The stakes will be high when the Wood River Wolverines and Jerome Tigers clash in a pivotal Great Basin Conference West 4A prep football game Friday, Oct. 13 with the kickoff set for 7 p.m. in Jerome.
Although Jerome (3-3, 0-1 league) dropped its Great Basin opener 20-14 to defending league champion Minico (5-1, 1-0) Sept. 22 in Rupert, the resurgent Tigers coached by first-year mentor Gary Krumm still have an outside chance at the league title.
The Tigers will have to beat Wood River (4-2, 1-0) Friday and hope the Wolverines upset Minico Oct. 20 in Hailey to create a three-way 2-1 tie for first—considering that 2004 league champ Burley (0-6, 0-1) continues its free fall.
Jerome's 35-28 non-league win last Friday over previously unbeaten Buhl (5-1) will motivate the Tigers.
Wood River, meanwhile, is coming off a 39-0 league victory at Burley Sept. 29 and a bye week. The Wolverines of second-year head coach Mike Glenn will be trying to do what no Wood River team has ever done before—win at Jerome.
Dating back to 1969, Wood River is 0-17 at Jerome and has been outscored 554-95 including 34-0 and 39-13 setbacks the last two visits, in 2003 and 2004. But Glenn's first Hailey squad last fall snapped a 24-game winless streak to Jerome dating back 30 years with a 16-0 win in Hailey. Wood River out-rushed Jerome 207-77 last October and cut Jerome's series advantage to 29-4.
Glenn said, "Jerome has real good skill athletes. They have speed and they're athletic." The Tigers, 2-16 the past two seasons, have beaten Buhl, Twin Falls and Gooding this season, and have lost to Middleton 34-29, at Century 7-2 and at Minico.
Another factor Friday is the question: Is it the Pocatello Bowl?
That means there's a chance the Jerome-Wood River winner might actually be the loser because the second-place Great Basin West team is matched on the road in the first round of the State 4A playoffs Oct. 27 against the Fifth District champ, most likely two-time state runner-up Pocatello (5-1, 25-5 three years).
Pocatello is currently ranked first in the Idahosports.com 4A poll ahead of Skyview of Nampa (5-1) and Bishop Kelly of Boise (5-1). Jerome is 11th and Wood River 12th of 22 schools in the online poll.
If #4-ranked Minico wins the league title for a second straight year, for instance, the Spartans will probably host the third-place team out of eastern Idaho, either Rigby (1-5) or Bonneville (2-4). And the third-place Great Basin team, very possibly the Jerome-Wood River loser, will have to travel to the Sixth District champion in the first round Oct. 27.
That opponent should be #5-ranked Blackfoot (4-2), winner of four straight after season opening 34-32 and 45-14 losses to 5A teams Madison of Rexburg (4-3) and #3-ranked Skyline of Idaho Falls (6-1).
A lot of things can happen in two weeks, however, and those two weeks of scenarios starts Friday in Jerome.