Clinging to its playoff life, the Bishop Kelly High football team turned to the unit that has made it one of the state’s premier programs for decades — its defense.
The Knights sent the house nursing a seven-point lead at its own 11-yard line late in the fourth quarter. The blitz forced Vallivue quarterback Lan Larison to throw the ball away on fourth down, and Bishop Kelly ran out the final 5 minutes, 8 seconds of the clock to hang on for a 34-27 win at home in the 4A state semifinals.
The victory lifts Bishop Kelly into the state championship game for the fifth time in six years. The No. 2-ranked Knights (10-1) face No. 1 Hillcrest (11-1) at 1 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 17, at Boise State’s Albertsons Stadium.
“It never gets old,” Bishop Kelly coach Tim Brennan said. “It’s one game at a time, but this is where we wanted to be, playing the weekend before Thanksgiving.”
[Related: 5A to 1A state playoff brackets]
That goal wasn’t guaranteed entering the season. The Knights fell in the state quarterfinals last season and had to start over after graduating seven first-team all-conference members and seven more on the second team.
But the perennial powerhouse reloaded behind 27 seniors to restore three traditions at Bishop Kelly — a physical running game, a shutdown defense and state championship game appearances.
“I feel like we ended early (last season) and we need to finish that this year,” Bishop Kelly senior Matt Heilman said. “That’s what we’re here for.”
Vallivue (8-4) entered the game as the state’s top offense at 46.5 points per game, and the Falcons hung 39 points on Bishop Kelly in Week 2. But the Knights held an offense that had scored 50 or more points in three straight weeks in check.
Bishop Kelly forced two turnovers and three three-and-out drives to limit Vallivue to 353 total yards, 148 below their season average.
“It’s a bold statement,” Bishop Kelly senior linebacker Mike Stone said, “but we’re the best defense in the state.”
Bishop Kelly jumped out to a 34-13 lead in the third quarter after Heilman recovered a fumble and Jackson Huskey broke free for a 39-yard touchdown run two plays later. But a hobbled Vallivue came roaring back.
Fighting through a heavy limp, Larison threw touchdown passes of 17 and 22 yards to Jayden Moran to cut the deficit to seven points. Cobe Lehman then blocked a punt to set the Falcons up at the Bishop Kelly 32-yard line with 6:36 left. But the Knights’ defense answered the bell one final time.
“We didn’t play great in that fourth quarter,” said Jackson Lightner, a senior tight end/defensive end. “But when we needed them to step up, they did.”
The loss ended a historic season for Vallivue, which reached the state semifinals for the first time since 2000. Larison finished 13-for-29 for 161 yards and two TDs while running for 62 yards and two more scores. Moran caught nine passes for 113 yards and two TDs.
Hillcrest 41, Nampa 20
Nampa quarterback Braden Minor scored on a 5-yard TD on the game’s opening drive. But the No. 1-ranked Knights (11-1) scored 34 unanswered points to clinch their first state championship berth since 2008.
Hillcrest ran for 579 yards as three running backs topped 150 yards. Oakley Hussey finished with 202 rushing yards, Trae Henry 168 and Kyle Austin 160. All three ran for two touchdowns.
Austin and Hillcrest only threw the ball three times.
Minor added a 72-yard touchdown pass late in the fourth quarter, and Braden Draper returned a fumble 65 yards for a TD for Nampa, which reached the semifinals for the first time since 2007.
Highland 28, Mountain View 18
Defending state champ Highland held Mountain View to its second-lowest offensive output to return to the state championship. The Rams (10-1) face Rocky Mountain (11-0) at 10 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 17 at Boise State’s Albertsons Stadium.
Mountain View racked up 430 yards of offense, including 295 passing yards and three TDs from Noah Bryant. But Highland snuffed out any comeback by holding the Mavericks scoreless in the fourth quarter.
Landon Demuzio led Highland with 203 total yards and a touchdown.
The game featured some controversy after the Idaho State Journal reported Mountain View ripped down Highland banners on the Mavericks’ sideline.
Mountain View coach Judd Benedick told the Journal he wasn’t aware of it until after the game.
“We certainly don’t want to be classless,” Benedick said. “That’s not who we are.”
Homedale 35, Timberlake 20
Mason Kincheloe ran for 298 yards and three touchdowns to lead Homedale (11-0) to its first 3A state championship game in program history and its first title game appearance since 1999.
Kincheloe ran for scores of 10, 12 and 5 yards, and the Trojans racked up 507 yards of offense.
Homedale faces the winner of Saturday’s late game between Kimberly (10-1) and Sugar-Salem (8-1) next week in a to-be-determined location in the Treasure Valley.
Declo 61, West Side 28
Boise State commit Keegan Duncan turned 15 touches into 284 total yards and seven touchdowns to lead Declo (11-0) back to the finals for the third year in a row.
Duncan did most of his damage on the ground, running for 128 yards and five TDs on 11 carries. He also caught a touchdown and threw for a score.
The Hornets face North Fremont (11-0) for the 2A title next week at Holt Arena with a time and date to be determined.
Valley 42, Wilder 40
Unranked Wilder earned a first-and-goal at Valley’s 10-yard line with 23 seconds left. But No. 2 Valley’s Jason Hardy picked off a pass at his own 4-yard line with 18 seconds left to stave off the Wildcats’ (10-2) upset bid.
Valley (10-1) advances to face Oakley (9-2) at Holt Arena for the 1A Division I title. A time and date had not been set at press time.
BISHOP KELLY 34, VALLIVUE 27
BK — Ian Arellano 4 run (kick failed), 4:15
VAL — Lan Larison 3 run (run failed), 8:42
BK — Brady King 1 run (Jackson Stingley kick), 5:00
VAL — Larison 16 run (Hauk Wyatt kick), 1:49
BK — Matt Heffner 5 pass from Beau Nelson (Stingley kick), 0:03
BK — Arellano 10 run (Stingley kick), 4:59
BK — Jackson Huskey 39 run (Stingley kick), 1:56
VAL — Jayden Moran 17 pass from Larison (kick failed), 0:21
VAL — Moran 22 pass from Larison (Larison to Grant Garner pass), 8:12
RUSHING — Vallivue: Jayden Moran 3-13, Lan Larison 18-62, Sebastian Diaz 1-0, Jose Berber 4-47, Carson Child 6-60. Bishop Kelly: Jackson Huskey 11-77, Brady King 11-68, Beau Nelson 3-(-3), Thomas Rizzo 10-81, Ian Arellano 20-89.
PASSING — Vallivue: Larison 13-29-0 161; Casey Coper 1-2-0 10. Bishop Kelly: King 3-4-0 63; Nelson 8-11-0 93.
RECEIVING — Vallivue: Moran 9-113, Grant Garner 5-58. Bishop Kelly: Matt Heffner 6-89, Keegan Croteau 2-26, Jackson Lightner 1-13, Nate Johnson 1-6, Mike Stone 1-22.
HILLCREST 41, NAMPA 20
NAM — Braden Minor 5 run (Zack Feierfeil kick), 11:22
HIL — Kyle Austin 7 run (Gutama Haws kick), 6:30
HIL — Oakley Hussey 10 run (Haws kick), 3:07
HIL — Hussey 53 run (Haws kick), 10:15
HIL — Austin 27 run (Haws kick), 8:27
HIL — Henry 7 run (kick failed), 8:33
NAM — Braden Draper 65 fumble return (Feierfeil kick), 11:45
HIL — Henry 27 run (Aiden Zundel kick), 9:19
NAM — Donavon Estrada 72 pass from Minor (kick failed), 1:39
RUSHING — Nampa: Minor 11-59, Estrada 7-13, Alex Bernal 8-22, Brian Carrillo 3-8, Jeremiah Gaddy-Kest 1-1. Hillcrest: Hussey 20-202, Kyle Austin 15-160, Trae Henry 14-168, Austin Needham 4-18, Tre Kofe 3-16, Seth Curtis 3-15.
PASSING — Nampa: Estrada 2-4-33, Minor 7-15-0 140. Hillcrest: Austin 1-3-0 2.
RECEIVING — Nampa: Cade Smith 1-3, Estrada 6-120, Jace Mann 1-33, Bernal 1-20. Hillcrest: Kanon Young 1-2.
HIGHLAND 28, MOUNTAIN VIEW 18
HIG — Easton Durham 2 run (kick good), 4:38
MV — Joey Elwell 5 pass from Noah Bryant (conversion failed), 11:29
HIG — Andrew VanSickle 4 pass from Durham (kick good), 7:33
HIG — Jesus Garcia 8 pass from Kobe Tracy (kick good), :53
MV — Kaden Chan 14 pass from Noah Bryant (conversion failed), 7:55
HIG — Landon Demuzio 10 pass from Tracy (kick good), 2:34
MV — Chan 45 pass from Bryant (conversion failed), 1:08
RUSHING — Mountain View: Jaymon Barrus 19-117, Bryant 4-24, Leyton Smithson 7-(-6). Highland: Demuzio 23-146, Durham 5-35, VanSickle 2-22, Tracy 1-(-1).
PASSING — Mountain View: Bryant 16-26-1 295. Highland: Tracy 19-26-0 174, Durham 1-1-0 4.
RECEIVING — Mountain View: Blake Jablonski 6-136, Chan 5-100, Colby Peugh 2-44, Elwell 2-10, Seth Jones 1-5. Highland: Demuzio 6-57, VanSickle 6-42, Garcia4-41, Cooper Duffin 2-24, Austin Richards 2-16.