One thought crossed my mind last year when the Eagle and Rocky Mountain football teams dubbed their rivalry the Herb Criner Bowl and unveiled a traveling trophy to go along with it.
Rivalries are desperately missing from high school football in the Treasure Valley. Moving here five years ago, I struggled to believe a metropolitan area this large was devoid of a single traditional football rivalry, one with a catchy name and an old trophy passed from generation to generation.
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Exploding growth in the Treasure Valley, coaches throughout the SIC said.
In 1994, eight schools in the Boise metro area played football at the 5A and 4A level. Today, 20 do.
It’s impossible to build lasting rivalries when a new school opens every five years and reshuffles conference alignments. The continued growth means sons don’t always grow up wearing the same uniform as their fathers, and families don’t carry grudges across generations like they do in Idaho Falls, Pocatello and Coeur d’Alene.
“You start to establish a rivalry and then, poof, a new high school comes up and you kind of lose it a bit,” Rocky Mountain coach Chris Culig said. “It gets watered down.”
We’re not talking about the rivalries where two successful teams happen to meet every year in front of a couple hundred fans.
I’m talking about a yearly series pitting two neighbors against each other for decades, one that carries just as much weight when both teams are undefeated as when they’re winless.
A rivalry where you can go 1-8, but as long as the one win comes against your rival, all is forgiven.
A rivalry where the entire community turns out to celebrate itself, not just those on the field.
Eagle and Rocky Mountain stepped up to fill that void, naming their series after Herb Criner, the father of former Rocky Mountain coach and current Eagle athletic director Scott Criner. Herb, who died in April, coached at both Eagle and Rocky Mountain, and he was a former assistant coach and assistant athletic director at Boise State.
“Hopefully, it’s a celebration of high school football and the positive attributes and characteristics that should always be paramount in what high school football represents,” Eagle coach Paul Peterson said. “... Scott Criner and I both believe there’s a bigger picture here than just the focus on the standings or the scoreboard. There needs to be more positive things associated with the game.”
One year in, the trophy already has had its desired effect. After Rocky Mountain hired Culig on July 31, Culig had one message for the Grizzlies.
“The first thing I told our team,” Culig said, “is I want that trophy back.”
Here are a few suggestions for other rivalries that could take it to the next level with a slick moniker or a traveling trophy.
▪ Battle for Boise: Borah vs. Capital is the city’s most intense rivalry but it’s one-sided, with Capital winning 16 of the last 17. It could use a jolt.
▪ Beet Bowl: The state’s oldest rivalry (114 meetings and counting) pits Nampa against Caldwell and gives a nod toward Canyon County’s sugar beet industry. Add in a trophy with a bowl full of beets, like the Orange and Potato bowl trophies, and you’ve got yourself a classic.
▪ Stinky Cleat: Extend Mountain View’s and Meridian’s basketball tradition of fighting for an old Chuck Taylor trophy to the football field with a worn-out cleat.
▪ Spelling Bee: The first one between Vallivue and Ridgevue to spell “view” correctly wins. Or “valley” while they’re at it.
Got any other suggestions? Reach out and let me know.
EAGLE AT ROCKY MOUNTAIN, 7 P.M. FRIDAY
Rocky Mountain entered the season with this game circled as a potential 5A SIC Pod B championship game. But a one-point loss to Borah two weeks ago has the Grizzlies (5-2, 2-1) needing a win and outside help to reclaim the pod championship and the first-round playoff bye that comes with it.
The No. 5-ranked Grizzlies found success last week with starting quarterback Will McMullin on the sideline by returning to their roots — Carter Kuehl and a powerful run game. The first-team All-Idaho running back and Air Force commit broke free against Kuna for 207 yards and two TDs on 17 carries, all season highs.
Kuehl lost carries this season as Rocky Mountain tries to balance dual spread and triple-option offenses with as many as four quarterbacks. But he remains the key to any deep postseason run, and Culig knows the Grizzlies need to get him the ball.
“It’s always been an emphasis,” Culig said. “There were just a couple games where we haven’t been able to do it. He needs to get his touches because he can score anytime he touches it. But we’ve got a few guys we need to touch it.”
7-5 Eagle’s lead in the all-time series against Rocky Mountain
No. 4 Eagle’s defense remains a much tougher test than Kuna’s, which is giving up a league-high 42.1 points a game. Led by a dangerous secondary, the Mustangs have forced 23 turnovers this year and are ready to pounce on any of the mistakes that have haunted Rocky Mountain thus far.
Eagle (6-1, 3-0) quarterback Devan Bridgewater is also capable of taking over any game by himself with his legs and his arm. But with McMullin back at practice this week, the game at home and time running out, bet on Rocky Mountain’s stockpile of weapons to finally put it all together.
Rocky Mountain 35, Eagle 29
SKYVIEW AT MIDDLETON, 7 P.M. FRIDAY
A battle of 4A’s No. 1 team (Skyview) and No. 2 team (Middleton) highlights the 4A SIC schedule.
Both teams clinched their playoff berths last week. Middleton (5-2, 5-0) can wrap up the league title and a playoff bye with a victory. Skyview (7-0, 5-0) needs a win and a Bishop Kelly loss to Ridgevue to clinch the 4A SIC crown.
After starting the year 0-2, Middleton proved it’s a state title contender by winning five straight and handing Bishop Kelly a 28-6 beatdown last week, snapping the Knights’ 19-game winning streak against conference opponents.
The Vikings dominated on both sides of the ball, using their quick-strike passing attack to shred the BK defense and holding the Knights’ power run game to its fewest points since 2008.
Middleton’s offense has received a ton of credit as it switched from the double wing to a spread set led by a quarterback, Darin Post, who’d never played the position until this year. But the Vikings’ defense deserves as much credit for its turnaround after a slow start.
“It’s different than when we were trying to hold the ball the whole game,” Middleton coach Bill Brock said. “At different times, we’ve gone three-and-out or had a turnover, and then the defense has to go out there and get after it.”
Skyview poses a different challenge with junior quarterback Wyatt Storer directing the league’s top offense (43 points per game). Opponents have struggled to slow Storer and senior receiver DeMonte Horton. And the Hawks have added another wrinkle to their offense, direct snapping the ball to Horton and letting him run over defenders.
“Throwing the ball to him is one thing,” Skyview coach David Young said. “But teams are double- and triple-teaming him. We’ve got to find ways to create opportunities for him.”
Get ready for a shootout. And in that scenario, bet on a Skyview team loaded with weapons.
Skyview 35, Middleton 30
VALLIVUE AT EMMETT, 7 P.M. FRIDAY
Both the Falcons (4-3, 2-3) and Huskies (4-3, 2-3) are in desperation mode for the 4A SIC’s fourth and final playoff spot with Skyview and Middleton already in, and Bishop Kelly a victory over Ridgevue away from clinching a spot.
Both feature dynamic playmakers — Vallivue’s Nick Fox and Emmett’s DJ Crump — who can turn the tide of a game in a heartbeat. And both are two of the toughest teams around.
But with Emmett starting to get healthy, it has just enough offensive weapons to pull out a must-win game.
Emmett 27, Vallivue 22
Mountain View coach to be inducted into PLU Hall of Fame
Mountain View football coach Judd Benedick is set for a busy Friday, getting inducted into the Pacific Lutheran University Hall of Fame before rushing back to lead the Mavericks against Nampa.
The two teams agreed to push the kickoff back to 7:30 p.m. Friday to accommodate the ceremony, which starts at 12:30 p.m. MT in Tacoma, Wash.
Benedick was a two-time, second-team NAIA Division II All-American at Pacific Lutheran, leading the Lutes to three national title games and the 1993 national championship. The former linebacker ranks third in school history with 282 tackles.
Benedick led the No. 1-ranked Mavericks (7-0) to their first state championship in program history last year and an 83-30 record in 11 years.
Week 8 high school football picks
Each week, Michael Lycklama of the Idaho Statesman will pick the winner of every high school football game in the Treasure Valley. Computer picks are made by using the Elo rankings popularized by FiveThirtyEight.com. The odds Elo gives each team of winning is also listed.
Boise at Columbia
Meridian at Capital
Mountain View at Nampa
Mtn View (96%)
Kuna at Borah (Thur.)
Timberline at Centennial
Eagle at Rocky Mountain
Vallivue at Emmett
Bishop Kelly at Ridgevue
Skyview at Middleton
Mountain Home at Caldwell
Weiser at Payette
Parma at Homedale
Cole Valley at New Plymouth
New Plymouth (51%)
Melba at McCall-Donnelly
Marsing at Nampa Christian
Nampa Christian (63%)
Wilder at Idaho City
Horseshoe Bend at Rimrock
Horseshoe Bend (54%)
Cascade at Garden Valley
Garden Valley (86%)
Tri-Valley at Salmon River
Salmon River (61%)