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Carey senior Sawyer Mecham grabs a 2-point conversion pass from Panther senior quarterback Hunter Smith giving the visiting Carey varsity a 34-0 second-quarter lead over the Vikings in Friday’s season opener. Defending at the right is Challis junior Seth Nunes.

Carey High School sophomore Connor Simpson scored three touchdowns and senior quarterback Hunter Smith threw for three scores in Friday’s 62-0 Panther non-conference victory at Challis.

The Panthers (1-0) outrushed Challis (0-1) by a 272-26 count and Smith (7-for-9, 165 yards) was dominant in the passing department. Carey built a 50-0 halftime lead. Six different players accounted for the nine touchdowns.

Simpson rushed for 144 yards on seven carries and scored on the run from 19 and 20 yards. Smith tossed TD aerials to sophomore Riley Morey from 50 yards, to Simpson from 32 yards and to senior Ashton Sparrow from 36 yards.

Panther seniors Ashton Sparrow and Chase Gross added TD runs after halftime. Senior Dallin Parke scored on a short run, and caught two Smith conversion passes. Sawyer Mecham, another senior, nabbed a two-point pass.

Carey coach Lane Kirkland said, “For an almost entirely brand new group of players on both sides of the ball we got off to a good start on the road.

“This was a good game to answer some personnel questions and evaluate our strengths and weaknesses. We have a lot of potential and a lot of work to do, but things look very promising.”

Carey won Friday’s junior varsity half game 32-0.

Biggest game of the early season occurs in Carey’s home opener against Garden Valley on Friday, Sept. 4. Kickoff is 6 p.m. Garden Valley opened the season Friday with a 44-32 home win over Dietrich.

Garden Valley (7-4) gave Carey all it could handle in the 78-33 Panther state semi-final triumph last Nov. 15 at Eagle High. Garden Valley features senior All-State studs Covy Kelly and Devin Yearsley.

During Carey’s back-to-back state championship campaign of 2018, the Panthers went on the road and handled Garden Valley by a 74-36 score.

Carey has won 24 consecutive home games since a 20-14 loss to Challis in the first game of the 2016 grid campaign.

Kirkland said, “Garden Valley has some talented athletes and will be competitive. They are no stranger to us the last two years. It’ll be fun.”

In other games of interest last weekend, Rockland won 44-24 at Camas County; Murtaugh prevailed 64-26 at Hansen; Lighthouse Christian won at home 25-0 over Glenns Ferry; and Richfield outscored visiting Shoshone 44-6.

PANTHER NOTES—Kirkland said, “We spent two full practices (last Tuesday and Wednesday) prepping to play Wood River, the first night of practice serving up the rib dinner, and another night at a team building rally on top of Queens Crown. So under the preparation circumstances the kids really did a great job…

“We believe in these young men, and know they'll do whatever it takes to always do their best. The kids have a great attitude and work ethic. They are so excited to be back together doing something, and doing something they love! We just hope we can continue to play this game we love so much for the kids, community and our school's livelihood…..

Kirkland said that on Aug. 10, the first official day of football practice, “We held our fifth annual Rib Dinner Football fundraiser that was canceled in March. Over 600 people turned out for our curb-side delivery.”

He added, “Over the last five years we have served around 3,000 people. It was great to see our fans’ faces, in their cars of course, and to provide them a nice meal and a night on the town celebrating Carey Panther football.”

Email the writer: sports@mtexpress.com

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