It was a match-up of Wood River’s hurry-up-and-wait offensive formation to milk the clock, against Jerome’s flat-out hurry-up attack to put the defense on its heels. In the end, Jerome’s passing prevailed.
Hopeful of landing one of two Great Basin Conference tickets to the State 4A football playoffs, the Jerome Tigers (4-4, 3-1 league) amassed 353 passing yards and subdued Wood River (2-5, 1-3) by a 35-7 score Friday on a very mild “Senior Night” at the Tiger gridiron.
Jerome junior quarterback Zach Thibault tossed five touchdown passes to keep the Tigers in the thick of the playoff chase. A combination of a Jerome win at Burley (3-5, 0-4) Friday, Oct. 26 and a Minico (6-2, 4-0) victory at Twin Falls (4-4, 3-1) would eliminate Twin Falls and give Jerome second place.
Friday’s Wood River-Jerome game wasn’t as lopsided as the final score indicated—thanks mainly to another strong push by the Hailey offensive line.
Battling injuries all season with a depleted roster, coach Kevin Stilling’s Wolverine boys put together a determined effort and fought until the end.
The final score was deceiving, because the first quarter was scoreless and Jerome only managed to grab a 21-0 halftime lead on a touchdown with no time left on the clock. In the second half the Wood River defense rose up and stopped Jerome for 22 minutes before the Tigers struck for two meaningless touchdowns on passes.
Wood River out-rushed Jerome 297-79, piled up a 17-3 edge in rushing first downs and owned the time of possession by a 34-13 minute margin.
For the season the Wolverines have doubled up their opponents in rushing yardage—rushing 334 times for 1,846 yards in comparison to 219 times for 962 yards by its foes. Unfortunately Wood River just hasn’t been able to muster a passing game on offense.
What the Wolverines have been able to do effectively is hand the ball to senior running back KJ Savaria—and watch Savaria bull his way over tacklers and drag them along. At Jerome, the 5-11, 200-pound alpine ski racing ace Savaria rushed 22 times for 137 yards and the only Hailey touchdown.
It was the fourth 100-yard-plus rushing game for Savaria, who has rushed 128 times for 775 yards and leads the Wolverines in scoring with 30 points.
His younger brother Austin Savaria pounced on an onsides kick starting Friday’s second half and Wood River drove 50 yards in nine plays for its only score of the league contest. KJ Savaria rushed six times for 41 yards on the TD drive.
Doing much of the Wolverine blocking was the interior offensive line of center Buck Horn, guards Jackson Toothman and Wyatt Griffith, tackles Chris Carnes and Karel Kaiser.
After Savaria’s touchdown cutting the lead to 21-7, the Hailey defense went to work and stopped Jerome’s offense three straight times—the first time after a 12-play, four-minute drive, and then with a couple of four-and-out defensive stands.
The Hailey defense, its secondary gaining confidence with each snap, was ready to make another big stop at its own 35-yard-line late in the fourth quarter. But, on 4th and 24, Jerome QB Thibault found favorite receiver Cody Bowman for a 26-yard gainer and then connected with Bowman on a 9-yard TD to put it out of reach.
With the win, Jerome extended its 40-game mastery over Wood River teams to 35-5. The Wolverines have never won a varsity game at Jerome.
For a full game report and game statistics, check today’s Express Web site.
Next up for Wood River is “Senior Night” against the Canyon Ridge Riverhawks (2-6, 1-3) Friday, Oct. 26 at 7 p.m. at Hailey’s Phil Homer Field. The game will be played for pride, with the winner taking fourth place in the conference and the losing team settling for fifth.
A fourth-year program, Canyon Ridge averaged only one touchdown a game on offense before putting together a solid effort last Friday in a 26-12 loss to league-leading Minico, at Rupert. Over four years the Riverhawks (0-3 road) are 4-12 away from home, and their best season, 4-5 last year, came with a 3-2 road record.
Wood River defeated Canyon Ridge 42-9 in Twin Falls last October, and also won there 9-8 in 2009. The only meeting of the two teams in Hailey resulted in a 21-6 Wolverine win in 2010.
WOLVERINE NOTES—Minico is shooting for its third consecutive Great Basin championship, and seventh in the past eight years, when it plays at Twin Falls this Friday. Twin Falls has won three straight including league road wins over Canyon Ridge 27-0 and over Burley 45-13. The Bruins placed second to Minico the past two years and won the title over Jerome in 2009, so Twin Falls with a loss to Minico will finish in third place—and out of the top two for the first time in its four years in the Great Basin league. A Jerome win at Burley and Twin Falls home win over Minico would force a Kansas-style playoff between Minico, Jerome and Twin Falls to determine the two automatic state playoff trips.
If Minico and Jerome win their games Friday, the Spartans would earn the right to host Skyview of Nampa (6-3) in a State 4A first-round playoff game Nov. 2, and Jerome would travel to Middleton (7-1) Nov. 2. Last Nov. 18 at Holt Arena, Blackfoot (12-0) won its third State 4A title in five years over Middleton (10-3). Minico exited in the first round with a 27-20 loss to Hillcrest, while Twin Falls lost 28-21 to Preston in the first round.
Wood River athletic director John Rade said Monday, “Due to low number of participating athletes, the JV football game scheduled against Canyon Ridge in Twin Falls on Thursday, Oct. 25 has been canceled and will not rescheduled.” Wood River lost four to five players to injury during last Thursday’s home game with Jerome.