SANDPOINT – Home, home, Kibbie Dome.
The saying became a rallying cry this week as the Sandpoint football team prepared to host its 4A state playoff opener against Middleton. The Bulldogs, who will host playoff games until the state championship game in the Kibbie Dome in Moscow if they win out, can now shorten the cheer after pounding the Middleton Vikings 30-0 Friday at Barlow Stadium.
“We have been saying that ever since we won (the league championship),” Sandpoint senior running back Ben Fisher. “I think (playing at home) is a big advantage for us. We get a big turnout every night – Sandpoint really supports us.”
The Bulldogs will next host defending state champion Hillcrest of Idaho Falls (9-1), which beat Pocatello 29-26 in its first-round game. The game is tentatively scheduled for next Saturday at 1 p.m. at Barlow Stadium.
Sandpoint advanced to the state semifinals for the first time since 2005 by shutting down a potent Middleton ground attack. The Vikings, who used the double-wing, entered Friday’s game with a six-game winning streak and averaging nearly 270 yards per game rushing.
Sandpoint (8-2) held Middleton (7-3) to just one first down and 14 yards in the first half.
“They are coming off a six-game winning streak, and I think our kids made them look like they were not a team on a six-game winning streak,” said Sandpoint head coach Mike Mitchell, whose team allowed the Vikings a total of 32 yards on the ground. “That’s what it looked like tonight.”
The Bulldogs, meanwhile, looked like a team with a five-game winning streak. Sandpoint powered its way down the field on its first possession led by Fisher and fellow running back Cody Hecker.
The Bulldogs’ offensive line opened up big holes in the middle until the speedy Fisher capped a nine-play drive with a 6-yard run sweep to the outside.
It was the first of two rushing TDs for Fisher, who also threw a 10-yard scoring pass to AJ Smith late in the second quarter to give the Bulldogs a 20-0 lead.
“When you can run the ball like they did, it opens up the play-action stuff and it puts you in a bind,” Middleton head coach Bill Brock said. “Offensively, they just beat us up front.”
The Vikings could only muster three first downs for the game, while Sandpoint collected 20.
The Bulldogs finished with 396 yards of total offense, including 278 on the ground.
“We are playing real well right now,” said Mitchell, who got his first playoff win as Sandpoint’s head coach. “Sometimes everything goes right, and our kids are really playing well. I think we are really a good football team.
“It is going to be tough. When you get down to the final four anything can happen, but these guys have a chance.”