HS football: Highland storms back against Madison to win 25th consecutive conference game
POCATELLO — Highland has lorded over 5A District 5-6 for the last five seasons.
The Rams have fended off the competition, forcing fellow southeast Idaho 5A schools to compete for scraps as the Rams have won five consecutive conferences crowns.
That reign continued Friday as Highland rallied in the second half to beat Madison 24-14 at Holt Arena. The Rams have won 25 consecutive games against district competition and are one win away from a sixth consecutive district crown.
The Rams (7-1, 2-0 5A District 5-6) outscored the Bobcats 17-0 over the final 17 minutes, 41 seconds to secure the win.
“We all love to play football,” Highland defensive lineman Kamiah Olsen said. “We love kicking the crap out of teams. That is what we do. We all work hard during the week. We are the strongest and the fastest.”
Highland’s Landon Demuzio scored a 35-yard touchdown with 11:25 remaining in the fourth quarter to give the Rams a 21-14 lead. It was the second consecutive touchdown drive for the Rams as quarterback Kobe Tracy found wide receiver Andrew VanSickle on the previous possession for a 51-yard touchdown to tie the game 14-14 with 2:19 left in the third quarter.
“It felt like the tide had turned,” Highland coach Gino Mariani said. “We didn’t hang our heads. We got clicking, tied the game and took a lead. That was huge. I tell them, ‘We are never out of games.’”
VanSickle’s touchdown came after Madison (6-2, 2-1 5A District 5-6) took the lead, 14-7, on a 12-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Jordan Porter to wide receiver Bolder Murray with 5:19 left in the third.
Murray’s touchdown capped a 14-0 run by Madison. Teammate and running back Malachi Valora scored on the third play of the third quarter to tie the game 7-7 on a 71-yard TD run.
After Murray’s touchdown, the Bobcats punted twice before turning the ball over on downs with less than 30 seconds remaining in the game.
“Today showed that we are clicking,” Olsen said. “We got the job done.”
The Rams’ defense held Madison to a season-low 14 points and a season-low 310 yards of offense.
Porter was under pressure all night and was forced to run around in the backfield to avoid sacks. Highland tallied 3 sacks on the night, including 1 by Olsen, who has 5 sacks in the last two games.
Porter finished with 117 yards passing and 70 yards rushing. He came into the game averaging 230.2 yards passing and 66 yards rushing per game.
“He’s been around a long time,” Mariani said. “It feels like this is his 15th year. He is a good one. He makes it difficult on you.”
Highland’s Eddie Schwarze added a 26-yard field goal with 2:31 remaining in the fourth quarter, sealing the win for the Rams. Before the kicker’s successful attempt, the Rams converted a fourth-and-9 from the Bobcats’ 23-yard line thanks to a 14-yard pass from Tracy to tight end Drake Hill.
Tracy patiently waited in the pocket as Hill made his way across the field on a shallow cross. The Rams’ quarterback was protected all night as the Bobcats did not tally a sack. Tracy finished the game 19 of 28 for 176 yards and one touchdown.
“We were good enough to win,” Mariani said. “Our goal is 30-32 points a game. We didn’t reach that, but that was a playoff game. It was a playoff atmosphere.”
Demuzio was a spark in the second half, carrying the ball eight times for 66 yards and one touchdown. The senior running back averaged 8.25 yards per carry in the third and fourth quarters after averaging 4.3 yards per tote on the first half.
The running back also scored a 5-yard touchdown on the opening drive of the game, capping a 16-play, 80-yard drive that took 7:21 off the clock. On the drive, Tracy completed a pass to six different players.
Demuzio has rushed for 100 yards or more three consecutive games after finishing Friday with 17 carries for 105 yards and two scores.
“I told him to be patient,” Mariani said. “The last few weeks, he’s had the opportunity to hit big plays. These guys are fast. Madison has some dudes. They made us earn everything.”
Madison beat Highland 24-21 on Oct. 19, 2012, at Holt Arena on its way to a perfect season and a state title. Since the win against the Rams, no other conference foe has got the best of Highland.
The Bobcats have lost 21 games since that unblemished season and six of those defeats have come at the hands of Highland, which closes its regular season Oct. 19 at Holt Arena against Rigby. If the Rams win, they are the district champions.
“Our focus is on Rigby,” Mariani said. “They have some talented kids. It’s going to be a battle.”