Carey School running backs Heith Adamson and Gonzalo Zarate were an unstoppable force for the unbeaten Panther eight-man football team during Friday's 48-6 home triumph over the North Gem Cowboys.
Senior Adamson (14 carries, 184 yards, 3 TD) and junior Zarate (18-142, 1 TD) carried the payload for the punishing Carey ground game that out-rushed the 'Pokes 439-34 in the Sawtooth Conference finale at Derrick Parke Memorial Field.
On his "Senior Night," Adamson (253 all-purpose yards) joined junior Dillon Simpson in leading the tough, quick and aggressive Carey defense (7 sacks) with 11 tackles. Nine times in 25 carries, North Gem's offense was held to zero or negative yardage.
Carey (9-0, 7-0 league) spotted North Gem (5-4, 4-3) an early touchdown and reeled off seven unanswered scores to nail down a third consecutive Sawtooth Conference title.
With the 42-point win, Carey's eighth straight home success over two seasons and 26th straight in Sawtooth play, Carey ran the table in regular-season action and entered the eight-team State 1A Division 2 playoffs with a head of steam.
"Not since our state championship season of 1998 has a Carey football team been undefeated at 9-0 at this point of the season," said eighth-year Panther coach Lane Kirkland (62-16). "That's quite an accomplishment and we hope to build on that. It also puts a big target on us, but that's okay."
Lining up against a good-sized playoff team from Bancroft in eastern Idaho, Carey (46.9 ppg offense, 12.9 defense) had a slow start Friday and didn't score its first two possessions. But Carey struck quickly on its third drive at the end of the first quarter and then was home free with its powerful running game, including three TDs in four-and-a-half minutes during the third quarter.
"I think we had an awesome week of practice and don't know why we started so slow. But this team has developed the mental toughness to fight back," said Kirkland. "On the first series that we scored, we started to dominate the line of scrimmage. We seemed to be quicker than North Gem and used our size to advantage."
Carey's defense got the Panthers rolling Friday.
With the Cowboys ahead 6-0, Carey's defensive front of Antonio Gamino, Tyler Chavez, Todd Peck, Gonzalo Zarate, Adamson and Trevor Peck started blitzing North Gem effectively and putting a ton of pressure on the passing game.
A 22-yard quarterback keeper by Trevor Peck and 23-yard left end run by Adamson set up Carey's first score—Peck plunging home behind senior center Andrew Carlson. The defense stopped North Gem again, and Carey went ahead for good—Antonio Gamino coming off the bench for two carries and the final 36 yards.
Adamson (18 TDs and 112 points) scored three of the next four Panther TDs on runs covering 3, 12 and 76 yards before Zarate (11 TDs, 80 points) completed the 48-6 rout on a short run after a Caleb Cenarrusa interception in the fourth.
Doing the blocking was the interior offensive line of Carlson, Todd Peck and Tyler Chavez, and Wacey Barg.
Snapping the three-game North Gem winning streak, Carey has now won eight of its last 11 meetings against North Gem. The Panthers have crept ahead 13-12 in the football series dating back to 1985.
In three seasons since 2006, Carey teams have a 30-3 overall record and 21-0 league mark and have outscored their opponents 1,517 to 444. Despite losing eight seniors from last year's state runner-up team, Carey hopes to return to the State Division 2 title game that the Panthers won in 2006.
Eight-man playoffs are set
Ranked third in the Idahosports.com poll and first in the Sawtooth, Carey opens its playoff quest Saturday, Nov. 8 at 2 p.m. at Derrick Parke Memorial Field with another meeting against #4-seeded Sawtooth squad North Gem.
Four different teams have won in the four seasons of Division 2 football playoffs. One that hasn't won is top-ranked Kootenai of Harrison (9-0), which has outscored opponents 478-52 and is averaging 53.1 ppg.
Northern Idaho champion Kootenai opens at home against a sacrificial lamb in Mullan (2-6) Friday, Nov. 7 at 7 p.m. Pacific time. Kootenai has already whipped Mullan twice by 46-0 and 58-6 scores.
The Kootenai-Mullan will advance into the Nov. 15 semi-final against the winner of Saturday's District 3 playoff between #2-ranked Garden Valley (8-0) and reigning state champion Salmon River of Riggins (6-1). That game will be played Saturday at 1 p.m. at Garden Valley. Host Garden Valley beat Salmon River 44-20 Oct. 17.
Meanwhile, #4-ranked Mackay (8-1, 6-1 league) hosts Richfield (7-2, 5-2) Friday at 4 p.m. at Mackay. Mackay, the #2 Sawtooth seed, has already beaten #3-seeded Richfield 34-20. The winner of Mackay-Richfield gets the Carey-North Gem winner over the Nov. 14-15 weekend at Pocatello's Holt Arena.
Check today's Express Web site for full statistics from Friday's Carey-Cowboys clash.