The Minico Spartans had their Homecoming mojo in full bloom Friday—short-sleeved weather, a packed house of red-shirted fans, pre-game Spartan tribal rites, 83 players dressed on the Minico sideline and four skydivers landing at midfield.
Rupert fans who have enjoyed Minico's five Great Basin Conference league championships in six years for coach Tim Perrigot and 25-3 league record since 2004 thought, with good reason, that Minico would do another number on Wood River High School from Hailey.
There was a crescent moon rising over Bill Matthews Field. Most thought the Wolverines, 30 strong on their sideline, had a sliver of a chance.
After all, Wood River had scored only a field goal in its last two grid meetings with Minico, and hadn't scored a touchdown against the Spartans since two meaningless fourth quarter scores in a 55-15 loss to Minico in Hailey in 2008.
So, Wood River football believers of 2011, imagine the stunned surprise and eerie quiet in the Minico bleachers when top Hailey scorer Greg Lindbloom capped a 64-yard scoring drive with a five-yard touchdown run and a 13-7 Wolverine lead early in the second quarter of Friday's GBC clash!
And imagine Wood River's disappointment when Minico senior Andreas Robledo took the ensuing kickoff up the middle for an 89-yard touchdown that turned the tide Minico's way. The Spartans scored two more times on TD drives before half and seized a 28-13 lead.
Minico (6-0, 3-0 league) stayed unbeaten this season and won its 11th game in 12 starts dating back to last season with a 34-15 victory. The Spartans ended the four-game win streak of Wood River (4-2, 1-1 league) with only Jerome and Twin Falls standing in the way of yet another GBC crown.
Outside of a 15-5 Minico advantage in first downs and 304-200 edge in rushing yardage, it was a close game statistically.
The difference maker was last year's GBC Offensive "Player of the Year" Brady May. The 5-10, 210-pound senior rushed 24 times for 148 yards, scored twice, caught two passes for 38 yards and made eight tackles as a Minico linebacker.
Wood River coach Kevin Stilling said, "The whole game came down to that five-minute stretch in the second quarter after Minico scored on the kickoff return. We let down our guard and they wore us down a little. They ran a counter reverse they hadn't run all year, and we didn't make the plays.
"But I don't think the Minico kids expected the battle they got from us. The final score was misleading. We had three chances to score in the red zone in the second half. Our execution wasn't stellar, though, and we made some silly mistakes. And you just can't do that against a team like Minico.
"I don't know if our execution was always good, but our kids played about as hard as they could. At halftime we told them it was a very winnable football game—and if anyone didn't think it was they could stay in the locker room. And they proved something by the way they played after the half."
Wood River's defense was emboldened by stuffing May for no gain on fourth-and-one at the Wolverine 15-yard-line on Minico's first possession of the second half. The Spartans fumbled, gave up two points on a safety and threw an interception on their next three tries.
Meanwhile, the Wolverine offense pushed as far as the Minico four-yard-line on one drive, to the six-yard-line on their next shot and to the Spartan 15 late in the game. Minico stopped Lindbloom on fourth-and-goal on the first attack and a holding penalty killed the second drive. Forced to pass, Wood River couldn't connect.
The positives in the hard-hitting game included: Junior scatback Ian Keys' team-high 78 rushing yards including a 46-yard TD; Lindbloom's hard-earned 67 rushing yards and team-best 12 tackles plus a fumble recovery; a Tommy Bailey-to-Trace Tupper 46-yard bomb down the middle that set up Lindbloom's touchdown;
Also, Braxton Parish's second-half interception; another 11 tackles by senior linebacker Drew Barsch; and 63 yards in kickoff returns by senior Austin Hafer. Minico helped out early in the second quarter when a penalty nullified a 26-yard TD run by junior Jordan Browning (106 yards rushing), who is May's heir apparent.
Check today's Express Web site for complete game statistics from Minico.
Twin Falls is next opponent
Outside of Minico at the top, nothing else is settled in the Great Basin—but much will be decided Friday, Oct. 7 when the Twin Falls Bruins invade Hailey's Phil Homer Field for a 7 p.m. game against Wood River.
The Bruins (3-2, 1-1 league) are coming off a 27-22 home victory over Jerome (0-5, 0-3) but have averaged only 15.6 points per game this season. Their playoff hopes could wilt with a loss Friday, since Twin Falls will finish up against Canyon Ridge and Minico.
It's likely a must-win for Wood River, too. The Wolverines have never beaten Twin Falls, falling 45-0 at home in 2009 and 34-14 at Twin in 2010. "We made progress playing Twin last year," said Stilling.
Three Great Basin teams will qualify for the 4A Great 8 Playoffs Oct. 28, and Canyon Ridge (4-2, 2-1) is knocking on the door with only an Oct. 14 visit to Twin Falls and Oct. 21 home game with Wood River left on its league schedule. Seeking their first playoff berth, the third-year Riverhawks battered host Burley (1-4, 1-2) by a 34-13 score Friday.
Stilling said about the Twin Falls game, "I think it will be a good one. We'll be practicing all week on fundamentals and working on our execution."
WRHS Line Score
Minico 34, Wood River 15
WOOD RIVER 7 6 0 2 15
MINICO 7 21 0 6 34
Minico—Brady May, 7-yard run (Jonathan Valero kick); 10:03 1st (7-0 Minico)
Wood River—Ian Keys, 46-yard run (Trevor Brand kick); 3:28 1st (7-7)
Wood River—Greg Lindbloom, 5-yard run (kick failed); 10:07 2nd (13-7 WR)
Minico—Andreas Robledo, 89-yard kickoff return (Jonathan Valero kick); 9:52 2nd (14-13 Minico)
Minico—Brady May, 1-yard run (Jonathan Valero kick); 5:28 2nd (21-13 Minico)
Minico—Jake Beamer, 4-yard run (Jonathan Valero kick); 1:21 2nd (28-13 Minico)
Wood River—Safety, Minico QB Shay Chandler fell in the end zone; 11:58 4th (28-15 Minico)
Minico—Brady May, 30-yard run (kick failed); 2:20 4th (34-15 Minico)
KEY STATS WOOD RIVER MINICO
Offensive plays 75 70
Time of possession 28:38 19:22
1st downs, rush 5 15
1st downs, pass 4 2
1st downs, penalty 3 3
1st downs, total 12 20
Rushes, yards 41-200 52-304
Yards per carry 4.9 5.8
Fumbles lost 0 1
Completions, passes 7-20 4-8
Completion percentage 35% 50%
Passing yards 107 50
Yards per completion 15.3 12.5
Intercepted by 1 2
Sacks by, yards 0-0 1-8
Returns, yards 7-131 5-165
Total yards gained 430 519
Third down efficiency 4-14 4-10
Fourth down efficiency 1-3 1-3
Penalties 7-87 6-52
Punts, yardage 4-128 1-34
Yards per punt 32.0 34.0
INDIVIDUAL LEADERS—Wood River
Rushing—Ian Keys 8-78, 2 1sts, 1 TD; Greg Lindbloom 15-67, 2 1sts, 1 TD; Austin Hafer 8-39, 1 1st; Trace Tupper 4-7; Braxton Parish 4-9; Chance Larkin 1-4; Tommy Bailey 1, -4.
Passing—Tommy Bailey 4-15, 67 yards, 2 1sts, 2 interceptions; Braxton Parish 2-2, 16 yards, 1 1st; Chance Larkin 1-2, 24 yards, 1 1st; Trace Tupper 0-1.
Receiving—Connor Braatz 2-29, 1 1st; Trace Tupper 1-46, 1 1st; Austin Hafer 1-11, 1 1st; Chance Larkin 1-8, 1 1st; Jared Anderson 1-8; Braxton Parish 1-5.
Interceptions (1)—Braxton Parish 1.
Fumble recoveries (1)—Greg Lindbloom 1 with a 25-yard return.
Kickoff returns—Austin Hafer 4-63; Ian Keys 1-36; Trace Tupper 1-7.
Tackles (81)—Greg Lindbloom 12, Drew Barsch 11, Austin Hafer 8, Colton Larkin 7, Chance Larkin 6, Braxton Parish 5, Connor Farrow 4, Ben Williams 4, KJ Savaria 4, Gus Conrad 3, Jake Vegwert 3, Chris Carnes 3, Calub Castle 3, Karel Kaiser 3, Kevin Cooley 2, Tommy Bailey 1, Jared Anderson 1, Connor Braatz 1.
Rushing leaders—Brady May 24-148 (6.2 yards per carry), 7 1sts, 2 TD; Jordan Browning 13-106 (8.2 per carry), 5 1sts; Skye Dansie 8-26, 1 1st; Jake Beamer 5-28, 2 1sts, 1 TD; Shay Chandler 2, -4.
Passing—Shay Chandler 4-8, 50 yards, 2 1sts, 1 interception.
Receiving—Brady May 2-38, 2 1sts; Matt Harper 2-12.
Interceptions (2)—Dallin Griffin 1 with a 26-yard return; Caleb Worley 1.
Kickoff returns—Andreas Robledo 3-125, 1 TD.
Punt returns—Matt Harper 1-14.
Sacks (1)—Garrett Mickelsen 1-8.
Tackle leaders—Tanner Stallings 12, Keagan Condie 11, Jonathan Valero 9, Brady May 8, Garrett Mickelsen 6, Dallin Griffin 5, Austin Stallings 5, Taylor Seaton 5, John Walker 5, Caleb Worley 4.