In a matter of about 36 minutes, the balance of power shifted in Idaho 1A Division 2 eight-man football last Nov. 18 at Holt Arena in Pocatello.
That’s the period of time during which the Lighthouse Christian Academy Lions of Twin Falls (10-3) reeled off four unanswered touchdowns to shock defending state king Carey (11-1) by a 34-22 score in the small-school championship.
Not only did Lighthouse win its first state title in any sport and snap Carey’s 18-game winning streak, the Lions completed an amazing turnaround from a 3-6 season and became the prohibitive Division 2 favorite for the 2012 campaign.
The Lions graduated eight including All-Idaho first teamer Dylan Van Esch, but they’ve returned their primary skills players—junior quarterback Logan Bosma, sophomore running back Adam Baylor and senior receiver Eli Berndt.
Adding insult to injury, Lighthouse embraced newcomer Garrett Lee, a strong 6-2, 220-pound senior lineman who starred for Carey in the trenches last year and moved to Twin Falls prior to this season.
Last Friday in its opening game, Lighthouse romped 56-6 at Idaho City with Bosma throwing for five TDs and over 250 yards, Taylor running for four scores and over 200 yards, and Berndt catching three TDs.
The Lions served notice.
Before handing Lighthouse the crown, it’s worth noting that since the Idaho High School Activities Association split eight-man football into Division 1 and 2 back in 2004, there hasn’t been a back-to-back state winner.
Carey, a five-time state football champ, has unsuccessfully tried to accomplish the feat three times since 2006.
It’s tough to repeat.
Carey’s 12th-year coach Lane Kirkland (96-20) knows all too well. He has always encouraged the Panthers to aim high. But he’s also realistic, with the emergence of a powerful Lighthouse program, and the loss of five seniors who accounted for 68 of Carey’s 82 touchdowns last fall, and 80% of the team’s points.
“Winning a state championship is a lofty goal,” he said. “The most important thing for us is to win our conference.”
He’s thinking the new playoff format when he says that.
Likely roadblocks to Carey repeating as champions of the six-team Sawtooth North Conference are the Dietrich Blue Devils (5-4 last year) and Mackay Miners, who missed the state playoffs for the first time in 17 years with a 4-6 record.
Dietrich junior running back Hazen Weber scored six TDs in Friday’s 56-6 Blue Devil home win over Shoshone. Mackay lost 40-34 in overtime to Challis in Friday’s Zero Week.
Realistically, Carey, Dietrich and Mackay will be fighting for the two Sawtooth North playoff spots, while Lighthouse and a challenger like Castleford or Rockland are likely to take the Sawtooth South’s two playoff spots.
The first-place North and South teams will host the first-round playoff games against the second-place teams. For instance, if Lighthouse wins the South, the Lions will entertain the North runner-up—and the North champ meets the South runner-up in Round One.
“If we go in second, we have to play Lighthouse down there,” said Kirkland about a possible scenario. “We’d probably have to win both our games against Dietrich and Mackay to avoid that.”
Like last year, Carey has 20 players on its roster and the Panthers boast an offensive threat in senior quarterback Jordan Dilworth. He finished with a school-record 2,318 passing yards and 39 touchdown passes last season.
Dilworth is one of three returning starters who have shown leadership, the others being senior linemen Glen Andrews and Francisco Gamino, coach Kirkland said. “Jordan provides us with great options on offense,” said Kirkland.
Even without Lee, Carey still has a “good front line,” the coach said. “We’re not as fast as we were last year. Jordan may have to throw more and spread it out a little—5- and 10-yard passes and let ‘em run.”
The other two seniors are end Patrick Baird and quick 170-pound center/defensive lineman Gunner Thompson. About Thompson, Kirkland said, “Gunner has really come alive with his snaps on offense and his penetration and tackling ability on defense.”
Filling the running back and linebacker positions are Carey’s three juniors, Tori Alvarez, Luis Garcia and Christian Zarate. Sophomores Matt Whitworth (offensive guard) and Nate Adamson (tight end) will be important players. “Nate runs a nice route and has great hands,” said Kirkland.
The coach is also encouraged about a “young, hungry” group of seven freshmen offering good physical size and hope for the Panther future.
Carey opens its season Friday, Aug. 31 at 7 p.m. with a home non-league game against 1A Division 1 Raft River at Derrick Parke Memorial Field in Carey. A 4 p.m. junior varsity game precedes that game.
Raft River is hoping to improve on last fall’s 4-5 season with first-year coach Brian Poole and senior quarterback Tanner Anderson. The Trojans lost 20-12 at Castleford Friday, but they held the Wolves scoreless in the second half.
“We watched Raft River play twice in a jamboree (Aug. 17) with Challis, Castleford and Dietrich,” said Kirkland. “Raft River has quick kids, all about 165 pounds, stout, stocky and quick. They hit the hole fast. They haven’t had much success recently so they’re hungry.”
Carey has beaten Raft River 20-0 (away, 2011) and 50-0 (home, 2010) the last two years, and lost 26-12 at Malta in the other meeting back in 2006.
Homecoming is Friday, Sept. 21 with Mackay’s Miners.
Athletic director Cook is looking for another game to fill the Sept. 28 game date vacated by Gooding’s North Valley Charter, which announced last week it doesn’t have enough players to field a team.
Here is Carey’s roster. Position symbols are Offensive Guard (G), Center (C), Running Back (RB), Quarterback (QB), Tight End (TE), Defensive Line (DL), Defensive Back (DB), Defensive End (DE), Linebacker (LB) and Safety (S).
Punter is Gunner Thompson and placekicker Luis Garcia.
Head coach—Lane Kirkland (12th year, 96-20). Carey is 64-7 over the last six seasons (33-2 home) and is 44-1 in regular-season league play since 2005.
Assistant coaches—Lee Cook (defensive coordinator) and Lane Durtschi (line).
Seniors (5)—Francisco Gamino (G/DL), Jordan Dilworth (QB/S), Glen Andrews (G/DE), Gunner Thompson (C/G/DL), Patrick Baird (TD/DE).
Juniors (3)—Tori Alvarez (TE/RB/LB), Luis Garcia (RB/LB) and Christian Zarate (RB/LB).
Sophomores (5)—Matt Whitworth (G/DL), Alex Durtschi (C/DL), Chris Peck (G/DL/LB), Corban Johnson (QB/S), Nate Adamson (TE/QB/S).
Freshmen (7)—Joe Parke (RB/QB/LB), Zach Olsen (RB/LB), Collin Whitby (TD/LB), Dallin Dilworth (TE/DE), Colton Metzler (TE/DE), Salvador Ruiz (G/DL)and Mario McLaughlin (G/DL).
Panther spikers back on the court
Carey High School’s varsity volleyball team opened its 18-match regular-season slate Tuesday night at Murtaugh and will have its first home matches Thursday, Sept. 6 against Dietrich and Oakley.
Ninth-year coach Kathy Whitworth has seven players on varsity including four seniors—outside hitter Jaide Parke, setter Angelica Zarate and middle hitters McKayla Mecham and Morgan Parke.
Whitworth said, “We’ve been hitting well and the serving looks good. Jaide and McKayla are good passers and Angelica is strong on defense.”
A new addition is junior Lilly Rivera, an athletic player who hasn’t played volleyball before. Whitworth said Rivera has effective passing abilities.
Carey (7-13 last season) played some of its best volleyball in the eight-team Northside Conference tournament and, despite being seeded sixth, moved up to place fourth—just missing a state tourney berth.
Whitworth graduated seven seniors including top hitter Micaela Adamson from the 2011 Panther varsity squad.
Three-time defending State State 1A Division 2 champion Camas County of Fairfield and the Dietrich Blue Devils—the top two finishers in the league tournament—are considered favorites in the 2012 Northside.
Coach Dick Simpson’s junior varsity features 10 players including sophomores Paige Koudelka, Natalie Villanueva and Kylie Castle. There are seven freshmen on the JV.
Head coach—Kathy Whitworth (9th year). Assistant coach—Dick Simpson.
Seniors (4)—Jaide Parke, Angelica Zarate, Morgan Parke and McKayla Mecham
Juniors (3)—Ashley Durtschi, Daphne Kirkland and Lilly Rivera.