When it comes down to effort and never-say-die spirit shown by two teams still learning how to win, the Wood River Wolverines and Gooding Senators showed what high school football is all about Friday.
In front of a boisterous Wood River Homecoming crowd on a mild September night, the host Wolverines scored two touchdowns in the first three-and-a-half minutes for a 14-0 lead. Then Wood River held on for dear life and took a 14-12 win.
Big defensive plays made the difference for Wood River (2-1, 0-0 league), and the spirited comeback of Gooding (0-3) fell just short in the non-league clash between the 4A Wolverines and 2A Senators.
"The kids were extra excited about the Homecoming win," said WRHS coach Kevin Stilling about the team's first Homecoming victory since 2006 (28-7 over Kimberly).
He added, "The kids played very hard. We always talk about working hard and preparing well. We don't talk about winning. That takes care of itself. But give Gooding credit. They made the adjustments to take away our outside running game."
That outside running game led by senior Alex Padilla (8 carries, 94 yards) swept downfield on its first six offensive plays and surprised Gooding by gaining 91 yards rushing and 23 yards passing. Nathan Farrow scored from seven yards and Padilla followed a crack-back block by Jake Miczulski for a 36-yard TD around left end and a quick 14-0 Hailey lead.
"Our offense really came out of the gate," said Stilling. "But for the rest of the game, we weren't as aggressive coming off the ball. We're not used to playing with the lead."
Gooding, winner of only two of its last 11 games, isn't used to playing with the lead either. But the Senators rallied by scoring in the final minute of the first half. They added a second touchdown on their first possession of the second half.
Leading the Senators was the best player on the field Friday. He was 6-1, 195-pound senior tailback/linebacker Case Pierson. All Pierson did was rush 23 times for 142 yards and one TD. He made 15 tackles including a sack on defense.
It was a story of two halves. Wood River boasted a 172-60 advantage in rushing before half. Gooding reversed the tide with a 123-44 rushing edge after halftime—Pierson getting the call 67% of the time.
Holding Wood River to just 44 total yards after half was a victory for Gooding's defense, just as clutch defensive plays by Wood River turned into a triumph as well. Stilling said it was the third straight game his defense made the difference.
"We held Buhl to 16 points, and have allowed only two touchdowns in each of our last two wins," Stilling said. "Our defensive scheme is simple by design. The kids have limited responsibilities and limited reads. Consequently they can play fast, which fits into our kids' abilities."
Pierson was Gooding's star, but his counterpart was Nathan Farrow, Wood River's fullback/linebacker.
Gang-tackled nearly every carry especially when Gooding's momentum intensified after half, Farrow rushed the ball 13 times for 37 tough, bruising yards. The 5-9, 190-pound senior didn't fumble. Many times he collided helmet-to-helmet with Pierson.
So, when the game was on the line in the final four minutes of the fourth quarter, Farrow (a team-high 12 tackles) turned it up a notch. Stilling said, "Nathan was a little upset he was getting his butt kicked every time he carried the ball. He made up for it with great hits on defense."
Gooding's second-to-last drive was stopped by Padilla's alert interception at the Wolverine 12-yard-line with six minutes left. It came after what Stilling acknowledged was a "questionable" coaching decision to go-for-it on fourth-and-two at the 34. And Gooding's Jake Davis and Skylar Adams stopped Farrow cold.
"I had all the faith in our defense," said Stilling.
Indeed, after Pierson's three-yard TD run early in the third quarter, the Wolverine defense stopped Gooding's offense four times including the last three Senator drives at the Wood River 26-, 12- and 22-yard lines.
Stilling said about the game's key play, "Alex made a great athletic play and a great read on that interception. He probably had his best offensive game for us, and did well on defense as well," said Stilling.
After Padilla's interception, Wood River's offense couldn't budge and senior Kasey Barker had to boom a 35-yarder from the goal line. Good punt coverage by Connor Braatz stopped any return and Gooding started its final drive at the Wood River 45-yard-line with 4:20 left.
Pierson ripped off a 13-yard gainer for a first, but Farrow greeted him rudely his next carry and held Pierson to seven. Padilla made the tackle for no gain on a bootleg by Gooding quarterback Jon Jensen and a five-yard penalty moved the Senators backwards for a third-and-eight.
Once again, Jensen gave the ball to Pierson, who outran Tommy Bailey and Braxton Parish around left end. Farrow got to the sideline a little late when Pierson finally went out-of-bounds and was mad at himself for failing to prevent another Senator first down.
At the 21-yard-line with 1:46 left, Gooding's Kyle Rison (10 carries, 32 yards) ran a counter for short yardage, Drew Barsch pursuing well. Then Conner Bennett busted through the back side for his second quarterback sack setting up another third-and-eight, with 1:03 left.
That's when Farrow nailed Pierson for no gain, Barker helping out, and Gooding faced a do-or-die fourth-and-eight situation. Jensen dropped to pass and faced a huge rush by Barsch, Bennett and Willy Dugger. He threw incomplete in the end zone, overthrown.
"Willy Dugger continues to anchor our defensive line," said Stilling, who also praised junior Greg Lindbloom and sophomore Ben Williams.
Lindbloom (12 carries, 64 yards) did some hard running for Hailey. The 5-7, 140-pounder broke through tackles nearly every time he rushed. "Greg's motor is about 10 times his stature," said Stilling. "He protects the ball and keeps on running."
And Williams, a 5-10, 200-pounder, has done a good job as offensive guard—most of Friday's game teaming up with the interior line of senior guard Barker, senior center Isaiah Garza, plus tackles Alex Thomas and Kevin Cooley.
"Ben has had three strong games in a row. In our outside sweep package, he gets there in a hurry and has done a phenomenal job," said Stilling.
Although Gooding still leads the 34-year series 25-9, Wood River has now claimed six of the last nine games by a combined 205-56 score. The only bummer Friday was an ankle injury suffered by junior Connor Farrow in the first quarter.
Wood River's 2010 Homecoming royalty was announced:
King and queen, Alex Thomas and Jessica Hamilton. Senior prince and princess, James Paris and Dylan Peterson. Junior prince and princess, Jonnie Pedersen and Stone Sutton.
Sophomore prince and princess, Nicole Pratt and Jack Waters. Freshman prince and princess, Gus Conrad and Haley Montgomery.
Homecoming royalty at Silver Creek High: Senior king/queen, Stewart Byerly and Yessenia Lopez; junior prince/princess, Gabe Fisher and Savannah Fredricks.
See full game statistics on today's Express Web site. And see more Homecoming royalty photos from Wood River's track in the Sept. 29 Local Life.
Jerome trip Friday, league debut
Wood River opens its Great Basin Conference schedule Friday, Sept. 24 at Jerome's Homecoming. Coach Gary Krumm's Tigers, second in the league for four straight years, won their first game of 2010 Friday at Canyon Ridge in twin Falls by a close 24-22 score.
Jerome (1-3, 0-2 home, 1-0 league) lost its first three games to Mountain Home, Columbia and Middleton. Last fall Krumm's kids were 4-0 at home and 4-1 in the Basin, averaging 37.9 points per game including their 62-22 win over turnover-plagued Wood River in Hailey.
This year the Tigers have averaged 16.0 ppg and beat Canyon Ridge (1-2, 0-2) using a freshman quarterback and junior varsity quarterback. Stilling said, "We're not sure what quarterback we'll see, but regardless of their record, we know Jerome likes to throw the ball and will be tough. "We've already talked about not giving Jerome the kind of help we gave them last year with turnovers. We need to protect the football and be able to sustain good starts we've had with four quarters of football. Our kids found a way to finish the game last Friday, and we'd like to see them do it again."
Jerome teams, leading 33-4 in the long grid series, have won four straight over Wood River since the 16-0 Wolverine home win over the Tigers in 2005. Hailey teams have never won at Jerome, coming closest with an 18-17 loss in 2006.
WRHS Line Score
Wood River 14, Gooding 12
Gooding 0 6 6 0 12
Wood River 14 0 0 0 14
Wood River—Nathan Farrow, 7-yard run (Haylee Thompson kick); 10:47 1st (7-0 WR)
Wood River—Alex Padilla, 36-yard run (Haylee Thompson kick); 8:35 1st (14-0 WR)
Gooding—John Phillips, 20-yard pass from Jon Jensen (run failed); 1:06 2nd (14-6 WR)
Gooding—Case Pierson, 3-yard run (pass failed); 9:25 3rd (14-12 WR)
KEY STATS GOODING WOOD RIVER
Offensive plays 64 57
Time of possession 25:44 22:16
1st downs, rush 8 7
1st downs, pass 2 1
1st downs, penalty 1 0
1st downs, total 11 8
Rushes, yards 39-183 42-216
Yards per carry 4.7 5.1
Fumbles lost 2 1
Completions, passes 5-12 1-6
Completion percentage 42% 17%
Passing yards 46 23
Yards per completion 9.2 23.0
Intercepted by 1 1
Total turnovers 3 2
Sacks by, yards 2-21 2-12
Returns, yards 2-14 2-9
Total yards gained 231 227
Penalties 5-35 4-35
Punts, yardage 3-90 4-64
Yards per punt 30.0 16.0
INDIVIDUAL LEADERS—Wood River
Rushing—Alex Padilla 8-94, 2 1sts, 1 TD; Greg Lindbloom 12-64, 2 1sts; Nathan Farrow 13-37, 2 1sts, 1 TD; Trace Tupper 3-12, 1 1st; Kevin Jensen 6-9.
Passing—Kevin Jensen 1-6, 23 yards, 1 1st, 1 interception.
Receiving—Trace Tupper 1-23, 1 1st.
Fumble recoveries (2)—Willy Dugger 1, Jake Vegwert 1.
Interceptions (1)—Alex Padilla 1.
Sacks (2)—Conner Bennett 2-12.
Kickoff returns—Ben Thompson 1-5.
Punt returns—Alex Padilla 1-4.
Tackles (72)—Nathan Farrow 12, Kasey Barker 9, Alex Padilla 8, Jake Vegwert 6, Willy Dugger 5, Ryan Chapman 5, Drew Barsch 5, Connor Braatz 4, Conner Bennett 4, Jimmy Williams 2, Kevin Cooley 2, Ben Thompson 2, Greg Lindbloom 2, Alex Thomas 2, Braxton Parish 2, Trace Tupper 1, Tommy Bailey 1.
Rushing leaders—Case Pierson 23-142, 6 1sts, 1 TD; Kyle Rison 10-32, 2 1sts; Jon Jensen 3-4; Jake Davis 2-4; Alec Basterrechea 1-1.
Passing—Jon Jensen 5-11, 46 yards, 2 1sts, 1 TD, 1 interception; Jake Davis 0-1.
Receiving—John Phillips 2-34, 1 1st, 1 TD; Alec Basterrechea 3-12, 1 1st.
Fumble recoveries (1)—Jake Arkoosh 1.
Interceptions (1)—John Phillips 1.
Sacks (2)—Skylar Adams 1-12; Case Pierson 1-9.
Kickoff returns—Brendan Harden 1-4; C.J. Beadz 1-0.
Tackle leaders—Case Pierson 15, Alec Basterrechea 11, Jake Davis 7, Jon Jensen 7, Tanner Baumann 4, D.J. Vlahos 4, C.J. Baedz 3, Skylar Adams 3, Cole McGinnis 3, Kyle Rison 3.
WRHS COMPOSITE Score
Opponents 8 22 6 6 42 (14.0)
Wood River 21 7 8 7 43 (14.3)
RESULTS (2-1 overall, 2-0 home, 0-1 away, 0-0 Great Basin Conference)
Sept. 3 (Away) Buhl 16, Wood River 0
Sept. 10 (Home) Wood River 29, Wendell 14
Sept. 17 (Home) Wood River 14, Gooding 12
SCORING TD CONV PTS.
Alex Padilla 3 0 18
Tanner Farrow 2 0 12
Nathan Farrow 1 1 8
Haylee Thompson 0 5 5
Touchdown passes—Kevin Jensen 1. Conversion passes—0. Notes—Wood River has scored in 5 of 12 quarters....Wood River has successfully made 6 of 6 conversions (100% success rate)....Wood River has scored 6 TD—5 on runs from scrimmage, 1 on pass, 0 on defense.