Rocky Mountain senior Jake Roper has run for plenty of touchdowns during his decorated career.
Friday night at Brighton Stadium, it was Roper’s arm that helped spark the Grizzlies to the 5A SIC Pod A championship. The standout tailback threw a 54-yard touchdown pass to Josh Kraft on the second play of the game, and Rocky Mountain never looked back, rolling to a 45-14 victory over Capital.
“It turns out it’s a lot more exciting throwing the ball to someone else,” said Roper, who added 130 yards and a touchdown on the ground. “I played a little freshman QB. I wasn’t very good, but I can throw a lob, so it all worked out.”
Rocky Mountain (8-1 overall, 5-0 Pod A) receives a first-round playoff bye. The bracket sets up for the Grizzlies to reach the state championship without leaving the Treasure Valley.
Capital (5-4, 3-2) will host Skyline next Friday at Dona Larsen Park. The Eagles will hope to have standout quarterback Drew Korf back on the field for that game — he sat out Friday after banging his hand on a helmet during practice this week.
“We were in scramble mode a little bit,” Capital coach Todd Simis said. “But I don’t want to make excuses. Rocky is well-deserving of being pod champion this year, and they played a great game. I’m proud of the way our guys competed, and we’re hopeful to have Drew back next week.”
Capital started the game with an onside kick attempt, but Rocky Mountain recovered. On the second play from scrimmage, Roper took a pitch, sprinted to his right and fired a strike to Kraft, who drifted behind the defense. Kraft cruised to the end zone.
“We knew Capital was going to key on (Roper) so we let him make the throw, and it was perfectly executed,” Rocky Mountain coach Scott Criner said. “Our kids did everything they were supposed to do tonight. We finished our business.”
The Rocky Mountain offense was just getting started. Senior quarterback Christian Blaser ripped off a 27-yard first-quarter touchdown run to make it 14-0, and Roper blasted off-tackle for a 38-yard second-quarter score to make it 21-0.
With time winding down in the first half, special teams helped Rocky Mountain deliver a dagger. The Grizzlies partially blocked Micah Hagler’s punt at the Capital 35, and two quick passes set up first-and-goal at the 5.
Blaser scrambled across the goal line two plays later, making it a four-touchdown lead with 1.4 seconds left.
“Things really clicked for us tonight,” Blaser said. “We played 11-man football. The last couple years, we’ve finished short of our goal in the playoffs, but if we keep playing 11-man football, I really think we can take it to the next level.”
Capital, which punted on five of its six first-half possessions, scored in the third quarter on Sam Brixey’s nifty 44-yard catch-and-run from backup quarterback Joel Tenorio. But Rocky answered with an 11-yard run by Cal Criner and a pretty 28-yard bomb from Blaser to senior receiver Jake Piper, making it 42-7.