The calendar may still say September, but it’s already crunch time for several Treasure Valley high school football teams.
This fall’s classification reshuffle eliminated any nonconference games in the 5A Southern Idaho Conference and gave 4A SIC teams just one. That’s created meaningful and tense games early in the season. It has also set off alarms for teams on the wrong end of those contests.
Perennial powers like Capital and Eagle find themselves near the bottom of their league standings. They need wins this week just to maintain control of their playoff destiny, let alone to stay in the hunt for the league titles they expect to contend for year in and year out.
Here are the top games to watch this week and how they affect the postseason picture.
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Meridian at Capital, 7 p.m. Thursday
Capital (1-2) got flat-out embarrassed last week. Rocky Mountain needed only eight offensive plays to build a 20-0 lead, scored 30 unanswered points before Capital responded and cruised to a blowout win thanks to the Eagles’ seven turnovers.
“It boils down to No. 1, we need our seniors to step up and provide some more leadership,” Capital coach Todd Simis said after the loss. “And No. 2, the coaches, we need to make sure they’re ready, get them ready to go.”
Simis said Capital was in store for a week full of soul searching. Last week’s defeat gave Capital its first back-to-back losses since 2011. The Eagles haven’t dropped three straight games since 2005.
Expect Simis to have Capital prepared to bounce back Thursday against Meridian (1-2). The Eagles have won eight straight against the Warriors.
Capital 35, Meridian 21
Eagle at Mountain View, 7 p.m. Friday
Eagle (1-2) also has lost back-to-back contests and will try to avoid its first three-game losing streak in 16 years. The Mustangs face a much tougher task with a trip to Mountain View, which has won seven of the last eight games against Eagle.
No. 3-ranked Mountain View (2-1) remains one of 5A’s most potent offenses. Quarterback Noah Bryant directs the show surrounded by a bounty of weapons, including running backs Jaymon Barrus and Ace Gibson, tight end Joey Elwell and receiver Blake Jablonski.
That group is licking its chops to face an Eagle defense that has surrendered 40 or more points the past two weeks.
No one should throw dirt on Eagle’s season just yet. But if it falls to 1-3, the road back to the playoffs is no longer guaranteed.
Mountain View 42, Eagle 28
Rocky Mountain at Centennial, 7 p.m. Friday
Centennial won six games the past four years. Now the Patriots (2-1) suddenly find themselves near the top of the 5A SIC standings.
Centennial’s rebuilding project is making progress. But those two wins came against Boise and Timberline, which are a combined 0-6. The sledding gets a lot tougher against No. 2-ranked Rocky Mountain (3-0).
The Grizzlies’ blitzing defense creates more havoc than any I’ve seen in 12 years covering high school football in Idaho.
Rocky Mountain 42, Centennial 14
Timberline at Borah, 7 p.m.
Timberline entered the season with playoff aspirations. But at 0-3, the Wolves need to start making up ground now.
Timberline running back Ed Osterberger, last year’s 5A SIC co-offensive player of the year, remains one of the state’s top threats. But until the Wolves can get a handle on a defense giving up a 5A-high 49.3 points per game, he can only do so much.
That’s not a recipe for success when facing Borah and its 5A-leading offense (40 ppg). The Lions nearly got caught overlooking Meridian last week. Don’t expect a repeat performance as Borah improves to 4-0 for the first time since 1995.
Borah 41, Timberline 20
Fruitland at Middleton, 7 p.m. Friday
The Grizzlies (2-0) and Vikings (3-0) have waged epic battles on the ground the past six years with two of the state’s most potent running games. Don’t expect another one.
Middleton switched to the air raid offense last season, and quarterback Dallas Hagler has led the Vikings to a 4A-high 52 points per game this fall. He’s thrown for 650 yards and 10 TDs in three games as Middleton looks all but unrecognizable from its double wing days.
Fruitland still wants to run the ball down opponents’ throats with its Wing-T. But the Grizzlies have struggled to do that consistently this fall, instead turning to senior quarterback Cole Eiguren. With 27 career starts under his belt, he gives Fruitland an aerial threat it has never possessed, throwing for 567 yards and six TDs in two games.
The home team has won the past five matchups in this series. That ends Friday night as Fruitland wins its 22nd straight game.
Fruitland 30, Middleton 22
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