MOSCOW — The Kendrick High School football team ended several droughts in a 30-24 Class 1A Division II state championship victory Saturday against top-ranked Carey at the Kibbie Dome.
First, it ended its state appearance drought that dated back to Nov. 19, 2016, when it fell to Salmon River 30-20.
Second, the fifth-ranked Tigers (9-2) ended their state championship win drought that dated back to 2001 when they defeated Horseshoe Bend 62-26.
Finally, coach Zane Hobart ended his losing streak to the Panthers (11-1) in this facility. The ninth-year leader had lost his two previous games against Carey at the University of Idaho’s football field.
“It feels amazing,” Hobart said. “There’s not a word to describe this feeling. I love the town of Kendrick. They love their sports teams and their kids.”
It was a virtuoso performance from the offense, and the defense made several big plays to cap a season that saw the Tigers win seven of their final eight games after being dismantled by two-time defending Class 1A Division I state champion Oakley 52-0 on Sept. 11.
Sophomore quarterback Ty Koepp accounted for all four touchdowns in the game. He was 8-for-16 passing for 153 yards with two scores, running for 33 yards and two touchdowns. Kendrick’s defense had four stops on fourth down, two turnovers and two punts.
Kendrick’s opening drive gave an early clue as to how it was going to operate.
On a third-and-6, Koepp improvised as moved into the pocket, evaded two Carey defenders and hit Sawyer Hewett for a 45-yard completion. Four plays later, Koepp capped a 10-play, six-minute drive with a run from 2 yards out to put the Tigers in front.
“The plan was to chew the clock and make a statement,” Koepp said. “We knew the big plays would come eventually, but we wanted to make sure that we possessed the ball as long as we could.”
“I tend to forget that he’s just a sophomore,” Hobart said. “He has two full seasons under his belt and he played extremely well.”
Hewett, a freshman running back, got the bulk of the carries out of the backfield, finishing with 15 carries for 101 yards, adding 61 yards on two catches.
“That was an amazing performance by a freshman running back,” Hobart said. “He’s not the biggest guy in the world but he’s pretty fast and he’s only going to get bigger and faster once he gets older.”
The Tigers were looking to build on their 6-0 lead, but the Panthers’ defense forced a stop on fourth down, shortcircuiting a 14-play drive. However, Kendrick regained possession on the next play as the defense forced Conner Simpson to fumble the ball, and the Tigers recovered.
Three plays later, Koepp cashed in on the Carey miscue by scoring from 2 yards out again.
“Every guy that came in played sound football,” Hobart said. “We tried to eliminate the big plays. That was the focus, we wanted to force them to get it inch by inch.”
Simpson, who finished with 173 yards on 20 carries, did squeeze in two long touchdown runs, of 66 and 55 yards, around a pair of Jagger Hewett touchdown catches of 23 and 35 yards, as the Panthers got to within 30-16 to start the fourth quarter. Jagger Hewett, a junior receiver, played with a bandaged finger.
But Carey’s second fumble of the game came at a critical juncture in the fourth. The Panthers had marched 15 plays down to the Kendrick 17. Simpson ran into a wall of Tiger defenders, and senior Maison Anderson knocked the ball loose with the crown of his helmet and he recovered it.
“He had a great game tonight holding down the middle,” Hobart said. “A lot of what Carey does is runs to the edge. But a lot of their success is when Simpson finds cutback lanes, so Maison’s job tonight was to eliminate those. That’s what you saw there. He delivered a fundamental.”
Carey quarterback Carsn Perkes scored on a 20-yard run and ran in the 2-pointer to narrow it to 30-24 with 1:58 left in the game.
The Panthers lined up for an onside kick, but Kendrick was able to recover the ball and go into victory formation.
“This win feels great, and Carey is a great football program so I have to give it up to them,” Hobart said. “To be able to repeat the success the way they have is amazing.”
The future of the program for Kendrick is bright, with just one player graduating this spring off a team that won the Whitepine League in Division II and now has etched its name forevermore in the history books.
“Success is great, but it’s more than that,” Hobart said. “I look forward to the next group coming in. There’s going to be a lot of success in the future.”
Carey 0 8 8 8—24
Kendrick 6 24 0 0—30
Kendrick — Ty Koepp 2 run (run failed).
Kendrick — Koepp 2 run (Jagger Hewett pass from Koepp).
Kendrick — Hewett 23 pass from Koepp (Koepp run).
Carey — Conner Simpson 66 run (Carsn Perkes run).
Kendrick — Hewett 35 pass from Koepp (Koepp run).
Carey — Simpson 55 run (Perkes run).
Carey — Perkes 20 run (Perkes run).
RUSHING — Carey: Conner Simpson 20-173, Prekes 9-72, Colton Larna 4-14. Kendrick: Sawyer Hewett 15-101, Koepp 19-33, Wyatt Fitzmorris 4-33.
PASSING — Carey: Perkes 8-16-0—56. Kendrick: Koepp 8-16-1—153.
RECEIVING — Carey: Chase Bennion 3-5, Simpson 1-31, Riley Morey 4-20. Kendrick: Sawyer Hewett 2-61, Jagger Hewett 3-69, Hunter Taylor 2-15, Fitzmorris 1-8.
Pixley may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org, (208) 848-2268 or on Twitter @TreebTalks.