Eagle High football coach Paul Peterson had to revise his game plan this week.
And it turns out he’s pretty crafty.
When 5A Southern Idaho Conference rushing leader Bucky Schrader was ruled out with a leg injury just hours before kickoff, Peterson turned his one-horse offense into running back by committee.
Seven different players carried the ball, and quarterbacks Devan Bridgewater and Cole Christensen shared time, taking Borah by surprise in a 39-29 victory in the first round of the 5A state playoffs Friday night at Thunder Stadium.
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Eagle (7-3) advances to the quarterfinals next week for a rematch against defending state champion Highland (8-1). The Rams will host, likely in Pocatello’s Holt Arena. Highland topped Eagle 42-7 last year.
Going into the game, Schrader was averaging 25 carries per game for a conference-best 1,460 yards and 27 touchdowns.
But with Schrader out, the Mustangs were forced to take a very different approach.
“We really thought he was going to play tonight, but earlier today it just wasn’t good enough, and this afternoon we had to make a decision that we would have to try to win this one without him,” Peterson said. “Bucky hadn’t practiced all week, so I really felt like we were already prepared because of the amount of different people we had involved in the offensive structure. We were really calm about it.”
When Eagle took to the field for its first offensive series, Schrader was noticeably absent. The Mustangs’ first play of the game was a 4-yard carry by junior Nathan Buich, who normally starts at receiver.
The Borah sideline knew something was up.
“We saw (Schrader) in warmups, but he didn’t finish warmups, and we didn’t know that,” Borah coach Darren Corpus said. “We weren’t quite sure what the injury was, but they still had talented guys out there.”
Without Schrader in the backfield, the Borah defense was suddenly facing a very different Eagle team.
Senior Gunnar Bradshaw, who has played everything from strong safety to tight end for Eagle this season, came in when the Mustangs needed the hard yards.
Bradshaw finished with five touchdowns and a team-leading 73 yards on 11 carries.
“Gunnar is a great athlete. As a freshman, he was a quarterback in this program,” Peterson said. “He can run, he’s physical.
The 6-foot-3, 205-pound Bradshaw scored on runs of 1, 2, 33, 4 and 3 yards. His final two touchdowns came in the fourth quarter and were scored just 11 seconds apart.
“They asked me to step up, and I took the role,” Bradshaw said. “It all had to do with my fullback Justin Walker and the O-line. That’s how we did it.”
Borah (6-4) came painfully close to winning its first state playoff game since 1995, leading 29-25 with 3 minutes, 24 seconds to play in the fourth quarter. But the same coach who led the Lions to that playoff win in 1995 also denied them the win this season.
“It’s hard for me to play Borah. I spent 16 years of my life there. That was my home,” Peterson said. “...I just happen to be here now. That’s just the way life turned me, but that’s still a great place for me.”