Saturday, December 09, 2023

Bulldogs ready to attack

Sports Reporter | November 11, 2022 1:00 AM

Riding a five-game winning streak, the Sandpoint Bulldogs are getting ready to play the two-time defending state champs, Skyline High of Idaho Falls, tonight in the state 4A football semifinals.

The Bulldogs (6-3) and Skyline (8-3) are scheduled to meet in the playoffs for the third straight year, tonight at Holt Arena in Pocatello. Kickoff is at 4:30 p.m. PST.

“It was hard losing last year in the finals,” Sandpoint coach Ryan Knowles said. “We were hoping to get another chance at Skyline.”

And that they do. Knowles, who is in his fifth year as head coach for the Bulldogs, talked about how their buildup throughout the year has strategically led them to this point.

“I feel like this game was destined to happen,” he said.

Early in the season, the Bulldogs traveled to eastern Idaho to play against a school from Utah — Alta High of Sandy, in Rexburg. This helped the team get acquainted with having to travel and play, which is a big factor in the state playoffs according to Knowles.

“They’re going to be really aggressive,” Knowles said of Skyline. “They’re extremely well coached.”

And Sandpoint is well-seasoned in the postseason.

“Our guys that have been on the team since sophomores and who are now seniors, this will be their 10th playoff game,” Knowles said.

The Bulldogs know what the best looks like. They played Skyline last year in the finals and two years ago in the semifinals. So far this year Sandpoint has shown it’s the one controlling the game. The Bulldogs are doubling their opponents’ rushing yards per game by an impressive 2:1 ratio — not to mention they’re averaging less than one turnover per game.

“Our offense has been clicking on all cylinders,” Knowles said.

Sandpoint clocks an average of over 6.5 yards per carry, which also allows the Bulldogs the flexibility to try different things in their offense.

“We’re running the ball really well,” he said.

The coaching staff will look to seasoned quarterback Parker Pettit, who has been spreading the ball around well all season, and junior Max Frank who has made plays in the run and pass game all year. Notably, the Bulldogs have completed 62% of their passes, compared to 53% by their opponents.

Let’s not forget about the Bulldog defense. They’ve been exceptional all year long, holding their opponents to just eight rushing touchdowns. They do a fair amount of the dirty work, according to Knowles.

It’s no news that Skyline has won the state championships the last two years. They have a quarterback who’s playing efficiently and is one of the best players in the state. And wide receiver Kenyon Sadiq has verbally committed to Oregon.

“We’re hoping to contain him,” Knowles said of Sadiq.

But Sandpoint has a strong linebacking core.

And the Bulldogs have rushed for more than 300 yards in three of their last four games.

In the end, tonight’s game will come down to numbers. “Their score versus our score,” Knowles said.

After Sandpoint’s 20-6 loss to Skyline last year at the Kibbie Dome in Moscow, Knowles said to Skyline's head coach, Scott Berger, “See you next year.”

The Sandpoint-Skyline winner will play the winner between Minico (10-1) and Bishop Kelly (11-0) in the state championship next week.

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