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State Football Semifinal Previews | 5A and 4A
Get familiar with every 5A and 4A state title contender ahead of this week's semifinal games
Published: 11/14/2019 3:36:42 PM


Highland (8-3) vs. Coeur d’Alene (8-2)

The pass-heavy attack of Coeur d’Alene should prove to be the biggest test for the Highland Rams this season. Quarterback Jake Prka has totaled more than 3,000 yards on the season with a 26-to-8 touchdown-interception ratio.

The Ram secondary won’t find any stray passes to pick easily, but they have enough play makers in the secondary to stand a chance with six different players nabbing interceptions on the year, with safety Jason Wright leading the team with two.

Pacing could be the key to a Highland win, as last week the Vikings found themselves holding on to a slim lead after a near comeback effort by Mountain View.

“The start of the first quarter did not go as we had hoped. We are very proud of our players and how they responded the rest of the game,” said Coeur d’Alene Head Coach Shawn Amos. “Beating a quality team like Mountain View is always a good accomplishment. We will be facing another great program in Highland and will need to be ready for four tough quarters of football.”

Should Highland running back Kaleb Demuzio return to action next week, the Viking defense will have its work cut out for it against a dominant Ram rushing attack. Demuzio went off two weeks ago against Madison, chugging along for 221 yards and eclipsing 1,000 yards on the season. But in last week’s quarterfinal matchup against Borah, Demuzio exited early with a knee injury. Madison Guerney of the Idaho State Journal reported Demuzio will have a 50% of seeing the field against the Vikings.

Without Demuzio and backup running back Dalton Jones, also down with an injury, the Rams will turn to freshman Mason Fullmer.

Fullmer ran for 115 yards and a score against Borah, and will look to provide just enough balance to the Highland offense to keep the Coeur d’Alene defense guessing.

“Highland is Highland and we know them very well. It’ll be a great challenge,” Amos said. “You could not ask for a better match up.”

Rigby (8-1) vs. Rocky Mountain (10-0)

With a perfect record and a historic win-streak on the line, the Grizzlies might see their toughest opponent of the season at home against Rigby. But thanks to a dominant defense and a savvy coaching staff, Head Coach Chris Culig said he’s confident in his team’s ability to get the job done and reach the state finals once again.

“The biggest thing is controlling the ball,” Culig said. “Anytime we’ve struggled this year, it’s been because we’ve given it up too much or we’re not taking it away from our opponent enough.”

Culig, who also serves as the Grizzlies' co-defensive coordinator, emphasized the importance of being able to tackle the many offensive weapons the Trojans bring to the table.

Led by quarterback Keegan Thompson, the Trojans have strung together seven straight wins, as Thompson tossed for three touchdowns and running back Brigham Youngstrom ran for 171 yards against Eagle. But the Trojans will face a much more staunch defense Friday, with Rocky Mountain holding opposing offenses to an average of 11 points on the year.

“They look pretty scary on film,” Culig said. “But we go into a lot of games where they’ve got guys that are really good. It comes down to your ability to tackle those players one-on-one.”


Middleton (8-3) vs. Kuna (11-0)

Speaking of perfect records, the Kavemen will have to repeat their Week 1 performance against the Vikings if they want to punch their ticket to the state championship. Winning 34-28 in Week 1, Kuna relied on the game-changing arm of quarterback Sean Austin, who tossed for four touchdowns in the Kavemen’s season debut against Middleton.

“Kuna is an excellent, well-coached team, as illustrated by their record,” said Middleton Head Coach Bill Brock. “They present a multitude of problems for us. In order for us to be successful, we will have to limit our turnovers. Defensively, we will have to create turnovers.”

The Kuna defense will be hoping for another lights-out performance like they had against Vallivue in the quarterfinals when the Kavemen limited Falcon quarterback Lan Larison to just 60 yards passing. But Larison did burn Kuna with his legs, accumulating 137 yards and two scores, but costly turnovers gave the Kavemen the edge down the stretch.

Middleton will need to rely heavily on the run game if it wants to hand Kuna its first loss of the season. Trenton Johansen bullied his way to three touchdowns in the fourth quarter last week against Jerome, decisively putting the game in the Vikings hands. Behind Washington-commit Gaard Memmelaar, Middleton should be looking to cut through the Kuna defensive line much like the Vallivue offense a week ago.

Nampa (8-3) vs. Blackfoot (10-1)

The Bulldogs deserve a breather after two relentless back-and-forth battles in consecutive weeks. Nampa is coming off a playoff-opening offensive firework show against Century that preceded a 14-point comeback effort against Bishop Kelly in the quarterfinals.

But instead of a well-earned rest, the Bulldogs will face one of the best 4A teams in the state.

Ahead of Friday’s game, Nampa Head Coach Dan Holtry had just one message for his embattled team.

“Get a better start and keep the big plays to a minimum,” Holtry said. “We have been having extending film sessions and also spending extra time at practice on some of the little details to make sure we prevent their high-powered offense limited.”

The Bulldogs could be in for another high-scoring affair, with Nampa quarterback Donovan Estrada and Blackfoot quarterback Craig Young ready to light up the scoreboard.

Estrada has yet to throw for less than 100 yards in a game this season, but the dual-threat quarterback doesn’t just rely on his rocket of an arm. Estrada also ran for 397 yards against Century two weeks ago and has ran for less than 100 yards in game just three times all year.

On the other side of the field, Young has less of the eye-popping stats as Estrada, but his leadership has the Broncos averaging 28 points per contest.

Friday’s game could turn into a shootout early, and Blackfoot Head Coach Stan Buck said he understands the importance of keeping pace with Estrada’s play-making ability and will be eager to dial up some big plays for his own quarterback.

“They score, so we'll have to keep up,” he said. “We need to stay balanced and our defense needs to see things well and keep great angles.”


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