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State Football Semifinal Previews | 3A and 2A
Get familiar with every 3A and 2A state title contender ahead of this week's semifinal games
Published: 11/15/2019 11:19:56 AM
 

3A

Homedale Trojans (10-0) vs Timberlake White Tigers (9-0)

In his 17th season as head coach of the Timberlake White Tigers, Roy Albertson has seen his share of teams from the SRV. Since 2009, Timberlake has made it to state every year except 2017. From 2009-2015 they lost to an SRV team, including three years in a row to Fruitland. Last year, Timberlake lost to Homedale in this same round in a chilly game at home 35-20. This year’s Tiger team is looking to end the streak and finally move on to the championship game.

To get there, Timberlake will lean heavily on their senior standouts. Quarterback Joey Follini has some of the best passing stats in the state, throwing for almost 1,500 yards with 23 touchdowns and just seven interceptions. Follini is also third on the team in rushing with just under 500 yards and 11 touchdowns. If a touchdown happens for the White Tigers, odds are Joey Follini was involved somehow.

Jeremy McLemore has rushed for 800 yards on 111 carries this season, scooting in for 11 touchdowns. He has also pitched in 33 tackles on the defensive side as well. Speaking of defense, Josh Yanaz is the guy to watch at linebacker with 54 tackles and four sacks so far this year.

This Timberlake team is proficient at putting lots of points on the scoreboard while at the same time keeping opponents out of the end zone. They are sporting the third-highest point differential in the 3A classification, outscoring their opponents by an average of 33.1 point per game.

Head coach Matt Holtry and his army of Trojans came up just a touchdown short of a championship in 2018, losing 30-22 to Sugar-Salem. While they lost four all state players to graduation, including star running back Mason Kincheloe, they returned the bulk of their offense and defense with more experience, grit and determination.

For senior quarterback Daniel Uranga, this is his last chance to secure his place in family history, as the last three Homedale state championship teams were led by Urangas – uncle Darren in 1997 and father, Tony, in 1991 and 1992. Uranga threw for almost 2,300 yards in 2017 and is on pace to hit that same mark in 2018 heading in to the semifinal game this year, throwing for 2,092 yards and 27 touchdowns.  

The cast is deep and talented at Homedale this year. Junior Karsen Freelove didn’t play in last week’s quarterfinal win over SRV rival Fruitland at home. It remains to be seen if he will be dressed down for this Saturday’s semifinal game. The Trojans were able to make do without their star running back last week, but against a much tougher defense from Spirit Lake, they will sorely need his 100+ rushing yards and 1.5 touchdowns per game.

Seniors receivers Jake Collett and Nelson Lomeli have combined for 1,675 yards and 22 touch downs while Collett has also collected almost 350 yards rushing and six touchdowns on the ground. Lomeli also moonlights as one of the best kickers in the 3A classification averaging almost 40 yards per punt & kick while connecting on 47 point after attempts. With Homedale averaging over 52 points per game, Lomeli has one of the most used legs in the state of Idaho.

Snake River Panthers (8-2) vs Sugar-Salem (8-1)

In his fourth season as head coach at Snake River, Jeb Harrison turned last year’s 2-6 team in to one of the most improved teams in Idaho high school football. The Panthers only lost two games this season – by a grand total of just 8 points. One of those losses was to a tough Teton team (in a blizzard), but Snake River atoned for that loss last week, beating the Redskins in the quarterfinals 34-14.

Last year, the Panthers missed out on the playoffs due to the much-hyped RPI. Teton made the playoffs with a higher RPI than Snake River, even though they had identical records and Snake River had won the head-to-head matchup 38-10. Harrison and his team of Panthers decided this year to not even make it close, finishing as the No. 2 seed in the 3A classification, behind Homedale but ahead of defending State Champion Sugar-Salem.

Harrison brought back a plethora of talent from 2018, more experienced – and more hungry – than they were last year. Treyton Young spent much of his junior season battling injuries, but still managed to be named first team All-State at defensive back.  Young is back this year and better than ever, scoring four touchdowns in last week’s win over Teton, three of them coming in the first half. Fellow senior, Armondo Garza, is equally dangerous at running back and at linebacker.

Snake River has two quality, albeit young, quarterbacks that share time leading the Panther offense. Junior Mitch Lindsay and Sophomore Cole Gilbert are a solid 1-2 punch, giving Snake River the ability to keep the position fresh and the opposing defenses guessing.

After winning it all in 2018, the Diggers of Sugar-Salem spent every week on top of the statewide media poll, with a big target painted squarely on their collective backs. While they lost several multi-year starters and all-state and all-conference players, they returned twice as many,  including 3A All-State Player of the Year quarterback Tanner Harris. Harris has thrown for close to 850 yards this season with 14 passing touchdowns. He’s also rushed for over 200 yards and ran in four touchdowns.

The big story on Sugar-Salem though is how deep they are at so many skill positions. They have three 550-plus yards rushers; Browning Bennion with 501 yards and nine touchdowns, Hadley Miller with 531 yards and eight touchdowns and Sam Parkinson with 620 yards and 10 touchdowns.

On the defensive side, the Diggers are what you could call “stout”. The season average says they allow their opponents to score 6.3 points per game but, in reality, over half of their games ended with their opponents going home with a zero in the scoring column. A loss to Star Valley, Wyoming 24-7 and a win over a very good Gooding offense last week 47-20 skewed their season average.

The last time Sugar-Salem played Snake River was Aug. 31, 2018. The Diggers blew the doors off the then-struggling Panthers 67-0 at home. Don’t expect that to happen again Saturday at Holt Arena.

2A

West Side Pirates (9-1) vs Melba Mustangs (8-2)

Coach Tyson Moser has his team firing on all cylinders coming into Saturday’s semifinal game. The Pirates are on an eight-game winning streak after losing to 3A Snake River 7-6 Sept. 6 and since then, the Pirates have averaged over 35 point per game and have given up only 43 points total. That includes the 22 points Cole Valley put up against them in the quarterfinals last week, the most of any team since Declo beat them in the semifinals last year 61-28. Just for the record, 15 of those points were scored by Cole Valley after the game was pretty much decided and starters were watching from the sidelines.

The Pirates hang their tricorn hats on two things, defense and a lethal ground attack.  Last week they put up over 300 total rushing yards on 60 carries and scored all seven touchdowns on the ground. Individually, Jaxon Moser, Josh Reeder and Dustin Sparrow are almost impossible to stop. Together? Forget about it. They have a tough, smart, offensive line that can clear the way for them and the defensive line is so tight they could turn coal in to diamonds. West Side doesn’t throw the ball often but, when they do, quarterback Ryan Beckstead is deadly accurate. In their 43-22 win over Cole Valley last week, Beckstead went 4-4 for 84 total passing yards.

After getting waxed in the play-in round of 16 last year by WIC rival McCall-Donnelly 34-0, the Mustangs came out in 2019 with something to prove. They have two losses on the season, 58-6 against 3A Homedale and McCall-Donnelly 42-20. Both teams have been ranked in the top five all year long, with McCall-Donnelly spending much of the year at No. 1 in the 2A media polls. In his third hear at the helm, head coach Juan Colunga might just have the toughest and most talented Mustang team ever.  

Melba only lost two seniors to graduation and pretty much reloaded with more experience, more size and more depth. The Mustangs are a lot like West Side in that they like to keep it on the ground but can air it out when needed. They have bought in 100% to the Wing-T implemented by Coach Colunga and are running it to near perfection every game. With most of Melba’s touchdowns this season coming on the ground, the offensive line is key to the Mustangs’ success or failure this Saturday. For the season, senior Easton Bunnell has rushed for 1,400 yards and 28 touchdowns. Fellow senior Scott Martinez is right behind Bunnell with almost 1,100 yards and 15 touchdowns. Creating space early for these two beasts is paramount for the Mustangs.

McCall-Donnelly Vandals (10-0) vs North Fremont Huskies (10-0)

This is the “Battle of the Unbeatens” in the 2A classification and there are whispers that this is one of those years when the championship game is being played in the semifinals. Both teams come in putting up big numbers on offense with defenses that are stingier than Scrooge McDuck.

Most coaches would be happier than a puppy in room full of rubber balls to just have a dual-threat quarterback that has rushed for 768 yards and eight touchdowns while also throwing for over 2,200 yards and 36 touchdowns. Other coaches would give up their hefty stipend just to have a receiver go for almost 1,100 yards and 17 touchdowns in a season. Now add in a linebacker that gets 88 total tackles, 10 sacks, eight fumble recoveries and two blocked punts. If that’s not enough, make room for a running back/linebacker that runs for over 450 yards and eight touchdowns with 75 total tackles and five sacks.

Put all those pieces on the same football team and you’d have yourself a coach that spends all day giggling like a schoolgirl. Minus the whole giggling thing, that pretty much describes Coach Lee Leslie at McCall-Donnelly this year to a T.

On the offensive side of the ball for the Vandals, senior quarterback Pete Knudson has steadily improved since taking over the position from Ben Knudson, who graduated in 2018. He is as “dual-threat” as they come and keeps opposing defenses on their toes every down. Senior wide receiver Noah Ormsby has caught most of those bombs thrown by Knudson this year, hauling in 38 catches for 1,083 yards and 17 touchdowns. Tuff Bentz and Beau Carr have teamed up in the backfield for over 800 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns.

Things haven’t gotten any easier for opponents this year when the Vandal defense is on the field, even though they are never at work for very long. Last week they held the reigning 2A State Champion Declo Hornets to a paltry 79 total yards on offense. They have goose-egged five different opponents this year, and three other times only gave up one touchdown. McCall-Donnelly boasts the highest point-differential in the 2A ranks this year, outscoring their opponents by an average of 43.7 points per game.

A major cog in this defensive machine is senior transfer Chase Burtenshaw at linebacker. Burtenshaw moved to McCall from Kuna over the summer, effectively swapping one undefeated team for another this season.  His 88 total tackles, 10 sacks, eight fumble recoveries and two blocked punts are the stuff Christmas carol parodies are made of. His partner in crime, Tuff Bentz, has 75 total tackles and five sacks on the season.

Leslie has been blessed with one of, if not the most talented and well-rounded team to ever grace the field at MDHS.

Last year, North Fremont lost the championship game to a Declo team that had won 24 straight football games. Most pundits thought it just wasn’t in the cards for the Huskies to compete at the same level this year after losing so much senior talent.

Coach Bob Lenz and his young team had other ideas.

North Fremont breezed through the regular season, their closest game a 16-14 victory over 3A Teton. They scored 40-plus points six times and held every team they played to two scores or less eight times. In the simplest of terms, their offense can score a lot of points and their defense stops the other team from scoring.

The Huskies are a team that relies on the ground game to get it done and, with guys like senior Riggen Cordingly and junior Deshon Wheeler, why not?Cordingly is sitting at just under 1,600 yards rushing on the season heading in to this weekend’s game. He’s got 29 touchdowns and has scored nine 2-point conversions this year. Wheeler is right at 1,000 yards rushing with 8 touchdowns and eight 2-point conversions. You might be right if you guessed that “PAT kicker” is a lonely position on this team.

When coaches do call in a pass play, junior quarterback Luke Hill makes the most of it, completing 19 of 37 passes this year for 440 yards and seven throwing touchdowns. Sophomore receiver Jordan Lenz was the target for most of those passes, catching eight for 259 yards and four touchdowns.

When it’s time to play defense, Cordingly just turns and faces the other way. He leads the team in tackles with 84, followed by fellow senior Paul Wynn with 70 tackles and three sacks.

North Fremont comes in to the semifinals with experience playing in the latter rounds of the tournament, something McCall-Donnelly doesn’t have.  They aren’t as big or as experienced overall, but what the Huskies lack in size and experience, they make up for in sheer talent and experienced coaching.



 
 
 


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