BLACKFOOT – The curtain closed on Blackfoot’s year unseasonably early, but it was not without a glorious last hurrah.
The Broncos finished the season with a dramatic 28-24 home win Friday over Pocatello after Blackfoot quarterback Rayce Shelley mounted a game-winning touchdown drive in the last minutes of the game.
“He had good composure,” Blackfoot coach Stan Buck said. “We protected well and receivers made some nice catches. He made a couple nice reads on those throws. So things worked out for us.”
Blackfoot receiver Cayden Cornell ran a slant route before catching a 10-yard pass from Shelley in open space in the end zone to give the home team a four-point lead with 1 minute, 47 seconds left in the fourth quarter. Shelley completed 6 of 8 passes for 51 yards on the game-deciding drive.
“Just so happy to end on a win, to come together as a team. We’ve just got that brotherhood,” said an emotional Shelley said on the football field after the game. “We became so close just as a team. Every practice getting better. Every game we improved.”
After the score, Pocatello zipped to midfield before stalling out. Indians quarterback Kobee Gunter sailed a pass to Braxton Staples on fourth-and-four-yards that was just out of reach of the pass-catcher, with 17 seconds left in the final period.
With Pocatello’s loss and Century’s victory Friday, the Indians (4-5, 2-3 4A District 5-6) will not make an appearance at the 4A state playoffs, where they have not played since 2011.
“Obviously disappointed in the outcome,” Pocatello coach Dave Spillett said. “We had an opportunity to control our own destiny. We lost that control”
Beating Blackfoot (3-6, 2-3 4A District 5-6) continued to be a hurdle Pocatello could not jump, even when the Broncos were not at their best. The Indians have not beaten Blackfoot in this decade and were outscored by an average margin of 22 points in that timespan entering the game.
The latest matchup was different, as it was back and forth with five lead changes.
Blackfoot scored the first points of the game on fourth-and-19 on a 30-yard touchdown pass from Shelley to Cornell, a prelude to the game-winning passing connection at the end of the game.
After Pocatello scored the next 14 points on Gunter touchdown passes, Blackfoot closed the first half with a scoring drive that was capped by a Shelley’s 14-yard pass to Carter Cooper.
The senior QB completed 21 of 36 passes for 245 yards and three touchdowns for the game that featured blustery conditions. The low temperature also caused cold hands, causing drops by Blackfoot receivers, including on a pass that would have converted a fourth down in Pocatello territory in the second quarter.
But everything was nearly flawless on the final touchdown drive, when the Broncos were determined to end the season with the sound of applause and a memory to take with them.
“We could’ve easily thrown in the towel three weeks ago,” Buck said. “To come back and win their last two, it’s an accomplishment on their part of not giving up on practice, getting prepared and fighting through situations to win games at the end.”