As the senior leaders of the Skyview High football team, Tyler Crowe and Wyatt Storer have heard all the hype.
The Hawks jump up to the 5A classification — Idaho’s highest — this season. The move brought a mountain’s worth of hot air dismissing Skyview as a playoff contender.
Critics point to how Nampa and Columbia struggled moving from 4A to 5A. They cite the mythical two-deep depth charts needed to compete. They blather about how 5A football is just on another level.
Crowe and Storer don’t buy it.
“Our mindset is we can fit in with anyone,” Crowe said. “5A, 4A, 3A, we put on our pants the same way they do. We’ll fit right in.”
“Football is football,” Storer added.
That may sound like typical bravado from a high schooler. But the facts back them up.
In the past six years, or three classification cycles, an Idaho 5A football team has played a 4A opponent 184 times. The 5A teams have gone 117-67, a .636 winning percentage.
That sample is a bit skewed because the 5A Southern Idaho Conference’s blue bloods — Capital, Eagle, Mountain View and Rocky Mountain — didn’t play any 4A teams during that stretch. But long-struggling Boise regularly plays 4A teams, and it didn’t face that classification’s perennial powers — Bishop Kelly, Skyview or Middleton — every year, either.
If a chasm between 5A and 4A football exists, why can’t 5A teams win at least two-thirds of their games against supposedly lesser competition?
The answer: Because it’s a fairy tale.
“We don’t believe the sky is falling,” Skyview football coach David Young said. “We don’t think, ‘Oh, Jeez, we’re going to 5A. It’s the end of the world.’ We didn’t lose coaches, and I’m not losing kids other than through natural attrition.
“There are some of our kids that are nervous, don’t get me wrong. But the majority of our kids are like, ‘Let’s go prove ourselves. Let’s go see what we’ve got.’”
The gulf between 5A and 4A actually stands as the largest in Idaho’s high school classifications, “largest” being relative. Idaho’s 4A football teams have struggled to stay above .500 against 3As, going 54-51 (.514) in those same six years. The 3As hold a 20-game deficit to 2As (102-122, .455). And at the 8-man level, 1A Division I teams are 146-102 (.589) against their Division II counterparts.
The truth is classification matters. Just nowhere near as much as fans think.
History shows it matters more in boys and girls basketball than in football, where coaches discuss depth and turnout ad nauseam. Every classification has a higher winning percentage against the next-closest classification in boys and girls basketball than football.
“We will be the smallest 5A school,” Young said. “But the reality is you play 11 on 11. It doesn’t matter how many kids walk out of the locker room.
“Just because you walk out of the locker room with 50, 60, 75, 80 dudes, it doesn’t mean anything. It means you’ve got more dudes. But you’ve still got to play your best 11. And our best 11, our best even 20, are pretty dang good.”
Nampa and Columbia took their lickings when they moved up to 5A four years ago, feeding this 5A mythology. But everyone forgets they also floundered at the 4A level, to which they return to this fall.
Columbia has made the playoffs only once and has just two winning seasons in program history. Nampa went a combined 4-14 the two seasons before jumping to 5A. The Bulldogs then matched that win total the first year at the higher level and finished a three-way tiebreaker short of making the playoffs.
“We actually had a little more success,” former Nampa coach Jon Choate said.
Meanwhile, Kuna made the 4A playoffs three years in a row before joining 5A in 2016, then promptly qualified for the postseason again.
Choate said that the perceived gap between 5A and 4A was Nampa’s toughest obstacle. He said if Skyview can remove that mental hurdle, it will surprise the 5A powers.
That won’t surprise anyone paying attention, though.
Skyview comes to 5A as one of 4A’s most dominant programs. The Hawks have made the playoffs eight years in a row, going 60-28 (.681) while regularly vying for a state championship. They’ve spent years preparing for 5A, scheduling the likes of Coeur d’Alene, Post Falls and Madison. They even split a home-and-home series with Meridian, a 5A playoff team, the past two seasons.
Young knows the road gets tougher playing a 5A schedule every week. But he also knows the work ethic, culture and winning tradition Skyview brings with it to the 5A SIC matters far more than the number of students roaming its halls.
“We’re coaching, we’re playing, we’re practicing with the idea that we’re 5A and we’re never going back to 4A,” Young said.
“I’ve got a boy that’s a senior and a boy that is a freshman, so I live this every day in my own house. We are gearing for the future, and the future is 5A. We want to go win 5A state championships just like we tried to go win 4A state championships.”
SKYVIEW REPEATS AS 7-ON-7 CHAMPS
Skyview edged Canyon County rival Nampa 40-34 in the championship game of the Potato Bowl 7-on-7 tournament Saturday at the Optimist Sports Complex. The Hawks are the first team to win back-to-back titles in the passing tournament’s nine-year history.
The performance bodes well for their upcoming season. In the previous eight years, the winner of the passing tournament has reached state semifinals seven times and the state championship game four times. Two have won state titles.
Capital repeated as champion of the lineman challenge, also a first. And Mountain View edged Rocky Mountain in the tug-of-war competition for its third straight event title.
Skyview moves up this fall to the 10-team 5A Southern Idaho Conference, which is ditching its pod format. Meanwhile, Columbia, Nampa and Kuna drop from 5A to the nine-team 4A SIC. Mountain Home transferred to the Twin Falls-based District 4.
- Mountain View
- Rocky Mountain
- Bishop Kelly