Before the football season started in August, Carey football coach Lane Kirkland had his team run to the top of Queens' Crown and come up with five goals they wanted to accomplish this season. Fast-forward three months, and the team is two games away from achieving what they set out to do.
If you spin it like New England coach Bill Belichick, the most important aim is to win the 1A Division 2 state championship. If they do that, goal number two is taken care of, to compile an undefeated record—something Belichick's Patriots could not accomplish—thanks to the New York Giants.
Sticking with the NFC East theme for a moment, the North Gem Cowboys proved to be no stumbling block to the Panthers high aims.
In the first round of the 1A Division 2 eight-man playoffs in Carey Saturday, the Panthers shut out the Cowboys 38-0 by getting after it on both sides of the ball, especially the defense.
"I think we hit a lot harder this week," coach Lane Kirkland said. "We didn't really tee off on them last week, but this week the field was a lot louder with cracking helmets and shoulder pads. North Gem is a good-sized football team and they came to battle."
Both teams did and played a scoreless first quarter.
Kirkland countered in the second quarter by having quarterback Trevor Peck (13-for-24, 164 yards) air things out.
"We went to the pass a little bit to open things up," Kirkland said.
Junior Gonzalo Zarate (87 yards) scored the first of his three touchdowns at the 3:51 mark, taking it in from the nine-yard line. Less than three minutes later, Zarate powered in from the three, and ran in one conversion for a 16-0 lead at intermission.
Kirkland described the conversation at halftime.
"Basically, I didn't tell the kids anything special, but to settle down and get this thing taken care of. We knew North Gem was getting tired because they only played 8 to 10 kids and we knew we were stronger and in better physical shape."
Carey responded with a second-half opening drive that Kirkland called "really nice."
"We mixed it up really well with a great couple of power runs for the score. Trevor calmed down and did a good job. We threw 24 passes. I don't think we have thrown that many in the last four games."
The Panthers tacked on two touchdowns in the third quarter on runs by Zarate and Heith Adamson (45 yards), and capped their endzone escapades early in the fourth quarter on a 21-yard scoring strike from Peck to Dillon Simpson (6 receptions, 121 yards).
"It is really how a game ends, not how it starts," Kirkland said. Asked if he was grading the game, Kirkland said he would give his defense an A+.
"Those guys (North Gem) threw 50 passes and completed 24. They had 182 yards in the air, but only 55 yards rushing. We held them out of the endzone for all four quarters and only gave up six points in two games. I think that is a great accomplishment."
Switched to safety, Trevor Peck came up with 11 tackles. Sophomore end Antonio Gamino made nine stops. As a unit, Carey sacked North Gem's quarterback Austin Wuttke four times and made eight tackles for loss.
The victory vaults the Panthers into the 1A Division 2 state semifinals against Richfield (8-2), who defeated Mackay 36-8. (Carey beat Mackay 36-14 on Oct. 17.). In what one sportswriter called one of the best high school games he has ever seen Carey eked out a 34-28 win over the Tigers in the second week of the season, scoring on a fourth-and-goal from the one-yard line with seconds remaining.
" I think Richfield was really discouraged after that loss and I am sure they will bring their best game," Kirkland remarked.
"We are excited to have the opportunity to play Richfield again. I think we have come a long way since that first go round. The kids have been strategizing all weekend and now practicing it. This time of year is what it is all about. Man, it's fun."
The game will be played at Holt Arena in Pocatello on Saturday, Nov. 15. Game time is 1 p.m.