Splendid Indian Summer weather was still dominant in the mountain air Saturday, Nov. 6 when the Carey Panthers hosted Rockland's Bulldogs in a first-round game of the State 1A Division 2 eight-man football playoffs.
The nice weather wasn't the only thing in the air for Carey.
Fueled by a 194-yard passing attack and lengthy scoring plays, and helped by two untimely Bulldog bobbles in the Red Zone, the Panthers dominated Rockland 46-0. The game lasted 24-and-a-half minutes due to the 45-point mercy rule.
Senior quarterback Caleb Cenarrusa (10-for-12, 194 yards) threw four touchdown passes—giving him passing totals in the last two games of 15-for-20, 361 yards and nine TDs. Scoring leader Tim Hoopes (21 TDs, 138 points) caught two of the TD passes and rushed for 72 yards.
Junior Charlie Rivera snagged a 47-yard TD pass to open the scoring and added three two-point conversion catches. Senior Shane Bingham made a determined 54-yard TD runback with an interception, and junior Dillon Cenarrusa caught a 40-yard pass for Carey's sixth and final TD.
Fumble recoveries by Joe Laidlaw and Chance Chavez stopped two long Rockland drives at the Carey six- and eight-yard-lines and really took the wind out of the Bulldog sails. And the Carey defense was exceptional, once again.
Panther coach Lane Kirkland said, "Rockland made some mistakes in the Red Zone, but you've got to give a lot of credit to our defense." The Carey defense (7.4 points per game) has allowed three TDs in the last five games.
With Saturday's victory, Carey (9-1) won its fifth straight game and earned a spot in the state semi-finals against unbeaten Castleford (10-0) on Thursday, Nov. 11 at 6:30 p.m. inside Holt Arena, Pocatello. Castleford whipped Dietrich 46-0 in another state quarterfinal game played Friday.
Saturday's match-up against Rockland was Carey's final home game, and the first time the Panthers had played at home since the Oct. 26 death of sophomore grid player Austin Hennefer, 15, in a vehicular accident south of Bellevue.
Carey coach Lane Kirkland said, "We've had some tragedy, so the kids refocused and kept it deep in their hearts. They let it all out today against Rockland and had a lot of fun."
Having brought the Panthers into the state semi-final round for the fifth consecutive year, Kirkland was impressed with this team's maturity.
Kirkland said, "The team prepared hard all week and really clicked today.
"Getting ready for a good Rockland team, we ran hard and redefined and tweaked a few things. The attitudes and work ethic of the team have been outstanding. As coaches we haven't had to cheerlead that much. The kids have listened and executed. Today, they clicked and believed."
Carey's offense had the ball for only seven minutes against the punishing Rockland ball control attack that helped the 'Dogs to an outstanding 8-2 record—the only Rockland loss before Saturday coming at home to Castleford 44-28 Oct. 22. It has been Rockland's first plus-.500 season since 2003.
But Carey's offensive efficiency was punishing, too.
"The kids have really come along in our passing game," said Kirkland, who has strived for balance between running and passing to help Carey to a 51-6 mark the past five years. "It's a lot more comfortable to have options on offense. Quick strikes are killers."
And quick strikes accounted for Carey's 405-224 advantage in total offense over Rockland, despite running 20 fewer plays.
Rivera sprinted behind the 'Dogs defense and ran under a 47-yard TD pass from Cenarrusa down the middle seam on Carey's second play of the game. Rockland responded with an effective nine-play, 54-yard drive all the way to Carey's three. It ended with Laidlaw's fumble recovery.
Hoopes dinged his shoulder early in the game, but his legs showed no effect when he dove and rambled for 52 yards the first time he touched the ball.
The shifty 5-8, 160-pounder dove for seven more to the 'Dogs 10, then Dillon Cenarrusa caught a quick out and nearly stretched his way into the end zone. Caleb Cenarrusa (9 TDs) finished the nine-play, 94-yard TD drive for an early 14-0 lead.
Bigger physically but slower afoot, Rockland defenders couldn't wrap up low-to-the-ground Bingham and often landed on their butts. That was the happy scene for Carey fans after Bingham picked off Colton Christensen's long pass near midfield and faked his way through baffled tacklers.
It was the second of three Bulldog turnovers that Carey turned into TDs.
Still, Rockland stuck to its game plan and stitched together its longest and best drive of the afternoon—14 plays covering 77 yards and seven minutes. Senior Ty Colton entered the game to speed up the 'Dogs running. But the fumble that Chavez recovered at the Carey eight was a real killer.
Adversity has knocked on Carey's door a couple of times this season, whether it be Hennefer's sudden death or the 44-28 home loss to Pahranagat Valley (Nev.) Sept. 24.
So the Panthers barely blinked when the officials whistled a befuddling offensive pass interference call on Hoopes, who had been knocked down himself, and sent Carey back to its 12. And Carey just knuckled down and went to work after Bingham was horse-collared and injured his ankle on a screen pass tackle that drew a 'Dogs personal foul.
Two Cenarrusa-to-Hoopes passes and 77 yards later, Carey had a 30-0 lead and started seriously thinking about the prospect of its 13th consecutive football win over Rockland dating back to 1996.
With time running out in the half, Blair Peck and Glen Andrews sacked Christensen on a fourth-and-eighth at the 'Dogs 16. Carey had three time outs and 19 seconds left. They needed only nine seconds and used no time outs to score, Cenarrusa rifling a bullet to Hoopes from 16 yards out.
The outcome put Carey on a collision course with Castleford (53.3 ppg offense, 10.8 ppg defense), which has shredded eight of 10 foes and has played only two close games, both on the road—edging Hagerman 56-34 Sept. 3 and Rockland 44-28.
Castleford's star in those two games, and for the entire season, has been running back Cody Quinn. He rushed for over 240 yards including three TDs against Rockland, and scored a total 10 TDs in the Hagerman victory and Friday's 46-0 pasting of Dietrich.
Tenth-year Carey coach Kirkland (83-19) said, "Castleford has a good running game. Quinn is quick and likes to bounce to the outside. He's also powerful inside. They have some good tight ends, and they'll try play action when you're not looking for it."
Carey won State 1A Division 2 championships under coach Kirkland in 2006 and 2008. Castleford captured its only state eight-man grid title in 2002, capping a four-year string of 41-3 success behind the running of Elvis Medina (121 TD, 7,593 yards of offense in 4 years).
The winner of Thursday's Carey-Castleford semi-final advances to the state championship game against the winner of Saturday's grudge match between defending champion Salmon River of Riggins (9-1) and host Garden Valley (9-1). Garden Valley hasn't won a state eight-man title since 1990.
But this could be Garden Valley's year, if the Wolverines can get past Salmon River. They couldn't Oct. 8, losing at home to the Savages 16-12. But Garden Valley has averaged 46.8 ppg and the visiting Wolverines mercy-ruled Kootenai 48-0 this past Saturday.
Meanwhile, Salmon River (36.5 ppg) has won nine straight games since its season-opening 48-20 loss to Notus. Salmon River's 46-0 first-round home playoff win over Mackay (5-5) Saturday was a rematch of last year's dramatic state championship game won by the Savages 64-62 in double overtime.
Carey's prospects at Holt
If state playoff background and experience on the indoor Holt Arena turf means anything, Carey could have the edge in assessing Thursday's match-up with Castleford.
Castleford has virtually no Holt Arena experience in the last seven years, although the Wolves won their only state title in 2002 at Pocatello by a 54-14 score over Clark Fork. Medina scored 47 TD in that 12-0 Castleford season and the Wolves battered three playoff foes by a combined 158-20.
Last year, Castleford (9-2) lost at home to Oakley in the State 1A Division 1 semi-finals, then the Wolves dropped down to Division 2 this year.
From 2006-08, Castleford had records of 3-6, 4-5 and 4-5 and didn't make Division 1 playoffs. They were 8-2 in 2005, but lost in the quarterfinals at Garden Valley 56-12. Castleford also didn't make playoffs in 2003-04, after Medina graduated.
In contrast, Carey in six seasons since 2005 has an 11-3 playoff record and three championship game appearances, ending up with titles in 2008 and 2006. The Panthers are 4-1 at Holt Arena since 2006, the only loss to Mackay 22-14 in last year's semi-final round.
Of Carey's four state football championships, all in even-numbered years, three have come inside Holt Arena.
Defense will probably decide Thursday's clash, and Carey has one of its best defenses—rivaling the school-record 102 points (8.5 ppg) yielded by the 1994 state championship team that finished its season 12-0. Through 10 games, Carey has allowed 74 points, or 7.4 ppg.
The Carey defense has built its stamina, spending a lot of time on the field in both the 44-28 home loss to Pahranagat Valley Sept. 24 and the 42-6 league win at Dietrich Oct. 7.
Coach Kirkland has mixed memories about playing Castleford. In 2008, Carey won its opener 48-30 at home over the Wolves en route to an unbeaten 12-0 season and the last Panther championship season. But you have to go all the way back to the Medina era to find other Carey-Castleford match-ups.
In 2000, Heber Kirkland's final season, host Castleford ousted Carey from the playoffs 28-10. Lane Kirkland took over in 2001 and lost at Castleford 54-8 in the first round of the playoffs. The next year, host Castleford beat Carey by the same score, 54-8, for the Sawtooth Conference championship.
The two teams will write a new script Thursday, the winner earning a berth in the 2010 state championship game.
PANTHER NOTES—In its last two games, Carey has 405 yards passing and no interceptions......Carey's overall football record in 19 seasons since 1992 is 164-33, an .832 winning percentage......Watching Saturday's Rockland game was coach Lane Kirkland's father Heber Kirkland, whose 19-year Panther coaching record ending in 2000 was 121-54. Adding it all up, the father-and-son Kirklands have maintained a steady grip on Panther grid fortunes for 29 years, posting a combined 204-73 mark (.736) including two state championships apiece.....Carey's current five-year 51-6 winning success is matched only by Heber Kirkland's Panther teams from 1992-98, which went 69-7—three of those losses coming in state championship games.
Carey has now won five straight games over Rockland by a 245-26 score. The Bulldogs were 4-4 last year, 2-7 in 2008 and 2006, and 3-6 in 2007, but they came alive under first-year coach Dan Ralphs this season. Rockland had 10 seniors on its 20-player roster, compared to Carey's seven seniors out of 26 players.
CAREY Line Score
State 1A Division 2 quarterfinal, Nov. 6 at Carey
Carey 46, Rockland 0
ROCKLAND. 0 0 0 x 0
CAREY 14 24 8 x 46
CAREY—Charlie Rivera, 47-yard pass from Caleb Cenarrusa (pass failed); 7:43 1st (6-0 C)
CAREY—Caleb Cenarrusa, 1-yard run (Charlie Rivera, pass from Cenarrusa); 1:04 1st (14-0 C)
CAREY—Shane Bingham, 54-yard run with intercepted pass (Tim Hoopes run); 11:44 2nd (22-0 C)
CAREY—Tim Hoopes, 45-yard pass from Caleb Cenarrusa (Hoopes run); 2:41 2nd (30-0 C)
CAREY—Tim Hoopes, 16-yard pass from Caleb Cenarrusa (Charlie Rivera, pass from Cenarrusa); 0:10 2nd (38-0 C)
CAREY—Dillon Cenarrusa, 40-yard pass from Caleb Cenarrusa (Charlie Rivera, pass from Cenarrusa); 11:37 3rd (46-0 C)
KEY STATS ROCKLAND CAREY
Offensive plays 47 27
Time of possession 17:20 7:03
1st downs, rush 10 4
1st downs, pass 1 1
1st downs, penalty 0 1
1st downs, total 11 6
Rushes, yards 33-154 14-113
Yards per carry 4.7 8.1
Fumbles lost 2 0
Completions, passes 2-6 10-12
Completion percentage 33% 83%
Passing yards 32 194
Yards per completion 16.0 19.4
Intercepted by 0 1
Sacks by, yards 0-0 2-12
Returns, yards 5-50 2-98
Total yards gained 224 405
Penalties 3-35 2-18
Punts, yardage 0-0 0-0
Yards per punt 0.0 0.0
Rushing—Tim Hoopes 5-72, 2 1sts, 2 conv.; Charlie Rivera 5-25, 1 1st; Caleb Cenarrusa 4-16, 1 1st, 1 TD.
Passing—Caleb Cenarrusa 10-12, 194 yards, 1 1st, 4 TD, 3 conv.
Receiving—Tim Hoopes 3-83, 1 1st, 2 TD; Charlie Rivera 4-56, 1 TD, 3 conv.; Dillon Cenarrusa 2-49, 1 TD; Shane Bingham 1-6.
Fumble recoveries (2)—Joe Laidlaw 1, Chance Chavez 1.
Interceptions (1)—Shane Bingham 1 with 54-yard TD return.
Sacks (2)—Joe Laidlaw 1-3; Blair Peck and Glen Andrews 1-9.
Kickoff returns—Charlie Rivera 1-44.
Tackles (63)—Caleb Cenarrusa 11, Charlie Rivera 10, Blair Peck 9, Chance Chavez 7, Shane Bingham 7, Glen Andrews 4, Jacy Baird 3, Joe Laidlaw 3, Francisco Gamino 3, Brandon Dilworth 3, Dillon Cenarrusa 2, Baley Barg 1.
Rushing—Cody Hidalgo 11-41, 2 1sts; Ty Colton 6-40, 2 1sts; Colton Christensen 6-37, 3 1sts; Mathew Nelson 9-23, 2 1sts; Colton Robinson 1-13, 1 1st.
Passing—Colton Christensen 2-6, 32 yards, 1 1st, 1 interception.
Receiving—Tyler O'Brien 1-37, 1 1st; Mathew Nelson 1, -5.
Kickoff returns—Colton Christensen 2-34; Tanner Kirby 2-11; Cody Hidalgo 1-5.
Tackles (15)—Ty Colton 4, Mathew Nelson 4, Eli Spillett 2, Tanner Kirby 2, Charles Underwood 1, Dylan Kelley 1, Tyrell Turley 1.
Carey 60, Richfield 6
Sawtooth finale, Oct. 28 at Richfield
CAREY 40 20 x x 60
RICHFIELD. 0 6 x x 6
CAREY—Shane Bingham, 11-yard pass from Caleb Cenarrusa (run failed); (6-0 C)
CAREY—Charlie Rivera, 34-yard pass from Caleb Cenarrusa (Cenarrusa run); (14-0 C)
CAREY—Tim Hoopes, 22-yard pass from Caleb Cenarrusa (Blair Peck, pass from Cenarrusa); (22-0 C)
CAREY—Brandon Dilworth, 7-yard run (pass failed); (28-0 C)
CAREY—Jack Cenarrusa, 30-yard fumble return (run failed); (34-0 C)
CAREY—Jordan Dilworth, 3-yard run (pass failed); (40-0 C)
RICHFIELD—Tyler Cenarrusa, 20-yard fumble return (pass failed); (40-6 C)
CAREY—Dillon Cenarrusa, 80-yard pass from Caleb Cenarrusa (Tim Hoopes run); (48-6 C)
CAREY—Tim Hoopes, 20-yard pass from Caleb Cenarrusa (Charlie Rivera run); (54-6 C)
CAREY—Jordan Dilworth, 2-yard run (pass failed); (60-6 C)
KEY STATS CAREY RICHFIELD
Total plays 37 30
Rushes, yards 21-104 11, -12
Completions, passes 8-16 7-19
Passing yards 211 12
Intercepted by 3 0
Fumbles lost 2 2
Sacks by, yards 3-17 1-1
Total yards gained 315 0
3rd down efficiency 5-7 0-9
4th down efficiency 1-1 0-2
Penalties, yards 1-5 3-23
Yards per punt 0.0 27.3
Rushing—Tim Hoopes 3-57; Tori Alvarez 6-15; Caleb Cenarrusa 2-14; Jordan Dilworth 6-11, 2 TD; Brandon Dilworth 1-6; Charlie Rivera 1-1.
Passing—Caleb Cenarrusa 5-8, 167 yards, 5 TD; Jordan Dilworth 3-8, 44 yards.
Receiving—Dillon Cenarrusa 1-80, 1 TD; Tim Hoopes 2-42, 2 TD; Baley Barg 2-29; Charlie Rivera 1-34, 1 TD; Tori Alvarez 1-15; Shane Bingham 1-12, 1 TD.
Fumble recoveries (2)—Jack Cenarrusa 1 with a 30-yard TD return, Shane Bingham 1.
Interceptions (3)—Baley Barg 2, Caleb Cenarrusa 1.
Tackles/assists—Blair Peck 5/2; Tim Hoopes 4/2; Francisco Gamino 3/2; Chance Chavez 3/1; Jacy Baird 2/1; Baley Barg 2/1; Brandon Dilworth 2/0; Caleb Cenarrusa 2/0; Shane Bingham 2/0; Tori Alvarez 1/1; Adrian Alvarez 1/1; Christian Zarate 1/1; Charlie Rivera 1/0; Dillon Cenarrusa 1/0.
Opponents 14 40 8 12 74 (7.4)
Carey 190 186 46 34 456 (45.6)
RESULTS (9-1 overall, 4-1 home, 5-0 away, 5-0 Sawtooth Conference North)
Aug. 27 (Away) Carey 56, Idaho City 6
Sept. 3 (Home) Carey 50, Raft River 0
Sept. 10 (Away) Carey 40, Hagerman 6
Sept. 17 (Home) Carey 46, Camas County 0
Sept. 24 (Home) Pahranagat Valley (Nev.) 44, Carey 28
Oct. 1 (Away) Carey 54, Clark County 6
Oct. 7 (Away) Carey 42, Dietrich 6
Oct. 15 (Home) Carey 34, Mackay 0
Oct. 28 (Away) Carey 60, Richfield 6
Nov. 6 (Home, 1A Division 2 playoffs) Carey 46, Rockland 0
SCORING TD CONV PTS.
Tim Hoopes 21 6 138
Charlie Rivera 9 8 70
Caleb Cenarrusa 9 4 62
Shane Bingham 5 6 42
Dillon Cenarrusa 5 1 32
Brandon Dilworth 3 0 18
Jordan Dilworth 3 0 18
Baley Barg 2 2 16
Luis Garcia 2 0 12
Jack Cenarrusa 1 2 10
Joe Laidlaw 1 1 8
Christian Zarate 1 0 6
Austin Hennefer 1 0 6
Tori Alvarez 1 0 6
Lynn Mecham 0 2 4
Blair Peck 0 2 4
Note: Joe Laidlaw and Glen Andrews had 2-point safeties.
Touchdown passes—Caleb Cenarrusa 15, Jordan Dilworth 3, Tim Hoopes 2. Conversion passes—Caleb Cenarrusa 15, Tim Hoopes 2, Jordan Dilworth 2. Notes—Carey has scored in 28 of 33 quarters....Carey has successfully made 34 of 62 conversions (54% success rate)....Carey has scored 64 TD—37 on runs from scrimmage, 20 on passes, 5 on defense, 2 on kickoff or punt returns.