POCATELLO – Junior quarterback Gunnar Amos scored Coeur d’Alene’s first and last touchdowns of the Vikings’ 45-38 victory over Highland in a 5A state football semifinal Friday evening in Holt Arena.
What happened in between was something Amos and his teammates will never forget.
On their quest to a third consecutive state championship, the Vikings forced turnovers on three consecutive offensive plays from Highland late in the fourth quarter, converted all three into touchdowns and turned a seven-point deficit into a lead they would not relinquish.
“Our kids didn’t give up and their kids didn’t give up,” Coeur d’Alene head coach Shawn Amos said. “We just happened to make a couple of big plays at the end, and that’s really what it came down to. Otherwise it’s dead even, it’s a battle.”
With Coeur d’Alene trailing 31-24 and 5 minutes to go in the game, Highland running back Thad Hansen lost control of a handoff. The Vikings recovered the fumble and three plays later Amos scored his second rushing touchdown of the game.
The Rams’ next play saw quarterback Neil Jewell’s pass tipped and intercepted by Coeur d’Alene’s Jackson Carlson. The subsequent Vikings touchdown took four plays as Amos scored again.
Jewell then took a hard hit from behind while fighting for extra yards. The rough contact popped the ball out of his hands and right into the outstretched arms of defensive lineman Chase Blakley. Blakley returned the airborne fumble 21 yards untouched for a touchdown.
In all, it took less than 2 minutes for the Vikings to erase the deficit and take a 45-31 lead.
“That was awesome. We needed them to step up big time and that sealed the game for us right there,” Amos said of watching his defense make plays late in the game.
Highland added a score on its next drive when Jewell found Christian Atkinson open for a 21-yard touchdown pass.
The Rams attempted an onside kick that squirted out of bounds.
Highland had to make a defensive stand with 2 minutes to go and for a second, it looked like the Rams could do it.
Highland had Coeur d’Alene in a third-and-13 situation, but Amos ran the ball 26 yards for a back-breaking first down.
It was a 45-26 defeat to Highland on Sept. 21 that spurred the two-time defending state champions back to return to form.
“After we played Highland it was a turning point for us,” Shawn Amos said. “Highland played very well, but we just did not play like we should. It flipped our season. Our coaches and players refocused on what we needed to do to be in this position that we are now, playing for a third state title.”
The Vikings (9-2) will return to Pocatello on Friday for the 5A state title game. They will play the 11-0 top-ranked Madison Bobcats for the championship. Madison defeated Lake City 36-0 Friday in Holt Arena.