The long and winding road to the Idaho High School Activities Association 1A Division 2 “Milk Bowl” eight-man football state championship will go through Northern Idaho.
The good thing for Carey High School’s football team is that they’ve been on the road nearly the entire season.
Kendrick now awaits Carey to see which small-town team has what it takes to bring home the glory.
The Panthers (7-0) will bring their winning streak and 51.7 points per game to the Kibbie Dome in Moscow to battle the Tigers (6-1) for a chance to earn a trip to the championship game.
“At this point of the season it’s all about who wants it the most,” Carey head coach Lane Kirkland said.
It’ll be a small case of déjà vu. The last time these two teams met was in the Kibbie Dome in the semifinals of the 2018 IHSAA 1AD2 football tournament.
Back then, Carey won easily, 80-36.
“Dallin Parke and Hunter Smith were starters for us in that game,” Kirkland said. “We will be looking for a semifinal series sweep of Tigers. We are playing well and expect our best game yet.”
That same year the Panthers went on to win the title, beating Lighthouse Christian 26-20. The Tigers are coming off a 44-34 victory in the quarterfinals against Watersprings.
Quarterback and dual-threat freshman Ty Koepp went 13-for-21 for 219 yards and three touchdowns for the Tigers. He also added 157 yards rushing.
All three of Koepp’s touchdown passes went to sophomore Jagger Hewett, who had five catches for 145 yards.
Kendrick senior running back Matt Fletcher had 84 yards and one touchdown.
This will be a brutal matchup for the Tigers as Kendrick hasn’t faced a team like Carey since its week one game against Prairie in which the Tigers lost 60-20.
Despite the big loss, the Tigers have won six in a row, so Kendrick is battle-tested. Kendrick has scored 326 points this year (46.5 points per game).
Carey has an advantage with 15 upper classmen (8 seniors, 7 juniors) whereas Kendrick only has four upper classmen (3 seniors, 1 junior).
Even though the Tigers stopped Watersprings’ running back Matt Almgren after Almgren racked up 231 yards in a win over Hansen in the first round, Carey’s all-around game will be a lot for Kendrick to handle.
Senior Hunter Smith was 10-for-10 passing for 169 yards and three touchdowns last week in the Panthers’ 46-28 win over Garden Valley. Smith also had 54 yards rushing and eight tackles on defense.
Senior Ashton Sparrow had 68 yards receiving with one touchdown and one sack on defense.
Senior Dallin Parke had an outstanding game as well. Parke had 79 yards receiving with two touchdowns to go along with his stout defensive presence. Parke had 17 tackles and a fumble recovery.
If Kendrick’s ground defense is as advertised, the Tigers will have their hands full with Carey sophomore standout Conner Simpson, who had 161 yards on the ground and two touchdowns against Garden Valley. The Panthers had 245 yards on the ground as a team. The game is set for a 3:30 p.m. MST kickoff (2:30 p.m. PST) for Saturday, Nov. 14.
The game will also be available for radio broadcast on Idahosports.com