By Greg Lee
MOSCOW, Idaho – The Sandpoint football team chose an inopportune time to misfire on both sides of the ball.
Blackfoot built a 29-9 lead before the Broncos held off a late Sandpoint rally 29-23 in the State 4A championship game before an estimated crowd of 2,500 at the Kibbie Dome.
Sandpoint (9-3) took over at its 16-yard line with 4:16 remaining after Blackfoot (11-1) botched a 21-yard field goal attempt that would have all but locked up the game. Blackfoot’s place holder couldn’t pull down a high snap, allowing Sandpoint to take over at the 16.
Bulldogs quarterback Daniel Charvoz completed five passes on the drive as Sandpoint moved to the Blackfoot 32. But a sack for a 6-yard loss followed by three consecutive incomplete passes ended the Bulldogs’ final possession.
Blackfoot needed just one first down to erase the final 1:32 off the clock.
“I was disappointed because our defense hasn’t given up big plays until tonight,” Sandpoint coach Mike Mitchell said. “But when it came to crunch time, they started playing and we got a few stops and started clicking. I really thought we were going to get that last drive.”
The problem was Sandpoint built a deep hole.
Blackfoot did a good job of taking the Bulldogs out of their bread and butter – the running game.
Sandpoint running back Ben Fisher thought two first-half turnovers in the red zone were critical.
“We had the interception and the fumble and both were in the red zone,” Fisher said. “That’s what took us out of the game. That’s not like us to do that either. We’re usually really good in the red zone.”
Sandpoint appeared it was going to take advantage of an early Blackfoot fumble that gave the Bulldogs possession at the Broncos’ 21. The Bulldogs gave the ball right back when Blackfoot got an interception at the 7 and returned into the Bulldogs’ 48. Ten plays later, Logan Chidester plunged into the end zone from a yard out to put the Broncos ahead 7-0.
The Bulldogs answered, driving 77 yards on 10 plays before Cody Hecker plowed 6 yards for the tying TD with 9:39 to go before halftime.
Then Sandpoint took a 9-7 lead on a safety when Blackfoot’s longsnapper hiked the ball in punt formation over the punter’s head and out of the end zone.
Blackfoot used a 42-yard pass from Anthony Clarke to Julio Flores for first-and-goal at the 5. Two plays later, Chris Percy, behind the right side of the line, dove 1 yard to give the Broncos a 14-9 lead with 33 seconds before intermission.
Two more TDs in the third quarter allowed Blackfoot to build a 29-9 lead. The first score came on the first play of the second half when Clarke took off on a sweep and broke it up the sideline for an 80-yard TD.
“Our defense couldn’t stop them like we’ve stopped teams this year,” Fisher said.
Sandpoint started its comeback when Hecker scored on a 13-yard run with 3:21 to go in the third quarter.
Then Mitchell went to a trick play. Fisher took a lateral from Charvoz and hit a wide-open Brandon Lawrence for a 47-yard TD connection, pulling the Bulldogs within the final margin with 10:07 to play.
Sandpoint couldn’t take advantage of the momentum, though. Blackfoot managed to use up nearly nine minutes before the botched field goal.
“I’ve got to give Blackfoot some credit,” Mitchell said. “They had some big third-down conversions. I was disappointed in our inability to run the football.”
Mitchell said his team had much to be proud of this year.
“While we’re disappointed, our kids had a great year,” Mitchell said. “I can’t say this team never gave effort. They really played hard. These kids have played their hearts out all year long. They’re hurting right now. They came down here believing they could win. That’s half the battle.”