All the momentum favored the visiting Salmon Savages in the second half of Friday’s non-conference football game hosted by the Wood River Wolverines at Hailey’s Phil Homer Field.
The first game of the 2013 season for Wood River started well, and then Salmon rallied.
Salmon, trailing 19-8 at half, scored three of the first four touchdowns of the second half behind the passing of senior quarterback Jedd Tibbitts, the Idaho Statesman’s 2A All-Idaho Second Team quarterback last season. Tibbitts completed 17-of-21 passes for 222 yards after halftime.
Indeed, Tibbitts completed eight of his first nine passes of the second half—three going for touchdowns—and put the Savages ahead 32-27 to complete a scoring spree of 24 Salmon points in just five minutes. Salmon’s go-ahead touchdown came after a Tibbitts interception.
Wood River’s defense seemed powerless to stop the Savages.
But Tibbitts made one passing mistake and the Wolverines capitalized with a “Pick 6” en route to a 40-32 win—Wood River’s first football victory over Salmon in 16 years. The Wolverines improved to 1-0 and Salmon fell to 0-2 on the season.
Wood River junior defensive back Hayden Thayer, last year’s Wolverine “Defensive Player of the Year,” intercepted an underthrown Tibbitts pass and returned it 43 yards for a touchdown with 10 seconds left in the third quarter to put the home team ahead for good, 33-32.
On Salmon’s next attack, the Wood River defense led by the tackling of co-captain Cody Richmond (7 tackles), Jackson Toothman (8 tackles) and Hagan Barsch (6 tackles) stopped the Savages running game in Wood River territory—and first-team All-Great Basin Conference defensive back knocked down a Tibbitts 3rd-and-3 pass at the Hailey 26.
Salmon had to punt the ball.
On Wood River’s first offensive play, junior wingback Champe Kotara broke through a huge hole for a 52-yard gainer—Tibbitts finally running him down at the Salmon 28.
Then, on 4th-and-14, sophomore quarterback Alec Nordsieck (9-for-13 for 171 yards, 3 TDs) threaded the needle for a 32-yard TD pass to senior Cooper Bailey putting the Wolverines on top for good 40-32.
Salmon had one more chance to tie the game, moving 70 yards to the Wolverine 2-yard-line before the Hailey defense stiffened and finally stopped Tibbitts from rallying his team once more. Tibbitts threw two incomplete passes on third and fourth downs from the Wolverine 8-yard-line.
Wood River coach Kevin Stilling said about the Hailey defenders in the crowd at the goal line on Salmon’s last-gasp fourth-down passing play, “Austin Savaria, Cooper Bailey and Champe Kotara were all there. There were two different wide receivers in the vicinity.
“Our rookie CB's did a great job against a very talented four- year starter in Jedd Tibbitts. Our defensive line lead by Jackson Toothman gave just enough pressure to keep him off balance early. Coach Miner (Salmon coach Ken Miner) believed that the ‘Pick 6’ by Thayer was the first one of Tibbitts' 40-plus games as a varsity starter.”
The Wood River coach added, “I was extremely proud of this young group of kids and the character they showed. For a group with limited senior leadership, they showed poise beyond their years when Salmon took the lead.”
The Wolverines (4-for-4 in fourth-down efficiency) out-rushed Salmon 233-34 and had a 496-412 advantage in total yardage. In time of possession, Wood River (84 offensive plays) had the ball for nearly 33 minutes, and Salmon (60 offensive plays) had 15 minutes of possession.
Accounting for the six Wood River touchdowns were Bailey (2), Thayer (2), Kotara and Gunner Gibson (5 receptions for 91 yards).
Making his first start, Nordsieck showed maturity beyond his years in the first half, completing 7-of-9 passes for 126 yards and 2 TDs as the Wolverines dominated ball possession—nearly 20 of 24 minutes in the first half.
Wood River out-rushed Salmon 98-2 before halftime.
After Gunner Gibson pounced on Salmon’s onside kick attempt to start the game, Nordsieck guided Wood River to its first TD. He faked to the left side and threw back to the right side, finding Gibson down-and-in for a 33-yard scoring strike.
Wood River tried its own onsides kick and it was successful, Aramys Gallegos falling on the ball. So the Wolverines kept the pigskin and Thayer busted through two tacklers at the scrimmage line on 4th-and-1 and sprinted 26 yards for another score.
The home team stretched its lead to 19-8 at halftime by moving 57 yards on 11 plays late in the second quarter. Thayer hit the hole with authority and ran five yards on 4th-and-3 at midfield, then Nordsieck connected with Gibson for 16 yards and another first down on 3rd-and-13 from the Salmon 35.
On a perfectly placed aerial just above the stretch of Salmon defensive back Tibbitts, Nordsieck found Bailey for a 16-yard TD pass on 3rd-and-6.
Stilling said, “Having the ability to get the ball down the field and behind the defense with play action is what is going to make our running game even stronger. Alec Nordsieck showed great poise for a sophomore playing his first varsity game. That was made possible by a heck of a job by our offensive line giving him the time to make decisions.”
That interior line featured center Cody Richmond, guards Jackson Toothman and Hagan Barsch, and tackles Taylor Douthit and Parker Bingham. Dee Jay McMurdo also spent time at offensive guard after Douthit left with an injury.
The coach added, “I wasn’t totally pleased with our ‘surge’ up-front blocking with our running game but that is going to get better with experience and having a group that isn't shuffled in and out all game with equipment issues.”
Salmon went to a hurry-up offense and quicker passes from Tibbitts to his receivers in the second half and it worked. The Savages scored three touchdowns in a five-minute stretch of the third quarter and surged ahead 32-27.
Fortunately for the home team, Wood River managed to break the Salmon surge with a touchdown of its own on the first Hailey possession of the third quarter.
Thayer’s 26-yard kickoff return and his 18-yard run on 2nd-and-18 started Wood River on its 58-yard drive that was helped immeasurably by a pass interference call whistled against Salmon, with Gibson trying to get open behind the defense.
On the next play, Kotara accelerated through another huge hole and dashed 11 yards for Wood River’s fourth touchdown.
Thayer’s game-changing interception came on a 3rd-and-10 play—right after Wood River tacklers Hagan Barsch and Parker Bingham roughed up Tibbitts and forced the third-down situation. And the insurance touchdown was a beauty of a 32-ayrd pass, into traffic, from Nordsieck to Bailey on 4th-and-14.
Wood River stays home to host the Buhl Tribe (0-1) on Friday, Sept. 13 at 7 p.m. Buhl lost 18-13 at Burley (2-0) last Friday.
Buhl (2-6 last year) fell at home 19-12 to Wood River in 2012. Tribe football teams are 5-14 in their last 19 games. Wood River has now won two straight games over Buhl including the 21-8 home victory in 2011. Indeed, Wood River has out-rushed Buhl 650-185 in the last two meetings.
However, Buhl still leads the 43-game series with Wood River 32-11—and the last Wood River home win over Buhl before the triumph in 2011 came way back in 2000.
Stilling said, “I always talk about a team making their biggest improvements between games No. 1 and No. 2 and we hope to do just that this coming week.”
Freshmen outlast weather, Salmon 8-0
The Wolverine freshman football team weathered a weird night of mountain weather and outlasted the host Salmon Savages 8-0 Thursday on a touchdown pass from Cade Schott to Jesse Vercelli followed by a two-point conversion run by Travis Swanson.
Coach Matt Nelson said there was a heavy rain and lightning storm before the game started. Then a power outage hit the entire town of Salmon, causing the game to be shortened because of the lights weren’t working.
After Wood River scored its points and darkness became a factor, Nelson said, “The head referee informed both sidelines that Salmon would get one series of downs to score. Our defense held strong once again to stop the Savages in their tracks.”
The Wood River frosh (1-0) visit Buhl Thursday, Sept. 12 for a 7 p.m. game at Bowers Field. First home game for the young Wolverines is Thursday, Sept. 19 at 6:30 p.m. against Gooding at Phil Homer Field.
WRHS Line Score
Wood River 40, Salmon 32
Wood River—Gunner Gibson, 33-yard pass from Alec Nordsieck (run failed); 8:01 1st (6-0 WR)
Wood River—Hayden Thayer, 26-yard run (Eron Bates kick); 5:17 1st (13-0 WR).
Salmon—Kyler Bowen, 49-yard fumble recovery (Thomas Benedict, pass from Jedd Tibbitts); 3:31 1st (13-8 WR).
Wood River—Cooper Bailey, 16-yard pass from Alec Nordsieck (kick failed); 2:19 2nd (19-8 WR)
Salmon—Colton Nelson, 29-yard pass from Jedd Tibbitts (Zack Miner, pass from Tibbitts); 9:29 3rd (19-16 WR)
Wood River—Champe Kotara, 11-yard run (Zach Swanson run); 6:22 3rd (27-16 WR).
Salmon—Thomas Benedict, 60-yard pass from Jedd Tibbitts (Tibbitts run); 6:03 3rd (27-24 WR)
Salmon—Thomas Benedict, 11-yard pass from Jedd Tibbitts (Tibbitts run); 4:11 3rd (32-27 Salmon)
Wood River—Hayden Thayer, 43-yard interception return (run failed); 0:10 3rd (33-32 WR).
Wood River—Cooper Bailey, 32-yard pass from Alec Nordsieck (Eron Bates kick); 7:21 4th (40-32 WR)
|Time of possession
|1st downs, rush
|1st downs, pass
|1st downs, penalty
|1st downs, total
|Yards per carry
|Yards per completion
|Sacks by, yards
|Total yards gained
|Third down efficiency
|Fourth down efficiency
|Yards per punt
INDIVIDUAL LEADERS—Wood River
Rushing—Champe Kotara 12-97, 3 1sts, 1 TD; Hayden Thayer 11-83, 3 1sts, 1 TD; Zach Swanson 14-47, 1 1st, 1 conv.; Cooper Bailey 6-18, 2 1sts; Alec Nordsieck 9, -6; Christopher Lentz 2, -3; Austin Savaria 1, -3.
Passing—Alec Nordsieck 9-13, 171 yards, 5 1sts, 3 TD, 1 interception.
Receiving—Gunner Gibson 5-91, 3 1sts, 1 TD; Cooper Bailey 2-48, 2 TD; Hayden Thayer 2-32, 2 1sts.
Kickoff returns—Hayden Thayer 3-45.
Punt returns—Hayden Thayer 1-4.
Interceptions (1)—Hayden Thayer 1 with a 43-yard TD return.
Fumble recoveries (2)—Aramys Gallegos and Gunner Gibson (onsides kicks).
Sacks (1)—Jackson Toothman and Parker Bingham 1-9.
Tackles (49)—Jackson Toothman 8, Hayden Thayer 7, Cody Richmond 7, Hagan Barsch 6, Parker Bingham 4, Cooper Bailey 3, Zach Swanson 3, Alec Nordsieck 3, Christopher Lentz 2, Champe Kotara 2, Aramys Gallegos 2, Izaac Easterday 1, Eron Bates 1.
Rushing leaders—Colton Nelson 8-19, 1 1st; Jedd Tibbitts 11-15, 1 1st, 2 conv.
Passing—Jedd Tibbitts 19-30, 232 yards, 5 1sts, 3 TD, 2 conv., 1 interception.
Receiving—Thomas Benedict 4-74, 2 TD, 1 conv.; Walker Lowery 3-62, 2 1sts; Colton Nelson 4-55, 1 1st, 1 TD; Derek Smith 4-23, 2 1sts; Zack Miner 4-18, 1 conv.
Kickoff returns—Thomas Benedict 2-40; Colton Nelson 1-36; Trenton Beyeler 1-17.
Punt returns—Jedd Tibbitts 1-13.
All-purpose yardage—Jedd Tibbitts 272 yards.
Interceptions (1)—Jedd Tibbitts 1 with a 12-yard return.
Fumble recoveries (1)—Kyler Bowen 1 with a 49-yard TD return.
Sacks (1)—Colton Smith, Quinton Hildreth and Matt Lopez 1-4.
Tackle leaders—Jedd Tibbitts 10, Kyler Bowen 7, Thomas Benedict 7, Colton Smith 7, Quinton Hildreth 7, Jade Barney 6, Garrett Jarnagan 6, Jeff Bennett 6, Matt Lopez 4, Derek Smith 3, Colton Nelson 3.