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Sophomore running back Conner Simpson and the Carey Panthers will be back in action, Thursday, Oct. 29, for a play-in game for the IHSAA 1A Division 2 state football playoffs.

The Carey Panthers will finally return to the field this Thursday, Oct. 29, for a play-in game for the 2020 Idaho High School Activities Association 1A Division 2 “Milk Bowl” tournament.

The Panthers (5-0) will take on the Rockland Bulldogs (4-5) for a home game on Carey’s Derrick Parke Memorial Field with kickoff at 4 p.m.

This will be the first action the Panthers have had since their 40-16 win over Wood River on Sept. 25.

Head coach Lane Kirkland said his team isn’t worried about being rusty for their next matchup.

“Carey is healthy and agitated,” Kirkland said. “It’s going to be Animal Planet. We’re not holding anything back. It’ll be nice to hit someone else besides ourselves.”

Before the hiatus due to COVID-19 concerns, the Panthers were on a roll in 2020. They were ranked as high as No. 1 in the nation according to MaxPreps, but have since fallen to 44th after only playing five games the entire year.

Regardless, Carey has averaged 45.6 points per game and has outscored its opponents this year 228-60.

The Panthers’ biggest win thus far was a 62-0 victory over Challis to open the season on Aug. 28.

As for the Bulldogs, Kirkland said they have a good passing attack.

Rockland averages 35.1 ppg, but has also given up 259 points to opponents.

The last time the Panthers suited up, Carey impressed by amassing 417 yards of total offense in the win over WRHS, so Rockland should expect a heavy dose of running and passing from Carey’s offense.

Kirkland said his team has worked a lot on their passing game.

“Everyone is healthy and we’ve had a lot of reps and a lot of conditioning drills,” Kirkland said. “We brushed up on some things and we’re fine-tuned. The goal is to pick up where we left off.”

This has been a trying year for the Panthers. There was a point at which Carey’s season was in jeopardy of ending because of COVID-19, but Kirkland believes his team went through a different adversity than usual and it built mental toughness.

“We had to accept this thing and fight through it,” he said. “The kids did very well at that.”

Should Carey win against Rockland, the Panthers will face Garden Valley (5-3) in the first round of the IHSAA 1AD2 state playoffs.

That is a matchup that the Panthers would like since Carey beat Garden Valley 78-44 on Sept. 4.

If Carey and Garden Valley meet, the place and time is yet to be determined.

Email the writer: sports@mtexpress.com

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