It was a successful night for both Franklin County high school football programs as Preston earned a thrilling victory over perennial 4A state power Blackfoot, and two-time defending 2A state champion West Side rolled in its district opener.
Preston stuffed the Broncos on a two-point conversion run with 42.8 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, recovered the ensuing on-side kick and held on for a 27-26 Homecoming win.
The Indians (4-1) had lost eight of their previous nine showdowns with the Broncos (2-3). Blackfoot, which beat defending 4A champion Skyline last week, has lost all three of its games this season by one point. Ironically enough, three of Preston’s four wins have been by a single point.
“For Preston, I feel it is a huge win to establish a tradition of being a solid program,” PHS head coach Eric Thorson said. “As exciting as this is for our seniors, I’m looking around at the third- and fourth-graders looking on and chearing, and dreaming of their turn. It is special for Preston.”
Preston quarterback Brecker Knapp threw for 184 yards and three touchdowns — all of them well-executed fade routes to 6-foot-3 wide receiver Tyler Lindhardt, who high-pointed the ball nicely on all three occasions. Knapp found Lindhardt for scoring strikes of 24 and 7 yards in the opening quarter, and his well-placed 26-yarder to the senior gave the Indians the lead for good in the fourth quarter.
However, Preston had to sweat it out as Blackfoot signal caller Jaxon Grimmett tossed his third TD with less than one minute remaining in the contest. Preston was whistled for pass interference on Blackfoot’s first two-point conversion attempt, and the PHS defense was up to the challenge the second time around.
“Just very proud of the players,” Thorson said. “They practiced well all week, studied film and played their best. It’s a privilege to coach a team where players do such a good job of building each other up and not getting down on each other.”
Knapp also found the end zone on a 1-yard keeper to cap off an epic seven-plus-minute third-quarter march for the Indians, winners of three straight.
Preston had a golden opportunity to put points on the scoreboard at the end of the first half, but missed a 26-yard field goal one play after Chevy Nelson caught a 9-yard pass from Knapp that was initally ruled a touchdown, but the decision was overturned after two of the officials confered with each other.
Emery Thorson led a solid Preston rushing attack with 76 yards, while sophomore Colton Francis chipped in with 55. The Indians were missing tailback Charles Iverson, who suffered a shoulder injury two weeks ago against Bonneville. Preston had a bye last week.
Lindhardt finished with 103 yards on seven receptions, while Nelson added 38 yards on five catches.
Ashton Madsen came up big for the Indians on defense as he intercepted a pass, recovered a fumble and made a team-high nine tackles. Emery Thorson contributed with eight tackles and Jaden Perkins seven for the Indians, who also got an INT from Cord Eavenson — his second of the season.
Visiting Bear Lake (2-3, 0-1) was no match for West Side, which extended its program record winning streak to 26 with a 42-8 drubbing of the Bears. The Pirates (5-0, 1-0) piled up 35 points during the middle two quarters to take complete control.
The Bears didn’t score until late in the fourth quarter, well after the Pirates had emptied their bench.
“It’s always good to be 1-0 in district,” WS head coach Tyson Moser said. “I thought the kids came out ready to play tonight. Bear Lake threw some different things at us than what we had prepared for all week, so they caught us off guard a little bit defensively. But the kids buckled down and adjusted, and did what they needed to do. And offensively, it might be the best we’ve executed this year.”
Once again, the Pirates controlled the clock with their potent rushing game. West Side amassed 261 yards on 34 attempts and scored all six of its touchdown via the run.
Cage Brokens led the charge with 64 yards and a pair of TDs for the Pirates, who got 63 yards — on just three carries — and two touchdowns from Parker Henderson, and 45 yards and two scores from Parker Moser. Most of West Side’s jaunts to paydirt took place inside the 10-yard line, although Henderson busted off a 50-yarder in the third quarter.
Blaize Brown completed 6 of 11 passes for 79 yards for the Pirates, who didn’t turn the ball over. Bryler Shurtliff caught three of those passes for 40 yards.
It was another stellar defensive performance for the Pirates, whose first-stringers haven’t given up any points for four straight games. Brokens came through with 11 tackles for West Side, which got five tackles and two passes broken up from Carson Chugg, plus an interception from Cristian Plancarte.
“I’ve said it before, (but) I think we have the best defensive (coaching) staff in the state of Idaho,” coach Moser said. “And the kids buy in, they listen and they do what they’re told. ... They just buy into the system and they all do their part, and it works out for them.”