HS football: Preston snaps playoff drought with 40-20 win over Poky
PRESTON — Things were looking pretty bleak for Preston’s football team a couple of weeks ago after its losing streak reached three games courtesy of a 21-7 setback to 4A power Minico.
Much to the delight of head coach Eric Thorson, the Indians refused to fold. Instead, they’ve won back-to-back games in convincing fashion to punch their first ticket to the 4A state playoffs since 2011.
Ty Hyde threw for 270 yards and a trio of touchdowns, Cayleb Peck rushed for a touchdown, blocked a punt and recovered a fumble, and Preston earned a gratifying 40-20 victory over district rival Pocatello on Friday night at O.R. Cutler Field.
“It’s all the young men,” Thorson said. “They have made so many good decisions. They’ve believed in the things we’ve asked them to do. And yeah, early in the season their faith in what we were trying to get them to do was being tested, but as they got more and more comfortable with the schemes (we’ve turned it around). These guys are just great young men.”
Thanks to Friday’s clutch performance, the Franklin Country Indians (4-4, 2-2 4A District 4-5 East Pod) have already won more games this year than they did in their previous three seasons combined.
“Oh, it feels amazing,” Preston receiver/kicker Scotty Dunn said. “The improvement from last year to this year, you can just totally tell we’ve been playing as a team this year. It’s been awesome to see.”
Peck set the tone early for the hosts when he burst up the middle essentially untouched and blocked a Pocatello punt that was recovered in the end zone by teammate Garret Ward for a 7-0 Preston lead early in the first quarter.
“Well, it felt pretty good,” Peck said. “I mean, my ribs weren’t real happy with me after. He kicked me right in the ribs. It stung there for a minute, but it was a good momentum boost. But the thing about this team is once you get us going, it’s hard to stop us.”
The diminutive senior shined in all three aspects of the game for Preston. Peck rushed for 45 yards, including a 7-yard TD that gave the hosts a 14-0 advantage late in the opening quarter. In addition to his fumble recovery, Peck also racked up 12 tackles.
Pocatello (2-6, 0-3 4A District 4-5 East Pod) was able to pare its deficit to 14-7 on a blocked punt for a TD. Ironically enough, it was Poky’s punter, Nicholas McAdam, that blocked the punt on the first play of the second quarter and returned it a few yards to paydirt.
The Gate City Indians had a couple of opportunities to pull even after Matthew Ney and Jaydn Downs intercepted second-quarter passes by Hyde. However, Preston shined defensively in the opening half as it limited the visitors to 66 yards of total offense.
Hyde bounced back from his rough second-quarter stretch and was outstanding the rest of the evening. The 6-foot-7 quarterback hit Dunn in stride in the back of the end zone for a 22-yard scoring pass, giving Preston a 21-7 halftime lead.
Hyde once again showcased his ability to throw the deep ball in the second half. The junior connected with Luke Smellie on a 55-yard scoring strike in the third quarter, and then found Gordon Knapp behind the Poky secondary for a 37-yard TD for the final nail in the coffin with 2:37 remaining in the final quarter.
“I was really proud of Ty,” said Dunn, who hauled in seven receptions for 96 yards. “I mean, he’s going to throw a bad ball every now and again, and (the opposition) is going to get up and pick it, but he’s going to come back stronger then ever and he’s going to keep throwing good balls.”
Preston’s other touchdown was scored by Isaiah Smith on a 21-yard run, which gave the hosts a 28-7 lead on their first possession of the second half. Smith also played well defensively as he broke up three passes.
In addition to catching four passes for 82 yards, Smellie picked off a fourth-and-goal pass by Poky signal-caller Sheldon Romriell in the final minute of the contest. Riley Parker recovered a fumble for a Preston defense that limited Poky to 17 yards rushing.
Preston’s offense was explosive enough and its defense stingy enough to overcome a whopping 16 penalties.
“I’m excited to see the football team go back to the playoffs,” Thorson said. “It’s where they belong.”
Romriell ended up completing 22 of 45 passes for 228 yards and a one TD — a 24-yarder to Ney — and rushed for a 12-yard score. Ney and Downs combined for 131 yards on 15 receptions. Pocatello was eliminated from playoff contention with the loss.
Preston hosts Snake River to end the regular season. Pocatello ends its season Friday against Burley at Holt Arena.