Homedale seeks long awaited return to state title game

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Matt Holtry made it abundantly clear what is goal was when he interviewed for the job.

“Get this program back to a state championship,” he said.

The Homedale head football coach is just one win away from that after nearly a decade of trying. No. 1 Homedale (10-0) looks to return to the state title game for the first time in 19 years when it visits Timberlake (7-3) at 2 p.m. Saturday in the semifinals of the 3A state playoffs.

“It was part of the reason why I took the job in the first place,” Holtry said. “I grew up in the Vallivue school district so I was always well aware of the Homedale tradition. I knew it was going to be a rebuild, but at the same time I knew what the expectations were. And here we are 10 years later. It’s pretty crazy.”

The last time the Trojans were in the championship game was when they were in 2A in 1999. Homedale lost 33-12 to Teton.

The shellacking ended the Trojans’ incredible run of the 90s. It was a run that included six state championship game appearances and three titles.

But Homedale hasn’t been the same since. When Holtry took over in 2009, the Trojans were fresh off a one-win season.

However, slowly but surely, Holtry restored the historic program brick by brick. Turning points included advancing to the state semis in 2013 and 2015. But the Trojans just quite haven’t been able to get to that coveted title game.

This season appears like it will be their best chance.

Homedale has been the No. 1 team in 3A for most of the year. It’s the only team yet to suffer a loss and it really has yet to face a challenge as well.

All of the Trojans’ wins have been by doubles digits and the closest anyone has come was Weiser at 23 points. They have an average margin of victory of 39.5 points which included a 34-0 win over two-time reigning champion Fruitland and a 41-21 victory against fourth ranked Gooding in the quarterfinals last week.

“These kids have a lot of confidence right now,” Holtry said. “The biggest thing for us is that we prepare the right way every day and take care of all the little things because you have to more than ever before when you reach this point in the season.”

The Trojans, though, know it’s not going to be easy even if they are the heavy favorites going in. Timberlake upset South Fremont 36-35 last week and Saturday’s game is going to be in its own backyard.

Homedale has to make the 438-mile trek to Spirit Lake just north of Coeur d’Alene. The White Tigers are also 4-1 at home with an average margin of victory of 19.5 points in those game.

But the Trojans have had to overcome far greater odds over the last decade, so Saturday could still very well be the day they've waited a long time for.

“It would mean everything,” Holtry said. “It would be a mission accomplished so to speak to get this program back to the level that it’s supposed to be at.”

1A DIVISION I

WILDER (10-1) VS. VALLEY (9-1) AT HOLT ARENA, 1:30 P.M. SATURDAY

Kyle Dalsoglio wanted more.

The Wilder head football coach was tired of simply just getting to the dance. He aspired for his team to take that next step. That’s exactly what the Wildcats did.

Their reward? A date with arguably the state’s best team in the 1A Division I classification. Wilder travels to No. 2 Valley in the 1A Division I state playoff semifinals.

“It’s going to be a different kind of opponent than we’ve ever seen in terms of what they do offensively,” Dalsoglio said. “They throw the ball a lot and spread you out. We’re used to teams using double tight ends and running the football. So facing a team that chucks it all over the field is definitely new territory for us. We know what we’re up against.”

While the Wildcats had been to the playoffs the last two years, they left a lot to be desired. Wilder was outscored 112-18 in losses to Glenns Ferry and Prairie.

But the Wildcats finally turned a corner with a result that sent shockwaves through the rest of the state. Wilder knocked off Lapwai 44-36 last Thursday at the Kibbie Dome in Moscow in the opening round of the 1A state tournament.

It was the first playoff win in four years and the first since moving up to the 1A Division I level. Lapwai had been a regular mainstay in the top-5 this season.

“Before the season started we knew we were going to make the playoffs, but it was like why make the playoffs if you’re just going to get embarrassed week one? So our main goal this year was to actually get in there and shake things up,” Dalsoglio said. “We had good teams over the last few years, but for one reason or another we just couldn’t put it all together. So that win was huge. A game changer for us we felt like that.”

However, the Wildcats don't have much time to celebrate the historic win. They now have to deal with a team that’s looked poised to win it all year.

Valley is averaging 53.4 points per game and have beaten opponents in its path by nearly 35.

The Vikings’ defense is nothing to scoff at either. They are allowing a little more than 22 points per game.

Valley’s only hiccup of the season was a last-second 44-42 loss to Raft River. But the Vikings have since rebounded with four straight wins, including a 56-0 rout over Clearwater Valley last week in the first round.

But don’t count Wilder out. Crazier things have happened before. If the Wildcats were to pull another rabbit out of the hat, it would more than satisfy Dalsoglio.

“We know saying we’re underdogs is putting it lightly,” Dalsoglio said. “But we’ve played with a lot of confidence all year and I don’t think that’s going to change now. We have confidence in what we have and what we can do. Our goal is to start fast and keep it close. If we’re within striking distance in the fourth quarter, anything can happen. Sometimes the games teams like this are supposed to win, are the toughest. That’s what we’re hoping for. We just want a chance.”

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