For the first time in 19 years, and the first time ever as a 4A school, the Wood River High School football team will host a post-season playoff game in the next few weeks at Hailey’s Phil Homer Field.
Wood River (6-2, 4-0 league) earned that privilege with a dramatic come-from-behind 21-20 Great Basin Conference win over the Canyon Ridge River-hawks (5-3, 2-2) Friday.
Sophomore Ashton Owens scored three touchdowns and senior placekicker Kyle Weller booted the eventual game-winning point in the tight bat-tle between GBC contenders. The Wolverines trailed 14-6 in the third period.
The way this year’s 12-team State 4A playoffs are set up, the top two teams in the Great Ba-sin Conference regular-season earn the right to host playoff games in the four-weekend elimination series.
Wood River will host the Minico Spartans (6-2, 4-0) for the Great Basin championship on Friday, Oct. 24 at 7 p.m. at Phil Homer Field. Minico brings a six-game win streak into the game and will try to extend a string of league suc-cess that includes seven GBC titles (2005-08 and 2010-12) and a 38-6 league record since 2004.
In contrast, Wood River’s best league finish was third place in 2011, the same year that coach Kevin Stilling’s Wolverines achieved the school’s best football season since 1975 with a 6-4 record.
Stilling said Monday that students in kindergarten through the eighth grade will be admitted free of charge with a paying adult for Friday’s GBC championship game. It will also be “Senior Night” for 14 seniors on this year’s 45-player Wolver-ine varsity.
Whether Wood River plays its first playoff game on Satur-day, Nov. 1 as a first-round clash, or earns a bye, will de-pend on the outcome of its game with Minico. And the Boise-area 3rd District 4A is still undecided with one week of league games remaining.
The winner of Wood River-Minico will get a week off and will host a second-round quar-terfinal game on Friday, Nov. 8 against the winner of the first-round game between the Boise-area second-place team and the Great Basin Conference third-place team, very likely Canyon Ridge.
The loser of Friday’s Wood River-Minico game will host a first-round playoff Saturday, Nov. 1 against the third-place team in the Boise area.
That 4A Southern Idaho Conference is bunched at the top between Bishop Kelly of Boise (7-1, 4-0), Middleton (6-2, 3-1), Kuna (6-2, 2-2) and Skyview of Nampa (4-4, 3-1).
Bishop Kelly hosts Skyview on Saturday, Oct. 25 while Middleton goes to Kuna Friday, Oct. 24 to finish the 4A SIC regular-season slate.
Coach Stilling said that if Wood River earns the second seed from the Great Basin, his preference would be to play Saturday, Nov. 1 and not on Halloween evening—Friday, Oct. 31. He said that Wood River athletic director John Rade concurred, although it’s not certain when the game would be played, afternoon or night.
Wood River has played one previous home playoff game back in 1995, under coach Chris Malmgren, losing to Sugar-Salem of Sugar City 48-20 in the school’s first-ever State A-2 playoff appearance.
In the subsequent 18 grid seasons, Wood River teams have made a post-season foot-ball playoff seven times, all games played away from home.
At the Class A-2 level, the Wolverines lost 48-0 to Snake River of Moreland in 1998, lost 48-20 to American Falls in 1999 and fell 47-20 to Teton of Driggs in 2000, all three games played at Holt Arena in Pocatello.
They returned to Holt Arena as a 4A team in 2005 and fell 55-7 to Pocatello. In 2006 and 2007, Wood River lost 21-6 to Bon-neville in Idaho Falls, and 63-14 at Blackfoot. Three years ago, in 2011, the Wolverines com-peted in their last playoff game and lost 41-13 at Blackfoot.