POCATELLO – You just felt bad for the cornerback across from Julian Bowie. The Pocatello sophomore is 6-foot-1 and growing, loading up on Division I basketball offers before he can drive.
Worse, the Jackson Hole team must’ve thought they were being swindled, probably checking rosters and asking for a birth certificate as Bowie hauled in a 50-yard rainbow from quarterback Ryan Payne, his powerful strides gliding him yards ahead of his defender during Poky’s 46-20 win.
There is no No. 81 on the Pocatello roster. No mention of Julian Bowie anywhere. Just his picture slid into the game program – and it’s remarkable that’s even there. Bowie has only been practicing with the Thunder for two weeks and didn’t suit up until Thursday.
Before that, as Pocatello celebrated its season-opening win over Ogden (UT) in Rexburg, Bowie was standing off to the side in street clothes with some buddies. After playing a little bit on Poky’s JV team a year ago, it wasn’t a guarantee he’d be on the gridiron again.
“After Week 1, he was like, ‘I’ve got to get back,” Pocatello coach Dave Spillett said of Bowie. “Jackson Hole has to just hate him. They don’t see him on film and all of a sudden, he’s running past people. He’ll be an added weapon for us.”
Yet on the same night Pocatello gained a playmaker, it temporarily lost one.
Trying to make the sticks in the first quarter, Payne lowered his body and bulldozed a Jackson Hole defender. He picked up the first down and pain in his right shoulder.
“I was like, ‘Aw crap,’” Payne said postgame. “I knew something wasn’t right.”
It wasn’t, but Payne tried to keep playing. And his right shoulder looked manageable, especially as he cocked it back and unleashed the bomb to Bowie. Then a sack before halftime pinned Payne to the Holt Arena turf and a few hundred pounds of body weight compressed onto his sore extremity. He limped to the sidelines in agony.
The next drive, sophomore Dre Contrearas took the reins under center and threw a pick. Suddenly, Poky football seemed like the rodent inching towards a rat trap. All is glitter and gold until the spring snaps.
As the Thunder gathered at halftime, Payne was driven to the hospital for X-Rays. Luckily, as the senior was away, his team was doing just fine.
Before the Payne injury, Pocatello had a nice cushion heading into halftime thanks to a botched Jackson Hole punt. A muffed snap hit the ground and a Broncos’ special teamer picked up the ball and chucked it in desperation. Big linebacker Jaxon Williams snatched it and barreled 20 yards from the score.
“I ran as fast as I could, (but) I’m pretty slow,” Williams said with a laugh. “I’m a big guy. I’m hard to take down.”
Then, before spectators could see if Payne was going to be out there for the second-half kick, Krue Hales took the half’s opening kickoff 90 yards down the sideline for a 13-second score. Hales was a menace in a secondary that had three interceptions – including two by Chance Crittenden – but his return effectively put the game on ice.
For good measure, though, Pocatello answered a Jackson Hole touchdown with a one-yard run from sophomore tailback Ryken Echo Hawk. That was Echo Hawk’s final carry of the night, a game in which he finished with 10 carries for 111 and two scores. The highlight: A 57-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. The 160-pound ball carrier bounced right, past the edge set by trusty linemen Luke and Tommy Smith, but was corralled by a hoard of six bodies in the secondary. No worries. Echo Hawk shuffled to a stop, reversed field and ran into the end zone.
“It’s really nice to feel like if you can get him a seam, he’s going to take it,” said Williams, who also plays left tackle. “If you can get him no contact for five yards, he’s going to get 10.”
When Payne returned, Pocatello was basically already 3-0. Problem was, being undefeated without your starting quarterback is like having a Ferrari without your license. Payne returned midway through the third quarter, sporting a white sleeveless shirt and a bag of ice wrapped around his shoulder.
Yet he flashed a smile postgame.
“It’s not broken,” he said.
Sprained … but not broken.
“We’re just going to rest it this week and see where it’s going to take us,” Spillett said. “He’ll be back in no time for sure.”
Pocatello plays its most-anticipated game of the year next Friday, the Thunder trying to snap a streak of 10-straight losses to Highland in the Black and Blue Bowl. If Payne will suit up against the Rams is unknown but, hey, at least it’s not broken.