Defense, Keiser lead CdA to 5A title
MOSCOW, Idaho – It took more than a half, but the Coeur d’Alene football team eventually left no doubt.
The top-ranked Vikings shut down a usually prolific offense and Coeur d’Alene’s offense finished the task in a convincing 28-7 triumph over the Centennial Patriots in the State 5A championship game played before an estimated crowd of 5,000 Friday night at the Kibbie Dome.
Now CdA coach Shawn Amos, whose team gave him his first state title in his 14th season as head coach, heads to Northern California today for a much-deserved vacation.
Miranda Amos reached her father first at the 43-yard line, followed seconds later by wife, Kelly. Then the first player to push through for a hug was senior wide receiver Drew Turbin.
“You can’t describe it,” Amos said.
“This was 14 years in the process. I went from the worst team in the state probably (his first year) to one of the best teams in the state – from start to (now).”
CdA (11-1) did it with a lock-down defense. After the Vikings allowed Centennial running back Mike Kirby 106 yards on 19 carries in the first half, they stuffed him in the second. Kirby had just eight yards on nine attempts the final two quarters.
“Hands down, they were solid all the way around,” CdA running back Zach Keiser said of the defense. “Stopped them on fourth down two or three times. They kept us in the game for sure and finally our offense started to put up some points.”
Keiser had the key play that seemed to loosen up the offense in the second half. On third-and-1, Keiser sneaked through a small hole as the Patriots blitzed, and all he saw ahead was wide-open space as he zipped 73 yards for a touchdown – doubling his rushing output at that point. The score put CdA comfortably ahead 21-7 with 3:13 to go in the third period.
“He’s such a great athlete,” Centennial coach Lee Neumann said of Keiser. “He made a great run. We were blitzing and they got us.”
“They brought the house on that and I squeezed right through a little gap and took it to the house,” Keiser said. “Great blocking up front. There was big green (space) right in front of me. I knew I was going to score.”
Keiser finished with 169 yards on 18 carries, pushing his three-year career total to 2,689, third best in school history.
With 50 seconds remaining, the last defensive play made by the Vikings was by standout two-way starter Jake Matheson, who hauled in his 12th interception of the season. He set single-season and career records for picks this year.
“Who cares about stats, we’re the state champs,” Matheson said. “Mighty Mites were at it again. We bend, but we don’t break. That’s what we pride ourselves on.”
Matheson figures he’ll relish the title for quite some time.
“Probably until the birth of my first child this will probably be the greatest thing to happen to me,” Matheson said. “Maybe marriage, too. I don’t know.”
CdA led 14-7 at halftime. The Vikings scored on the game’s fourth play – a 67-yard middle screen from Chad Chalich to Deon Watson – and then didn’t score again in the first half until Keiser followed a nice block by Colin Comack from a yard out with 1:42 to go before halftime.
The Pats (9-3) couldn’t muster anything against the Vikings in the final two quarters.
“It’s the first time this whole year where we’ve been shut down on offense,” Neumann said. “They did an outstanding job. We got some big plays on them but we just couldn’t finish. They had some great athletes make some great plays.”
Amos praised his players for caring about each other throughout the season.
“They bought into what we sell – family first,” Amos said. “Centennial’s a very good football team. But with this group we’ve got too many weapons.”