Senior Tanner Farrow, one of the best alpine ski racers in the West, might not play every game for the Wood River High School varsity football team this fall because of his obligations to fall ski training.
But Farrow has shown in his two Wood River football games to date that he is a game-changer. That role suited Farrow just fine Friday in the Wolverine home grid opener at Hailey's Phil Homer Field.
Farrow (117 yards on 6 carries, 2 TD) followed a lead block by Alex Padilla and broke loose on an 84-yard touchdown gallop with less than two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter of Friday's 29-14 Wood River victory over Wendell (1-1).
Padilla, who scored two TDs while Farrow had the other two scores, had provided Wood River possession with his second interception of the game to stop Wendell's final threat with the score still 22-14.
All Wood River needed to do was kill off the final two minutes to preserve its eight-point lead. Farrow saw that remaining time as an opportunity.
Taking the ball from quarterback Kevin Jensen at the 16-yard-line and heading around right end, Farrow zoomed past Trojan tacklers like he was tearing on a straight beeline down Baldy's Greyhawk ski run. With his legs tiring, he teased Wendell by running a slalom course in the Red Zone and finished the scoring run
Junior placekicker Haylee Thompson, who beat Wendell last year with an extra point, kicked her third extra point of the night and then booted the ensuing kickoff into the end zone for good measure.
They were exclamation points on a solid WRHS victory.
Second-year head coach Kevin Stilling said, "Tanner has the ability to make big plays. He also takes satisfaction in putting on a move or running someone over. He had limited touches, but I guess we found good spots to use him."
The Wolverines, scoring their most points in two years and their second-highest point total in four campaigns, tallied touchdowns in each quarter and took advantage of six Wendell turnovers (5 fumbles).
"It felt really good getting four touchdowns on the board," said Stilling. "We felt the kids gave their best effort for four quarters. That's what we need to do to win football games."
Defensively, Wood River handcuffed Wendell senior quarterback Nolan Stouder. He had rushed for 275 yards, passed for 133 yards and scored five TDs in Wendell's season-opening 42-0 win over North Fremont of Ashton Sept. 3.
Friday, Stouder rushed for 91 hard-won yards against a stout Wood River defense led by Willy Dugger (8 tackles), Tanner Farrow (7) and Nathan Farrow (6). And he was off-target passing, 9-of-31 for just 76 yards and three interceptions.
"We had a really good game plan on defense and covered the pass well," said Stilling, crediting defensive coordinator Jay Fry. "We were concerned about Stouder, but our linebackers and defensive backs were focused and did well."
The Wood River offense struggled at times, in fact, Wendell had an 8-2 advantage in rushing first downs. With the exception of Farrow's 84-yard TD run and his 15-yard scoring scamper in the second quarter, the Wolverines rushed 40 other times for just 71 yards.
Stilling said, "There are areas for improvement. We need to block the edges a little better, do better protecting the quarterback (Wendell had 6 sacks for 32 yards in losses) and use play action more effectively."
But Wood River (1-1) had a knack of executing when it needed to. The improved Hailey depth made a difference particularly on defense, 21 different players getting in on tackles. The Wolverine special teams came up big led by the solid punting of senior Kasey Barker (5 punts, 165 yards).
Wood River scored on its first possession. Padilla took a Jensen pitch for a 20-yard gainer around left end. Then, on third-and-eight from the Wendell 23, Jensen found Padilla all alone in the left flat and threw a perfect lead pass for a 23-yard touchdown aerial.
Stilling said, "We worked on that play all week and Kevin came up big with the pass."
Doing the blocking on the 45-yard scoring drive was the Wolverine interior line of center John Siegel, guards Barker and Ben Williams, and tackles Kevin Cooley and Alex Thomas. Replacing Siegel at center for the second half was another senior, Isaiah Garza.
Tanner Farrow's first two runs of the game came on a 30-yard TD drive late in the second quarter for a 14-0 Wood River lead. His 15-yard scoring run on a pitch to the left of the field came on a fourth-and-six play from the Trojan 15. A field goal attempt was a possibility, but Stilling went for it.
Wendell, trailing only 14-8, was moving well on its first possession of the second half when Connor Braatz sacked Stouder on a third-and-10 pass.
It was a hard hit, and 6-1, 190-pound Stouder limped off the field. The Trojans substituted 5-10 freshman Alex Swainston to take the fourth-and-24 snap in the Wendell spread option formation. The snap sailed way over his head. Wood River took over at the 27.
On the first play, Jensen dropped back, got good protection and connected with 6-5, 200-pound Braatz for a 23-yard gainer down the middle of the field to the Trojan four-yard-line. Padilla circled the left end for the touchdown, Nathan Farrow ran the two-point conversion and Hailey led 22-8.
To fight complacency with fully 19 minutes to play, Stilling gathered his team after the scores and said, "You have all the momentum in the world right now." What the coach didn't say was "and don't blow it," but the players got the idea and preserved the 14-point lead.
Good penetration resulted in a fumble recovery by Dugger to stop Wendell at the Wolverine 34-yard-line. Ryan Chapman pounced on a fair-catch fumble after a Barker punt. And Wood River lucked out when Stouder's 45-yard scoring run that could have tied the game was nullified by a penalty.
Wendell's defense pretty much stuffed Wood River's running game in the second half, giving Stouder one more shot at tying the game with three minutes left.
But Stouder's passes were generally overthrown or underthrown all evening. On fourth-and-11, Jake Vegwert hit Stouder while he was heaving a long aerial. Padilla intercepted and Wood River took over at its 16-yard-line with 2:20 left.
On the second play, Tanner Farrow took off on his game-clinching 84-yard gallop and Wood River had a chance to celebrate a home win in Hailey.
Gooding is Homecoming foe
"The kids are excited about this week's Homecoming game. It would be nice to come away with a win," said Stilling about Friday's 7 p.m. clash against the Gooding Senators.
Playing in the 2A Canyon Conference, Gooding has scored only two touchdowns in its two losses but has a running threat in Casey Pierson. He had 150 rushing yards in a season-opening 15-8 loss to Butte County in Arco.
Gooding (0-2) won only twice during last fall's 2-6 campaign including a 12-8 Homecoming victory over Hailey that Stilling thought his Wolverines should have taken.
Although Gooding still leads the 33-year series 25-8, Wood River has claimed five of the last eight meetings by a combined 191-44 score including a 31-13 home win over the Senators in 2008, the last time the two teams played in Hailey.
In other news, the Wood River JV won its first game 38-22 Thursday at Wendell, after giving Buhl a tough go of it in a 16-10 home loss to the Tribe Sept. 2. The JV visits Gooding Thursday at 7 p.m.
WRHS Line Score
Wood River 29, Wendell 14
WENDELL 0 8 0 6 14
Wood River 7 7 8 7 29
Wood River—Alex Padilla, 23-yard pass from Kevin Jensen (Haylee Thompson kick); 9:04 1st (7-0 WR)
Wood River—Tanner Farrow, 15-yard run (Haylee Thompson kick); 2:11 2nd (14-0 WR)
Wendell—Nicholas Mendes, 10-yard pass from Nolan Stouder (Mario Borrayo, pass from Stouder); 0:29 2nd (14-8 WR)
Wood River—Alex Padilla, 2-yard run (Nathan Farrow run); 6:50 3rd (22-8 WR)
Wendell—Nolan Stouder, 1-yard run (pass failed); 10:16 4th (22-14 WR)
Wood River—Tanner Farrow, 84-yard run (Haylee Thompson kick); 1:53 4th (29-14 WR)
KEY STATS WENDELL WOOD RIVER
Offensive plays 78 63
Time of possession 23:37 24:23
1st downs, rush 8 2
1st downs, pass 1 1
1st downs, penalty 0 1
1st downs, total 9 4
Rushes, yards 37-132 42-170
Yards per carry 3.6 4.1
Fumbles lost 3 2
Completions, passes 9-31 2-3
Completion percentage 29% 67%
Passing yards 76 46
Yards per completion 8.4 23.0
Intercepted by 0 3
Total turnovers 6 2
Sacks by, yards 6-32 3-38
Returns, yards 6-106 4-58
Total yards gained 276 242
Penalties 8-60 5-26
Punts, yardage 1-31 5-165
Yards per punt 31.0 33.0
INDIVIDUAL LEADERS—Wood River
Rushing—Tanner Farrow 6-117, 1 1sts, 2 TD; Nathan Farrow 10-17, 1 conv.; Connor Farrow 5-11; Braxton Parish 4-9; Alex Padilla 8-8, 1 1st, 1 TD; Greg Lindbloom 2-5; Kevin Jensen 7-3.
Passing—Kevin Jensen 2-3, 46 yards, 1 1st, 1 TD.
Receiving—Alex Padilla 1-23, 1 TD; Connor Braatz 1-23, 1 1st.
Fumble recoveries (3)—Willy Dugger 1, Ryan Chapman 1, Nathan Farrow 1.
Interceptions (3)—Alex Padilla 2 with 12 yards in returns; Willy Dugger 1.
Sacks (3)—Connor Braatz 1-10; #50, Willy Dugger and Isaiah Garza 1-12; Ryan Chapman 1-16.
Kickoff returns—Tanner Farrow 2-39; Alex Padilla 1-7.
Tackles (74)—Willy Dugger 8, Tanner Farrow 7. Nathan Farrow 6, Ryan Chapman 5, Jake Vegwert 5, Kevin Cooley 5, Connor Braatz 5, Kasey Barker 4, Connor Farrow 4, Greg Lindbloom 4, Conner Bennett 4, Drew Barsch 3, Braxton Parish 3, Skylar Tolman 3, Isaiah Garza 1, Ben Williams 1, Alex Padilla 1, Ben Thompson 1, Jimmy Williams 1, Colton Larkin 1, Ben Hofferber 1, Alex Thomas 1.
Rushing leaders—Nolan Stouder 16-91, 4 1sts, 1 TD; Tyler Pearson 17-43, 4 1sts; Nicholas Mendes 2-9; Luke Visser 1-3.
Passing—Nolan Stouder 9-31, 76 yards, 1 1st, 1 TD, 1 conv., 3 interceptions.
Receiving—Cody Wilhelm 3-56, 1 1st; Mario Borrayo 2-10, 1 conv.; Nicholas Mendes 3-9, 1 TD; Jared Lund 1-1.
Fumble recoveries (2)—Luis Vitale 1, Nicholas Mendes 1.
Sacks (6)—Cody Wilhelm 3-17; Luis Vitale 1-7; Nicholas Mendes and Vitale 1-6; Jason Rocha 1-2.
Kickoff returns—Mario Borrayo 3-85.
Punt returns—Cody Wilhelm 3-21.
Tackle leaders—Cody Wilhelm 10, Tyler Egbert 7, Jason Rocha 7, Luis Vitale 7, Tanner Swarner 6, Nolan Stouder 7, Nicholas Mendes 4, Tyler Pearson 3.