High School Football

First an ax, now a helicopter. Treasure Valley’s top football rivalry keeps growing.

Idaho’s top high school football plays | Week 1

The top Idaho high school football plays from Week 1 around the state.
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The top Idaho high school football plays from Week 1 around the state.

Describing something as a circus usually carries negative connotations. But not in the case of the Battle of the Mountains football rivalry.

The matchup between No. 1-ranked Rocky Mountain (1-0) and No. 2 Mountain View (1-0) entered a new era last fall with the winner claiming a firefighter’s ax as a trophy. But Mountain View upped the ante even further this year.

The Mavericks host this year’s contest at 7 p.m. Friday with the spectacle worthy of a circus. A rider on horseback will lead Mountain View onto the field. A helicopter will buzz the stadium three times in a pregame flyover. And that helicopter will even circle back, hover 20 feet over the field and drop the game ball to signal the start of the Treasure Valley’s biggest high school football game.

“You have the two biggest schools in the state going at it Week 2,” Mountain View Athletic Director Luke Wolf said. “I’m all about making big games even bigger, having players and fans love the atmosphere.”

That’s exactly what high school football needs in the Treasure Valley. Other regions of the state feature rivalries dating back 50 or more years, games that everyone circles on the calendars and ignite communities even in down seasons.

But due to Boise’s explosive growth, the Treasure Valley doesn’t have any spectacles like the Emotion Bowl in Idaho Falls or the Black and Blue Bowl in Pocatello. Eight schools in the Boise metro area played 5A or 4A football in 1994. Today, 19 do, making it impossible to establish traditions when a new school opens every couple years.

But Rocky Mountain and Mountain View are dead set on creating one. It started last fall with a rivalry trophy featuring a set of firefighter’s irons. The 3-foot-long ax comes with each school’s logo set atop a 38-inch-long, 4-inch-deep walnut base. The full trophy weighs 50 pounds, and the winners can remove the ax and hoist it with their teammates, just as Rocky Mountain did last year.

The Rocky Mountain High football team beat Mountain View 16-6 to win the inaugural Battle of the Mountains trophy.

The trophy, created to honor Idaho’s wildland firefighters, sat inside Rocky Mountain’s trophy case alongside its state championship trophy all year long. The Grizzlies even had to create room for the oversized trophy. But they found a way to squeeze it in there.

“It’s already a big game,” Rocky Mountain coach Chris Culig said. “It just helps pull everybody in the community together. I don’t want to say it’s a championship, but it’s one game in the middle of the year that gives you a playoff feel.”

That community builder remains the key. The number of boys playing football each fall continues to decline for a variety of reasons, from concussions to one-sport specialization to an ever-growing list of alternatives. So schools can no longer count on opening the gates and expecting fans to fill the stadium.

But turning a rivalry into more than a football game — a social event, a memorable experience, even a circus — grows the sport, engaging alumni across the country and pulling in new fans who wouldn’t normally find themselves in the stands on a Friday night.

Wolf deflects the credit for Friday night’s upcoming spectacle. He said all the ideas came from his student council and student body.

Student body president Ryan Telfer dreamed up the helicopter idea and found a company to fulfill his vision. And the horseback rider, Sarah Miraya, wants to one day lead the Boise State football team onto the field. Working with Mountain View’s football team gives her valuable experience.

The creative outpouring has Mountain View confident it will fill its 3,500-seat stadium even as it goes head-to-head with Boise State’s home opener against Marshall at 7 p.m. Friday.

“Boise State plays on Friday and they keep pumping their game, but this is a pretty dang good game, too,” Culig said. “That’s a big game, Marshall and Boise State. But in the Valley, Rocky Mountain and Mountain View is a pretty big game, too.”

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Rocky Mountain running back Devon Fox picks his way through the Borah defense last week during the Grizzlies’ season-opening win. Darin Oswald doswald@idahostatesman.com

ROCKY MOUNTAIN AT MOUNTAIN VIEW, 7 P.M. FRIDAY

Rocky Mountain, the state’s unanimous No. 1 team and undefeated defending state champ, looked a bit shaky in a season-opening win at Borah, needing to score 20 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to pull away with a 35-15 victory.

But Culig said he liked the moxie his team showed, never giving up despite a host of frustrations. The fact the Grizzlies proved they can grind out and will themselves to a win shows a lot.

Meanwhile, Mountain View opened with a 46-6 blowout of Timberline. Sophomore Leyton Smithson proved the real deal. But it’s hard to say the Mavericks proved anything with that win.

Give me the more battle-tested team, especially early in the season.

Rocky Mountain 20, Mountain View 15

MERIDIAN AT EAGLE, 7 P.M. FRIDAY

I challenged Meridian to prove it has fixed its leaky defense last week, and it responded by holding Skyview to 280 total yards and six points in a 27-6 win.

The Warriors have everyone watching them as possibly the next team to crash the 5A SIC power structure. Meridian gets a chance to prove it is that team Friday. But seeing is believing. And no one has found a way to stop Eagle quarterback Ben Ford yet.

Eagle 35, Meridian 20

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Nampa senior Jace Mann led the 4A classification with nine interceptions last season. He snared two last week in the season opener. Katherine Jones kjones@idahostatesman.com


NAMPA AT KUNA, 7 P.M. FRIDAY

Both unranked teams pulled upsets last week with Nampa knocking off No. 1 Bishop Kelly on the Knights’ home field and Kuna beating No. 2 Middleton on the Kavemen’s turf.

The wins vaulted both teams into the 4A state rankings with Nampa at No. 3 and Kuna just behind at No. 4. The Kavemen have the home-field advantage and appear to have found a big-play threat at quarterback in junior Sean Austin.

But Nampa’s defense feasts on creating turnovers. And a young quarterback in a pass-happy offense creates plenty of opportunities for more.

Nampa 35, Kuna 32

BISHOP KELLY AT VALLIVUE, 7 P.M. FRIDAY

How the tables have turned. Vallivue enters this old SRV rivalry game as 4A’s No. 1-ranked team while perennial powerhouse Bishop Kelly is unranked thanks to last week’s loss to Nampa.

Bishop Kelly has won 11 in a row over the Falcons and hasn’t started 0-2 since 2008. But the Knights struggled to contain an elusive quarterback in Nampa’s Donavon Estrada last week, allowing him to buy time and slice and dice Bishop Kelly’s normally vaunted defense.

That spells trouble against Vallivue quarterback Lan Larsion, the state’s reigning 4A player of the year.

Vallivue 35, Bishop Kelly 28

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Michael Lycklama has covered Idaho high school sports since 2007. He’s won national awards for his work uncovering the stories of the Treasure Valley’s best athletes and investigating behind-the-scenes trends.If you like seeing stories like this, please consider supporting our work with a digital subscription to the Idaho Statesman.
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