Even Eagle coach Paul Peterson needed a moment to absorb the number.
Sophomore quarterback Ben Ford ran for 319 yards and three touchdowns Thursday to lead the Mustangs to a 36-32 upset victory over Capital at Dona Larsen Park, punching Eagle’s ticket to the playoffs for the 11th straight year.
That number — 319 — knocked Peterson on his heels, forcing him to take two steps back and catch his breath.
“He ran for 319? Oh. Ooooh,” Peterson bellowed. “Whoa. Those are rare numbers.”
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Ford had never played quarterback entering the season apart from a handful of snaps as a Wildcat QB on Eagle’s freshman team last year. But heading into the final week of the regular season, he’s proved himself as one of the state’s most dangerous, dynamic and destructive weapons in the Mustangs’ option offense.
The Eagle (5-3) signal caller ran for touchdowns of 14 and 1 yards in the first half. Then he exploded in the second half, running for 221 yards, including 138 yards in the fourth quarter alone.
He also threw for 77 yards and a TD, accounting for 396 of Eagle’s 493 yards of offense.
“I can’t really explain it,” Ford said. “It’s just one of those games where I’m just going. It’s all on the line right now.”
Capital (5-3) took a brief 32-29 lead with 6 minutes, 47 seconds left in the fourth quarter on Jake Jones’ 3-yard touchdown run. But Ford responded two plays later by squirting through a tackle and then hitting the afterburners for a 67-yard TD run.
“He’s a special athlete,” Peterson said. “He’s not a quarterback. He’s not a ‘pure quarterback.’ But he’s unbelievably competitive and unbelievably quick and fast. You saw it. Poof, he’s gone.”
Gannon Matthews and fellow defensive back Devon Young made sure Ford’s last touchdown stood as the game-winner. With the ball at the 8-yard line, Capital quarterback Ryan Hibbs twice turned to 6-4 receiver Jonah Blackham, his team’s security blanket and touchdown machine, in the final two minutes.
But Young drilled Blackham at the goal line on third down, separating him from the ball and a sure touchdown. Then on fourth down, the 5-11 Matthews and 5-8 Young combined to punch, scrape and fight Blackham as he tried to haul in a jump ball in the back of the end zone.
Neither were sure how, but somehow they jarred the ball from Blackham’s hands.
“I started ripping at whatever I could,” Matthews said. “We were trying to shove him out of bounds. I put my head right in his gut, and I looked up and the ball was on the ground.”
The upset continues Eagle’s turnaround after a 1-2 start despite mounting injuries. The Mustangs began the night with their top two running backs, leading receiver, starting right tackle and top defensive lineman on the sideline. But even with five sophomores starting, including three on the offensive line, the Mustangs keep rolling.
Eagle wraps up the regular season next week at home against Centennial before entering the playoffs as one of Idaho’s most dangerous teams.
“We think we can play with anybody,” Peterson said. “... We’re really close. We’ve got to be in the conversation. Even though we’re not in the polls and all that, I get all that. We haven’t earned it. But we just needed to get into the tournament.”
Capital already clinched its playoff berth entering Thursday. But with three losses and Eagle owning a head-to-head tiebreaker, it needs to win and get help next week to earn a home playoff game.
Quarterback Ryan Hibbs led Capital in the loss, throwing for 263 yards and a TD. He also ran for 75 yards and another score on a night he was elected homecoming king.
EAGLE 36, CAPITAL 32
CAP — Chase Miller 33 field goal, 9:15
EAG — Ben Ford 14 run (Austin Frisk kick), 0:46
CAP — Sam Sessou-Djokoto 1 run (kick failed), 9:49
EAG — Ford 1 run (Frisk kick), 5:04
CAP — Jackson Beers 29 pass from Hibbs (run failed), 2:27
CAP — Sessou-Djokoto 2 run (Miller kick), 1:09
EAG — Dalton Mashore 28 pass from Ford (Ford run), 5:50
CAP — Miller 29 field goal, 0:42
EAG — Mike Ellis fumble recovery (Frisk kick), 9:01
CAP — Jake Jones 3 run (Miller kick), 6:47
EAG — Ford 67 run (Frisk kick), 6:10
RUSHING — Eagle: Dalton Mashore 1-0, Dakota Thompson 1-(-15), Austin Thompson 1-4, Cam Churchill 4-45, Ben Ford 31-319, Jackson Stampfli 17-79, Logan Rorabacher 1-(-8), Team 2-(-8). Capital: Michael Holley 1-(-4), Sam Sessou-Djokoto 17-75, Ryan Hibbs 17-75, Jackson Beers 1-5, Hayden Picard 1-2, Jake Jones 10-36, Team 1(-7).
PASSING — Eagle: Ford 6-14-0 77. Capital: Hibbs 20-34-x 263.
RECEIVING — Eagle: Mashore 2-41, Thompson 2-15, Churchill 1-11, Drew Lajocies 1-10. Capital: Holley 4-51, Gavin Piva 2-13, Beers 8-94, Jonah Blackham 5-82, Hayden Picard 1-23.