It's been a long, tough slog for the Wood River High School varsity football program in 45 seasons since 1966.
Only nine times have the Wolverines posted plus-.500 records. Only six times has Wood River won six or more games. The last time that happened was way back in 1975.
Friday in Twin Falls, in an impressive display of teamwork on both sides of the ball, the 2011 Wood River football team enjoyed a very special night. The Wolverines (6-3) won their sixth game of the season and became the highest-scoring team in the history of Wood River football with 268 points.
Not only did the Wolverines rout the host Canyon Ridge Riverhawks 42-9 in a game that was predicted to be extremely close, coach Kevin Stilling's Hailey boys captured third place in the six-team Great Basin Conference and earned a berth in the 4A Great 8 playoffs on Friday, Oct. 28.
The accomplishments didn't end there.
Senior fullback Greg Lindbloom (17 carries, 153 yards) scored a career-best four touchdowns and, in the space of 48 minutes, became Wood River's all-time leading scorer (20 TDs, 122 points), all-time leading single-season rusher (174 carries, 1,358 yards) and all-time leading career rusher (264 carries, 1,795 yards).
Lindbloom, a quiet leader, would be the first to credit his blockers and teammates.
The Wolverine offensive line can brag about setting an all-time school rushing record of 2,842 yards on 376 rushes (315 yards a game). The defense has allowed only four touchdowns in the last three league games.
"Our kids were in attack mode all night," said coach Stilling. "They had a great week of practice and were extremely well prepared and focused. Really, we did not expect that kind of game. We thought it would be very close, maybe 21-20. We thought we would nip them in the end.
"Offensively, Greg got the ball a lot but we spread our running around a little more (9 different ball carriers). We blocked our rocket sweep a little differently to take advantage of their defensive alignment. We ran more of the counter. Defensively, we got outstanding play from our line and in particular from safety Chance Larkin (8 tackles). They were all attacking."
Wood River could have finished 8-1 if not for two losses by a combined six points. The only big setback was a 34-15 road loss to unbeaten Minico (9-0), winner of 14 of its last 15 games and the Great Basin champion for the sixth time in seven years. Defense has been a major factor for Hailey.
Only 11 times in 45 seasons has a Hailey team scored more points than it has allowed. Lindbloom's 122 points is more than entire Wood River teams scored in 26 different full seasons. But this fall's 268-140 spread is the biggest since the 1965-68 glory years when Wood River won 24 straight games and outscored foes 602-90 with a tenacious blitzing 4-4 defense.
Tenacious was the word for Wood River junior soccer player and football placekicker Trevor Brand at the beginning of Friday's game.
Brand (6-for-6 extra points Friday, 18 extra points season) made two fine open-field tackles, his first two of the season, in stopping 38-yard and 70-yard kickoff returns by Canyon Ridge senior Braydon Metcalf early in the first quarter.
On each occasion, Wood River's defense rose up and stopped the 'Hawks four-and-out—the second time at the Hailey 18-yard-line after two tackles by junior linebacker Drew Barsch (8 tackles).
"I'm not sure Canyon Ridge would have scored if Trevor hadn't made the tackles, but they certainly helped," said Stilling. "The defense was on its toes all night. In the first quarter when we needed the stops, they got them."
Lindbloom scored his first TD from six yards on Hailey's opening drive, a seven-play 63-yard attack featuring a 32-yard end run by senior Trace Tupper (55 yards rushing).
During practice last week, Lindbloom suggested a fullback option pass to Stilling.
Ahead 7-0 early in the second period, Wood River ran the fullback option pass, Lindbloom completing his first aerial on a crossing route to Connor Braatz for 23 yards. The next play, Austin Hafer ran a counter into a truck-sized hole for 37 yards and a 14-0 lead.
Blockers were center James "Buck" Horn, guards Barsch and Ben Williams, and tackles Jake Vegwert and Kevin Cooley. They were as excited as anyone when one of their trap blocks turned into a big gainer.
A clutch fumble recovery by Williams turned into Wood River's third TD and a 21-3 halftime lead, Lindbloom running home a trap from 15 yards after a nice dump-off pass for 12 yards from quarterback Tommy Bailey to Tupper.
Starting the second half, Canyon Ridge's onside kick attempt couldn't have really been intended for Lindbloom, who returned it 25 yards and then carried a pitch for a 35-yard TD run just 28 seconds into the quarter.
On Wood River's next possession, a 31-yard run around the end by junior Ian Keys—started by a Tupper crackback block—was the big play of a five-play, 77-yard TD drive finished by Lindbloom up the gut for 30 yards.
With the reserves testing the waters in the fourth quarter, Wood River stretched its lead to 42-3 when Bailey tossed a pitch to younger brother Cooper Bailey. He shaked and baked for an 18-yard TD dash.
For the game, Wood River (8-for-11 3rd-down efficiency) out-rushed Canyon Ridge (4-5, 2-3 league) by a 350-151 margin and added 92 yards through the air. In total yards the Wolverines built a 510-326 edge, 165 of the Riverhawks yards coming via kickoff returns.
Check today's Express Web site for complete game statistics from Canyon Ridge and more Wolverine notes.
Blackfoot is waiting
There is no question Wood River has drawn the toughest possible opponent for Friday's Great 8 playoffs—an evening of four first-round games matching the top teams in south-central and southeastern Idaho.
Wood River, making only its sixth state playoff appearance and still seeking its first playoff win, visits Blackfoot Friday, Oct. 28 at 7 p.m.
Unbeaten Blackfoot has made the State 4A championship game three of the last four years. The Broncos won 46-14 over Nampa behind Player of the Year quarterback Chase Monson in 2007, and prevailed 29-23 over Sandpoint behind Player of the Year quarterback Anthony Clarke in 2009.
Host Blackfoot defeated Wood River 63-14 during its 2007 state championship season. That was Wood River's last playoff trip during a three-year stretch of playoff visits under coach Mike Glenn when the Great Basin was a four-team league and still received three playoff berths.
Last fall, Blackfoot (9-3) trounced Jerome 62-13 in the Great 8, beat Preston 38-7 in the quarterfinal and Skyview of Nampa 35-14 in the semi-final before falling 41-28 to unbeaten Bishop Kelly (12-0) in the State 4A championship game Nov. 20 at Boise's Bronco Stadium. All-State quarterback Trae Pilster threw for over 2,700 yards and rushed for over 530 yards.
Pilster, now a senior, is bidding to become the third different Blackfoot quarterback to pilot his team to the state title and win Player of the Year.
Last Friday, Blackfoot (8-0, 5-0 league) clinched its second straight High Country Conference championship with a 38-22 road victory over Hillcrest (6-3, 4-2) in Idaho Falls. Pilster (10-for-16, 218 yards, plus 97 yards rushing) connected time-after-time with junior wide receiver Colby Pearson (6 catches, 157 yards, 2 TD) to relegate the Knights to third place in league.
Stilling said, "Blackfoot is a very good team, big up front, extremely physical, with good skill kids on offense. We don't plan on doing things much differently against them. We'll have to play well for four quarters. We can't have any lulls."
Other Great 8 games Friday: Hillcrest at Minico (9-0); Shelley (5-3) at Pocatello (6-2); and Preston (2-6) at Twin Falls (5-3). Shelley earned its berth by rallying from a 40-28 deficit for a 41-40 win over Bonneville of Idaho Falls. Friday's winners will advance to the Nov. 4 State 4A quarterfinals for eight teams—the four winners from the Great 8 plus the top three Boise-area squads and the northern Idaho champion.
Take the Booster Bus to Blackfoot
Heather Parish, mother of Wood River senior co-captain Braxton Parish, announced Monday that a chartered bus will take Wood River boosters from Hailey to Blackfoot on Friday, Oct. 28.
Cost is $25 per person, first-come, first-served until the 53 bus seats are filled. She said the cost will fall $10 if another bus is needed. The bus boards Friday at 3:15 p.m. with departure at 3:30 p.m. for the two-and-a-half hour ride. Call Parish 471-0165 to sign up.
WOLVERINE NOTES—Wood River teams made two State A-2 playoff visits during the 1990s, the first in 1995 for coach Chris Malmgren (a 48-20 home loss to Sugar-Salem) and the second in 1998 (a 48-0 loss to Snake River). In 2005 the Wolverines lost in the first round 55-7 to Pocatello. In 2006 Glenn's second Wood River team fell 21-6 to Bonneville in Idaho Falls.....Under Stilling, Wood River has moved up from fifth place in the Great Basin in 2009, to fourth place last year and third this season....The 1975 Wolverine grid team went 8-2 and outscored opponents 210-123. The next year, 1976, Wood River received national attention for not having enough players to field a football team. Coach John Hopkins resuscitated the program in 1977 but had a tough two seasons in 1977 and 1978, going 2-15 and being outscored 459-86....
Tommy Bailey's 52-yard pass to Connor Braatz early in the fourth quarter was a beauty, a little underthrown but 6-5 Braatz (2 catches, 75 yards) went up and got it. The pass completion went all the way to the Canyon Ridge six-yard-line. Lindbloom would have had six TDs but the 'Hawks defense stopped him on fourth-and-inches at the 'Hawks one......Jerome (2-6, 1-4) captured fifth place in the Great Basin with a 34-8 home win over Burley (2-6, 1-4) last Friday....Using a densely-packed double wing offense, Canyon Ridge scored only two TDs in its last three games....Wolverine coach Stilling said Canyon Ridge's offense was almost identical to Burley's double wing, although the Riverhawks liked to go around the end more than the Bobcats.....Stilling said, "I like the way our kids have responded the last two weeks after we had those back-to-back losses to Minico and Twin Falls."
Lindbloom broke Wood River's single-season scoring record of 106 points set by Max Paisley in 2000—the last time Wood River enjoyed a winning campaign before 2011. His 122 points have exceeded the 121-point total of last year's 4-4 Wolverine squad.....Lindbloom's 1,358 yard single-season rushing total (7.8 yards per carry, 150.9 yards per game) eclipsed Scott Bartlett's previous record of 232 carries for 1,318 yards with 13 TD and six 100-yard rushing games in 2005. In those 10 games of coach Glenn's 4-6 season, Wood River's team rushing was 372 carries for 1,863 yards, so this season's 2,842-yard team total in nine games is just about 1,000 yards more....Lindbloom (1,795) exceeded the career rushing mark of Tom Sluder (1,712 yards from 1987-89).....Wood River girls' soccer players were eliminated early from the State 4A soccer tournament, but they stopped for the football game in Twin Falls on their way home to Hailey. And it was a big Wood River crowd on the Canyon Ridge "Senior Night."
WRHS Line Score
WR 42, Canyon Ridge 9
WOOD RIVER 7 14 14 7 42
CANYON RIDGE 0 3 0 6 9
Wood River—Greg Lindbloom, 6-yard run (Trevor Brand kick); 7:05 1st (7-0 WR)
Wood River—Austin Hafer, 37-yard run (Trevor Brand kick); 11:02 2nd (14-0 WR)
Canyon Ridge—Cade Summers, 33-yard field goal; 4:58 2nd (14-3 WR)
Wood River—Greg Lindbloom, 15-yard run (Trevor Brand kick); 0:23 2nd (21-3 WR)
Wood River—Greg Lindbloom, 35-yard run (Trevor Brand kick); 11:32 3rd (28-3 WR)
Wood River—Greg Lindbloom, 30-yard run (Trevor Brand kick); 5:11 3rd (35-3 WR)
Wood River—Cooper Bailey, 18-yard run (Trevor Brand kick); 3:58 4th (42-3 WR)
Canyon Ridge—Jordan Bastian, 32-yard run (kick failed); 2:32 4th (42-9 WR)
KEY STATS WOOD RIVER CANYON RIDGE
Offensive plays 59 64
Time of possession 22:32 25:28
1st downs, rush 7 6
1st downs, pass 2 1
1st downs, penalty 0 0
1st downs, total 9 7
Rushes, yards 44-350 43-151
Yards per carry 8.0 3.5
Fumbles lost 0 1
Completions, passes 4-5 4-6
Completion percentage 80% 67%
Passing yards 92 24
Yards per completion 23.0 6.0
Intercepted by 0 0
Sacks by, yards 2-14 0-0
Returns, yards 6-68 6-165
Total yards gained 510 326
Third down efficiency 8-11 1-12
Fourth down efficiency 0-2 5-7
Penalties 3-25 2-15
Punts, yardage 1-23 4-137
Yards per punt 23.0 34.3
INDIVIDUAL LEADERS—Wood River
Rushing—Greg Lindbloom 17-153 (9.0 per carry), 3 1sts, 4 TD; Trace Tupper 7-55, 1 1st; Ian Keys 6-48, 1 1st; Austin Hafer 6-46, 1 TD; Gus Conrad 2-23, 2 1sts; Cooper Bailey 1-18, 1 TD; Braxton Parish 1-5; Chance Larkin 2-3; Tommy Bailey 2, -1.
Passing—Tommy Bailey 3-4, 69 yards, 1 1st; Greg Lindbloom 1-1, 23 yards, 1 1st.
Receiving—Connor Braatz 2-75, 2 1sts; Trace Tupper 1-12; Austin Hafer 1-5.
Fumble recoveries (1)—Ben Williams 1.
Sacks (2)—KJ Savaria 1-11; Greg Lindbloom 1-3.
Kickoff returns—Greg Lindbloom 1-25; Trace Tupper 1-15; Cooper Bailey 1, -1.
Punt returns—Austin Hafer 3-29.
All-purpose yardage—Greg Lindbloom 201.
Tackles (76)—Drew Barsch 8, Chance Larkin 8, Greg Lindbloom 7, Ben Williams 7, KJ Savaria 6, Braxton Parish 5, Colton Larkin 4, Calub Castle 4, Karel Kaiser 4, Gus Conrad 3, Connor Farrow 3, Austin Hafer 3, Joe McGonigal 3, John Reigle 2, Jake Vegwert 2, Trevor Brand 2, Cody Richmond 1, Chris Carnes 1, Connor Braatz 1, Kevin Cooley 1, Ian Keys 1.
INDIVIDUAL LEADERS—Canyon Ridge
Rushing leaders—Braydon Metcalf 11-62, 3 1sts; Jordan Bastian 1-32, 1 TD; Vincent Burke 2-26, 1 1st; Nick Kytle 15-21, 1 1st; Nathan Sterner 11-4, 1 1st; Eddie Marin 2-4; Aaron Burton 1-2.
Passing—Nathan Sterner 4-6, 24 yards, 1 1st.
Receiving—Dallas Galan 2-20, 1st; Nick Kytle 2-4.
Kickoff returns—Braydon Metcalf 3-118; Dallas Galan 2-39; Nick Kytle 1-8.
All-purpose yardage—Braydon Metcalf 180.
Tackle leaders—Trae Bishop 7, Jacob Savage 6, Siyavash Askari 6, Cameran Bartlett 6, Eddie Marin 5, Dallas Galan 5.
2011 Wood River Football Composite
Opponents 27 50 22 41 140 (15.6)
Wood River 68 82 54 64 268 (29.8)
RESULTS (6-3 overall, 3-2 home, 3-1 away, 3-2 Great Basin Conference—3rd place)
Aug. 26 (Home) Sugar-Salem 25, Wood River 22
Sept. 2 (Home) Wood River 21, Buhl 8
Sept. 9 (Away) Wood River 72, Wendell 13
Sept. 16 (Away) Wood River 20, Gooding 6
Sept. 23 (Home) Wood River 35, Jerome 22
Sept. 30 (Away) Minico 34, Wood River 15
Oct. 7 (Home) Twin Falls 17, Wood River 14
Oct. 14 (Home) Wood River 27, Burley 6
Oct. 21 (Away) Wood River 42, Canyon Ridge 9
SCORING TD CONV PTS.
Greg Lindbloom 20 1 122
Ian Keys 5 0 30
Trace Tupper 4 0 24
Trevor Brand 0 18 18
Gus Conrad 1 10 16
Austin Hafer 2 0 12
K.J. Savaria 2 0 12
Tommy Bailey 2 0 12
Braxton Parish 1 1 8
Colton Larkin 1 0 6
Cooper Bailey 1 0 6
Note: Wood River also has a 2-point safety.
Touchdown passes—Austin Hafer 1. Conversion passes—0. Notes—Wood River has scored in 28 of 36 quarters....Wood River has successfully made 30 of 39 conversions (77% success rate)....Wood River has scored 39 TD—36 on runs from scrimmage, 1 on passes, 2 on kickoff or punt returns, 0 on defense.