High School Football

Salmon River football prepares for championship game without star running back

Gabe Gonzalez will take over at running back for Salmon River if standout Canyon Harper can’t play Saturday.
Gabe Gonzalez will take over at running back for Salmon River if standout Canyon Harper can’t play Saturday.

With five 1A Division II eight-man football state championships since the classification was founded in 2004, Salmon River High has established itself as the league’s most dominant program.

The Savages (10-1) try for their second title in a row, fourth in five seasons and seventh in program history against Kendrick (9-1) at 1 p.m. Saturday at Middleton High.

But they may have to play without standout running back Canyon Harper. The 5-foot-11, 167-pound sophomore injured his knee in last week’s 36-20 semifinal win over Carey.

“He’s still pretty sore. He can’t run,” Salmon River coach Charlie Shepherd said. “But we’re optimistic that he might be able to go by Saturday.”

In the meantime, the Savages are moving bodies to accommodate for Harper’s absence. Gabe Gonzalez, who has started at guard, will move to running back, but the majority of the offensive pressure now falls to senior quarterback Tucker Boyd.

Boyd took charge against Carey once Harper went down, finishing with 148 rushing yards, 237 passing yards and four touchdowns.

“Now going back and watching film, they saw that they could be productive without (Harper),” Shepherd said. “But we’re definitely going to have to step up on defense and do a better job.”

Shepherd says switching to a more pass-oriented offense could prove beneficial against a larger Kendrick team.

They’re a lot bigger than us up front, and they’re heavy on the running side. They run a lot of counters and straight dive plays, but they can pass,” Shepherd said. “... If we can rely on (Boyd’s) passing game, his arm, and we can spread the field, I think we can minimize the size difference.”

Salmon River and Kendrick are familiar foes. The Savages beat the Tigers 48-20 in last year’s state quarterfinals, and both teams attended the Savages’ inaugural eight-man team camp over the summer.

“It’s a real good relationship with them,” Shepherd said. “We really enjoy Kendrick and their coaching staff.”

Kendrick has three state championships — the last coming in 2001 — and enters averaging 48 points per game while allowing 11.6. Salmon River is averaging 44.5 points and allowing 21.6.

“It’s going to be a real competitive game, and it should be fun to watch,” Shepherd said.

Rachel Roberts: 208-377-6422, @IDS_VarsityX

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