November 22, 1997 in Sports

Bulldogs Win It All Sandpoint Takes Program Full-Circle To Capture State Championship

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Pardon the Sandpoint High football team if it celebrates its first state championship for a while.

The Bulldogs, in fact, should be allowed as much time as needed to savor the State A-1 Division II title, if for no other reasons than these:

Because of the dramatic manner in which they won Friday, scoring two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to knock off Eagle 24-21 before a crowd estimated at 4,000 at Boise State University’s Bronco Stadium.

Because of how far the program has come in four years since coach Satini Puailoa took over. From doormat to state champion.

“We’ve had to carry a lot of excess baggage the past few years and this year,” Puailoa said moments after riding a mosh of Bulldogs and holding the well-deserved state trophy.

The baggage became even weightier when the Bulldogs trailed 21-10 at halftime.

Sandpoint (9-3 overall) owned the second half, though. Still, the Bulldogs had the ball for all but three plays in the third quarter yet had no points to show for it.

The Bulldogs’ comeback started on their final series of the third quarter - a possession extended because of a roughing-the-punter penalty by Eagle (8-4).

On second-and-10 from the Eagle 11-yard line, quarterback Paul Nieman found wide receiver Dave Mattingly for a touchdown on a busted play. Rolling to his right, Nieman was supposed to throw to standout Caleb Bowman. But he was covered by three Mustangs.

Nieman improvised, lofting a pass just beyond an Eagle defensive back and into the awaiting hands of Mattingly, who was falling backward as he caught the pass.

A two-point conversion failed, but Sandpoint was within 21-16 with 10:55 left.

Then Sandpoint’s defense, which was sub-par in the first half, stiffened. On Eagle’s second play on the next series, Bulldogs defensive tackle Stefon Kleinert flattened Mustangs quarterback Tyler Moyer on an option keeper. The ball popped loose and Mattingly and teammate Brandon Jacobson recovered at the Eagle 36.

Sandpoint had a handful of big plays on what would prove to be the game-winning series. The first came on fourth-and-3 at the 17.

Puailoa said the Bulldogs had called two plays depending on Eagle’s defense. If Bowman had single-man coverage then Nieman would throw a quick hitch. If the Mustangs had three players in Bowman’s vicinity - which they did - then Nieman was to check to an off tackle play for tailback Kurt Berkley.

Workhorse Berkley, who rushed 36 times for 183 yards, got the ball and followed the left side of his line, darting 12 yards to the Eagle 5.

On third-and-goal at the 4, Nieman threw a quick post to a wide-open Bowman for the TD. Nieman then lofted a pass to the corner that Mattingly ran under for the two-point conversion and what would be the final margin with 6:50 left.

Both teams exchanged possessions before the Eagle’s final drive. The Mustangs marched from their 35 to the Sandpoint 30. An incomplete pass, a scramble by Moyer for 1 yard, a delay of game followed by two more incomplete passes stopped Eagle.

The last play, a pass to the end zone, was broken up by Sandpoint cornerback Travis Knaggs, whose good position and attempt at an interception distracted Eagle wide receiver John Rosti, who dropped the ball.

“I just can’t put into words what this means,” Puailoa said. “It’s going to take awhile for it to sink in.”

“We had to throw a shutout in the second half,” Sandpoint defensive assistant coach John Knowles said. “We told them at halftime that they had to go out and play like champions.”

And they did.

Sandpoint 24, Eagle 21

Sandpoint 3 7 0 14 - 24

Eagle 7 14 0 0 - 21

E-Juring 2 run (McLean kick)

S-Lindgren 44 FG

E-Juring 1 run (McLean kick)

S-Berkley 16 run (Lindgren kick)

E-Juring 1 run (McLean kick)

S-Mattingly 11 pass from Nieman (pass failed)

S-Bowman 4 pass from Nieman (Mattingly pass from Nieman)

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: 2 photos (1 color)

MEMO: Changed in Spokane edition.

This sidebar appeared with the story:

OTHER TITLE GAMES

A-1 Highland 40, Idaho Falls 7

Quarterback Joe Green threw for three touchdowns and rushed for another to lead Highland (12-0) past Idaho Falls Friday in Pocatello for the Rams’ second Idaho A-1 Division I high school football title in three years. Idaho Falls finished 8-4.

A-4: Mackay 16, Hagerman 14

Time ran out on Hagerman’s potential game-winning drive a foot short of the goal line, giving Mackay a win in the A-4, 11-man state championship game at Pocatello. Mackay (7-2), the defending champions, took a 16-14 lead with 4:05 left in the third quarter on a 1-yard run by Josh Felton and two-point conversion by Josh Whitworth.

8-man: Deary 50, Cambridge 28

Danny Whitcomb ran for two touchdowns and caught a 42-yard pass for another as Deary (12-0) defeated Cambridge (11-1) for the eight-man title at Moscow.

Changed in Spokane edition.

This sidebar appeared with the story: OTHER TITLE GAMES

A-1 Highland 40, Idaho Falls 7 Quarterback Joe Green threw for three touchdowns and rushed for another to lead Highland (12-0) past Idaho Falls Friday in Pocatello for the Rams’ second Idaho A-1 Division I high school football title in three years. Idaho Falls finished 8-4.

A-4: Mackay 16, Hagerman 14 Time ran out on Hagerman’s potential game-winning drive a foot short of the goal line, giving Mackay a win in the A-4, 11-man state championship game at Pocatello. Mackay (7-2), the defending champions, took a 16-14 lead with 4:05 left in the third quarter on a 1-yard run by Josh Felton and two-point conversion by Josh Whitworth.

8-man: Deary 50, Cambridge 28 Danny Whitcomb ran for two touchdowns and caught a 42-yard pass for another as Deary (12-0) defeated Cambridge (11-1) for the eight-man title at Moscow.

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