Rocky Mountain’s Colby Jackson threw three interceptions. He struggled to find open receivers all night. He even started to doubt himself.
But the No. 1-ranked Grizzlies never gave up on their senior quarterback, and Jackson rewarded that faith Friday night.
Jackson scrambled for the game-winning, 8-yard touchdown in overtime, leading Rocky Mountain to a 19-13 victory over rival Eagle and erasing any memory of his rough start to the game.
The win stretched Rocky Mountain’s winning streak to 20 games and secured the Grizzlies (8-0) their second consecutive 5A Southern Idaho Conference title.
“This was one of the worst games of my life. Things just weren’t clicking,” Jackson said, fighting back tears after the game. “But my teammates were there for me and picked me up. My coaches believed in me.
“Everyone just believed in me. That’s what’s different about this program.”
Rocky Mountain trailed in the second half for the first time all season. It continued to rotate Jackson and junior Kobe Warr under center. But even after Jackson threw his third interception in the end zone to squander first-and-goal at the 2-yard line, Rocky Mountain kept going back to the senior quarterback who led the Grizzlies to a perfect season a year ago.
Rocky Mountain trusted Jackson as it dialed up a trick play on fourth-and-4 in the fourth quarter, sending the senior in to run it. He rolled to his right only to lateral back to left tackle Gerrit Tamminga, who found himself wide open for a 14-yard touchdown run that put the Grizzlies ahead 13-10 with 9 minutes, 24 seconds left in the fourth quarter.
Eagle (5-3) tied the game and forced overtime with Austin Frisk’s 28-yard field goal. The Mustangs then took possession of the ball first in overtime and had to settle for another field goal. But Rocky Mountain’s Tiloi Nawahine leaped up to block the 22-yard kick, the second straight week an opponent has blocked a Frisk kick.
The block set the stage for Jackson. On second down, he saw a safety flash over the middle, triggering him to look for Noah Croft. But Eagle took that route away, too, leading Jackson to tuck the ball and sprint 8 yards untouched to the left pylon for the game-winning score.
“He’s a leader. He’s always been a leader,” Nawahine said. “That’s just how he is.
“It’s tough to compose yourself when you’re having a rough game. But he did that, and that’s what leaders do. He made a big-time play and won us this game.”
Jackson finished the night 5-for-16 for 54 yards, numbers boosted by a strong finish as he rallied the Grizzlies in the fourth quarter and overtime. He said emotions flooded over him as he crossed the goal line, and they continued well into the postgame trophy ceremony.
“He kept fighting,” Rocky Mountain coach Chris Culig said. “You love your quarterback to be tough and be resilient.”
This win is Rocky Mountain’s fourth straight over rival Eagle, including its third straight in the Herb Criner Bowl game. The conference title guarantees the Grizzlies a bye into the state quarterfinals after next week’s road game against Skyview, as well as home-field advantage through the state semifinals.
The victory also puts the Grizzlies into rarefied air with a 20-game winning streak, the longest in Idaho’s 5A classification since Coeur d’Alene won 24 straight from 2010 to 2012 en route to back-to-back state titles (2010-11).
But after watching his team struggle in all three phases — offense, defense and special teams — Culig knows his team has a long way to go before repeating as state champion.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do,” he said. “We’re not nearly as clean and crisp as we were a year ago, if I compare the two teams. We still are not just as crisp mentally, and that is what we’re working on.”
Rocky Mountain 19, Eagle 13
RM — Tiloi Nawahine 6 pass from Kobe Warr (Steven Stoddard kick), 8:21
EAG — Cam Churchill 15 pass from Mason McHugh (Austin Frisk kick), 4:09
EAG — Frisk 26 field goal, 7:13
RM — Gerrit Tamminga 14 run (run failed), 9:24
EAG — Frisk 28 field goal, 4:29
RM — Colby Jackson 14 run
RUSHING — Eagle: Jackson Stampfli 14-47, Gabe Fesler 1-(-7), Mason McHugh 8-(-13), Quinton Michel 1-(-31), Charlie Baker 14-85, Team 1-(-12). Rocky Mountain: Jordan Erickson 14-50, Colby Jackson 3-14, Kobe Warr 4-14, Devon Fox 10-32, Gerrit Tamminga 1-14.
PASSING — Eagle: McHugh 14-20-1 113. Rocky Mountain: Jackson 5-16-3 54; Warr 4-7-0 48.
RECEIVING — Eagle: Dalton Mashore 2-18, Stampfli 1-2, Gabe Fesler 5-52, Cannon Morgan 1-11, Cam Churchill 4-28, Ethan Mikita 1-2. Rocky Mountain: Erickson 5-63, Kaden Birch 2-17, Max Nead 1-16, Tiloi Nawahine 1-6.