punts, including one that was blocked out of the end zone for a third-quarter safety.
Rocky Mountain also sniffed out two fake punt attempts by the Kavemen, including a pass that senior defensive lineman Nolan Walker picked off for the game’s only turnover.
“Everyone did their jobs, which is what we talked about all week,” Walker said. “It’s every defensive lineman’s dream to get a pick, so that was great. I was in the right place at the right time.”
Senior tailback Duston Taylor ran for 71 yards for Kuna, but the Kavemen only managed four first downs while completing 4-of-11 passes.
“I thought our defense played well as a group,” Criner said. “They were flying to the football and playing really physical.”
Rocky Mountain led 13-0 at halftime thanks to Kuehl’s 1-yard run and two field goals by Dalmas. Kuehl added a 2-yard scoring run to the third-quarter safety, with Dalmas tacking on a fourth-quarter field goal to round out the scoring. The Grizzlies finished with 296 yards of offense.
It will take another strong defensive effort next week for Rocky Mountain to continue its bid for a championship repeat. Lewiston’s pass-heavy offense has put up huge numbers all season, and the Bengals will have the home-field advantage playing in Moscow.
“Lewiston is a great football team,” Criner said. “They throw the ball all over the field, and obviously, they’re playing at a really high level. It’s going to be a challenge.”