For the past decade, the football fields of the 4A Great Basin Conference have been unfriendly places for a succession of Wood River High School varsity football teams.
It’s not like the good people ranging from Jerome to Rupert have been unfriendly, indeed, they’ve always been accommodating by inviting Wood River to celebrate their Homecoming with them.
Regarding the results, let’s just say that a 10-30 league record for Wood River in 10 years of GBC play prior to 2014 has made for long bus rides home and downcast faces when lopsided losses are played in Hailey.
Smiles are more common for the current Wolverines.
They’ve stimulated the victory-starved palate of Wood River Valley grid fans with a 5-1 start to the season and now sit alone atop the 4A Great Basin Conference for the first time this late in the year.
Alone, as in three wins in three Great Basin games to date—the first at Jerome in the first-ever Wood River grid win at Jerome, and the second over two-time defending league champion Twin Falls.
The latest success came Friday at Hailey’s Phil Homer Field where coach Kevin Stilling’s Wolverines set a school record for points scored in a Great Basin Conference game by beating the Burley Bobcats 46-14.
Wood River tallied a season-best seven touchdowns in recording its first home win of the season and quietly piling up 618 total yards. That was split into 299 rushing yards, 208 passing yards and 114 yards in returns.
If not for an 80-yard touchdown gallop by Burley senior Braxton Bedke in the fourth quarter of a 40-7 game, the Wood River defense would have held an opposing team’s rushers to 100 yards or fewer for the fifth time in six games.
Wood River, in contrast, finished with a season-best 299 rushing yards on Wounded Warrior benefit night and has now out-rushed opponents 1,151 to 744 for the campaign.
Stilling said, “Overall the kids played extremely well.
“Our focus before the game was to play hard for 48 minutes. We had a lull in the second quarter when they scored, and we let our guard down when that kid had the real good run in the fourth.
“Otherwise we played amazing defense, with Hayden Thayer (12 tackles) again the stand-out.” Thayer also made a clutch interception to stop a long Burley drive at the Wolverine 1-yard-line after half.
There were stand-outs up-and-down the Hailey roster including junior quarterback Alec Nordsieck (a season-high 87 rushing yards, 9-for-13 passing for 208 yards and 3 TD).
“In the last two games Alec has shown more patience in the pocket and waiting until things break down before running,” said Stilling about Nordsieck’s maturation. “He knows where the (first-down) sticks are.”
Senior Austin Savaria scored a career-best three TDs and rushed for a season-high 85 yards. Sophomore Ashton Owens (74 rushing yards) returned the opening kickoff 73 yards for a TD against Burley.
“Austin has come a long way in his understanding of the game and his effort is just amazing,” said Stilling. “He has provided us with a great change of pace at fullback, and for the first game he played a lot for us at safety on defense.”
The coach added that leading season rusher Owens (95 carries, 454 yards) has shown a willingness to block, particularly as a lead blocker on Wood River’s off-tackle sweeps.
Junior Gunner Gibson (4 catches, 125 yards) and sophomore Owen Gifford each caught long TD passes from Nordsieck as Wood River, ahead 27-7 at half, pulled away from the Bobcats after intermission.
And senior Hagan Barsch made two game-turning defensive plays, tackling Burley quarterback Coltin Millward (9-for-14, 121 yards) for a two-point safety and intercepting a Millward pass on the first play of the fourth quarter. Next play, Nordsieck hit Gifford on a 49-yard post pattern.
“Hagan made two huge plays. He really got up in the air for the interception. Just jumped through the roof,” said Stilling with a smile.
Wolverines visit Buhl Friday
Dropping Burley to 0-6 on the season (0-4 league), Wood River is aiming for its third straight win Friday, Oct. 10 with a 7 p.m. non-conference game at Bowers Field in Buhl.
First-year Buhl head coach Rick Wells has turned around a program that was 2-7 last year but could “give Gooding a run for its money in their 3A league,” according to Stilling.
The 3A Tribe (3-2, 1-0 home) is coming off a 48-18 league victory at Filer and has also beaten Burley 40-21 at home in building an average offensive average of 31.4 ppg. Not long on depth, Buhl has an explosive running back in junior Tegon Tonge and boasts other athletic players.
Stilling said, “Our message this week is: We can’t just show up and expect to score 40 or 50 points. It’s still Buhl, they are always physical and they will hit you. They will blitz a lot, so it’s important for Alec to be making the right reads down there.”
Wood River lost 14-7 at home to Buhl last season. Prior to that, the Wolverines won 19-12 at Buhl in 2012 and 21-8 over the Tribe in Hailey back in 2011. The Tribe, winners of nine straight games over Wood River from 2002-10, lead the 44-game grid series 33-11.
The final two Wolverine regular-season games are Great Basin clashes Friday, Oct. 17 against the upstart Canyon Ridge Riverhawks (4-2, 1-1 league) and Friday, Oct. 24 against the Minico Spartans (4-2, 2-0).
Those two games will go a long way to determining the champion of this year’s conference and also to settling the three automatic qualifiers from the GBC to the 12-team State 4A football playoffs starting Nov. 1.
Except for Burley, each team is still in contention.
For instance, Jerome (2-4, 1-1) could win out and qualify, but the Tigers must visit Canyon Ridge this Friday and Minico Oct. 17 before finishing up at home with Twin Falls (1-5, 1-2). Twin Falls hosts Minico this Friday and also visits Jerome.
The Minico Spartans, GBC winner from 2010-12 and also seven times in eight years through 2012, captured their fourth straight win in come-from-behind fashion 23-20 at Preston last Friday. The Spartans are unbeaten at home and are currently averaging 34.3 ppg, a little better than Wood River’s 33.5 ppg offense.
Canyon Ridge earned its first-ever football win over cross-town rival Twin Falls last Friday, by a 45-23 score. The Riverhawks had only scored a total five TDS in five previous games against the Bruins.
Stilling said the Oct. 17 home game with Canyon Ridge will be a “Pack the Place Pink” evening on behalf of breast cancer awareness.
See today’s Express Web site for WRHS-Burley stats and further game coverage.
Quick start against Burley
Wood River started quickly on a mild night against Burley—building a 19-0 lead with a 206-22 edge in total yardage in the first five minutes.
Owens started the onslaught by taking a short kickoff 73 yards for a touchdown. The sophomore covered that distance in just three seconds on the scoreboard clock, meaning he’s either a strong Ian Keys-like candidate for the sprints on the track team or the clock wasn’t started properly.
Aramys Gallegos pounced on Kyle Weller’s onsides kick for another Wolverine possession. Gibson caught a 26-yard crossing pass from Nordsieck, setting up a five-yard Hayden Thayer off-tackle sweep for the score.
Wood River made a four-and-out stop on defense. The Wolverines shrugged off a holding penalty and drove 65 yards in eight plays—big gainer a Nordsieck-to-Gibson crossing pass for 37 yards on third-and-10.
Savaria’s first touchdown was a three-yard run behind the offensive line push of center Jackson Toothman, guards Dee Jay McMurdo and Taylor Douthit, and tackles Jens Blackman and Parker Bingham.
After Burley cut its deficit to 19-7 on a TD plunge by Bedke early in the second quarter, Nordsieck drove the Wolverines all the way to the Bobcat 18-yard-line, all running plays covering seven minutes. But a false start penalty, personal foul and quarterback sack pushed the Wolverines back to the 41-yard-line. Nordsieck booted his only punt of the game.
It was a beauty, downed by Cam Benson at the Burley 1-yard-line.
Burley ran out to the 4-yard-line, at which point Stilling called a time out with 37 seconds left in the quarter. It turned out to be time out that helped produce eight Wolverine points to finish the half.
That’s because Barsch sacked Burley QB Millward on a roll-out in the end zone, giving Wood River possession on a punt with 31 seconds left.
Gifford returned the punt 20 yards to midfield. Nordsieck connected with Gibson for 16 yards. The shifty quarterback scrambled for 19 more yards to the Bobcat 15. From there, Nordsieck found Savaria down the middle seam for a 15-yard TD pass.
“Austin made a great adjustment on his route to get open,” said Stilling.
Starting the second half with a 27-7 lead, Wood River’s defense came up big stopping an 11-play, 49-yard, seven-minute Burley drive on Thayer’s interception on a fourth-down pass at the Wolverine 1-yard-line.
Wood River responded with an eight-play, 99-yard TD drive featuring two Nordsieck first-down scrambles covering 13 and 20 yards. From the Burley 46, Nordsieck found Gibson along the Burley sideline, and Gibson followed a block by Cade Schott down the line and into the end zone.
“Cade made a great, heads-up play to finish that block,” said Stilling.
The Wolverines put it out of reach when Nordsieck fired a perfect lead pass to Gifford for a 49-yard touchdown on the first play after Barsch’s pass interception—Wood River’s eighth pass theft of the season.
WOLVERINE NOTES—Wood River, so successful in extra-point attempts with a 10-for-11 (91%) conversion rate in its first three games, has been going the opposite direction ever since. The Wolverines were a season-low 2-for-7 in their conversions Friday against Burley—meaning they are 7-for-18 (39%) in the last three games. “We’ve fallen off,” said Stilling. “We’ll kick a few more PATs in practice this week.”…
Team depth has been a Wood River asset compared to previous seasons, Stilling said. Against Burley, the Wolverines missed sidelined Chris Lentz (concussion), Champe Kotara (strained knee), Ryan Kotiga (torn thumb ligament surgery) and Izaak Easterday (groin) and still had the players capable of filling in on special teams assignments and defense, he added…
For this year’s 4A state playoffs, there are three automatic berths for the south-central Idaho 4th District (out of 6 schools), three automatic berths for the southwestern Idaho 3rd District (out of 6 schools), two berths for northern Idaho (out of 3 schools) and three automatic berths for eastern Idaho (out of 5 schools). Also, there is an at-large berth….
Defending State 4A champion is Bishop Kelly of Boise. The 4A tournament has been staged 30 times since 1984. Eastern Idaho has produced 19 winners, the Boise-area seven winners and northern Idaho four state champions. The south-central 4th District has yet to field a state champion in 4A football….
Wood River (2 lost fumbles, 2 interceptions) hasn’t been hurt much by turnovers in six games. The Wolverines had no turnovers against Burley and they made more progress in number of penalties, with 9 whistles for 92 yards compared to 102 penalty yards at Kimberly the week before. Wood River has now been penalized 69 times for 687 yards in six games, compared to 41-for-337 for foes.
WRHS Line Score
Wood River—Ashton Owens, 73-yard kickoff return (Hunter Kern kick); 11:57 1st (7-0 WR).
Wood River—Hayden Thayer, 5-yard run (kick failed); 10:51 1st (13-0 WR).
Wood River—Austin Savaria, 3-yard run (pass failed); 6:44 1st (19-0 WR).
Burley—Braxton Bedke, 1-yard run (Zeke Contreras kick); 7:42 2nd (19-7 WR).
Wood River—Safety, Hagan Barsch sack Coltin Millward in the end zone; 0:31 2nd (21-7 WR).
Wood River—Austin Savaria, 15-yard pass from Alec Nordsieck (run failed); 0:03 2nd (27-7 WR).
Wood River—Gunner Gibson, 46-yard pass from Alec Nordsieck (pass failed); 1:21 3rd (33-7 WR).
Wood River—Owen Gifford, 49-yard pass from Alec Nordsieck (Kyle Weller kick); 11:43 4th (40-7 WR).
Burley—Braxton Bedke, 80-yard run (Zeke Contreras kick); 11:25 4th (40-14 WR).
Wood River—Austin Savaria, 1-yard run (pass failed); 5:39 4th (46-14 WR).
|Time of possession
|1st downs, rush
|1st downs, pass
|1st downs, penalty
|1st downs, total
|Yards per carry
|Yards per completion
|Sacks by, yards
|Total yards gained
|Third down efficiency
||3 for 8
||5 for 8
|Fourth down efficiency
||0 for 2
||1 for 2
|Yards per punt
INDIVIDUAL LEADERS—Wood River
Rushing—Alec Nordsieck 9-87, 5 1sts; Austin Savaria 10-85, 2 1sts, 2 TD; Ashton Owens 18-74, 5 1sts; Hayden Thayer 4-29, 1 1st, 1 TD; Ozzi Alberdi 3-13; Travis Swanson 1-5, 1 1st; Aramys Gallegos 1-4; Owen Gifford 1-2, 1 1st.
Passing—Alec Nordsieck 9-13, 208 yards, 5 1sts, 3 TD; Cade Schott 0-1.
Receiving—Gunner Gibson 4-125, 3 1sts, 1 TD; Owen Gifford 1-49, 1 1st, 1 TD; Austin Savaria 2-20, 1 1st, 1 TD; Ashton Owens 1-12, 1 1st; Hayden Thayer 1-2.
Kickoff returns—Ashton Owens 1-73, 1 TD; Austin Savaria 1-21.
Punt returns—Owen Gifford 1-20.
All-purpose yardage—Alec Nordsieck 295.
Fumble recoveries (1)—Aramys Gallegos (onsides kick).
Interceptions (2)—Hayden Thayer 1, Hagan Barsch 1.
Sacks (2)—Hagan Barsch 1-4, Ozzi Alberdi 1-2.
Tackles (63)—Hayden Thayer 12, Jubal Toothman 10, Caleb Morgan 7, Travis Swanson 7, Austin Savaria 6, Hagan Barsch 5, Ozzi Alberdi 3, Gunner Gibson 2, Parker Bingham 2, Austin Krenz 2, Aramys Gallegos 1, Taylor Douthit 1, Brendan Bingham 1, Cam Benson 1, Jackson Toothman 1, Hunter Kern 1, Omar Salamanca 1.
Rushing—Braxton Bedke 20-147, 1 1st, 2 TD.
Passing—Coltin Millward 9-14, 121 yards, 7 1sts, 2 interceptions.
Receiving—Davis Gibbons 4-56, 4 1sts; Ryker Fenstermaker 3-39, 2 1sts; Emilio Polanco 1-26, 1 1st; Guy Duncomb 1-0.
Kickoff returns—Ryker Fenstermaker 6-135; Emilio Polanco 1-20.
Sacks (1)—Austin Hobbs 1-3.
Tackle leaders—Isaah Jiminez 16, Austin Hobbs 7, Emilio Polanco 5, Guy Duncomb 4, Adam Hepworth 3, David Carver 3, Mitch Crane 3, Boston Taylor 3, Ryker Fenstermaker 3, Victor Castro 3, Logan Hollins 2, Bryson Asher 2, Chase Johnson 2, Kyler Johnson 2.