Jack Prka has been talking about getting back to the state championship game all season long. His Coeur d’Alene Vikings are one step closer.
Prka had a relatively quiet night as a pair of capable backs lugged the ball much of the first half – and he sat for much of the second half. The Vikings built a dominant lead early and trounced visiting Timberline of Boise 56-7 in an Idaho 5A state quarterfinal on Friday.
Coeur d’Alene (8-0), ranked No. 1 in 5A all season by the state media poll, travels to play No. 3-ranked Rocky Mountain in a semifinal next week. The Grizzlies (7-0) beat Highland 28-13 at home in a quarterfinal Friday.
“First step’s over with, we’re on to Rocky,” Prka said.
The senior was 16-of-22 passing for 172 yards and four touchdowns. Junior backup Brayden Bengtson got extensive playing time and went 9 of 15 for 138 yards and a score.
“We played some good football, first round of playoffs,” Coeur d’Alene coach Shawn Amos said. “That was a good way to start. Now, we get to play some fun games.”
Defending state champion Rigby, which beat the Vikings 57-56 in double-overtime in last year’s title game, hosts Mountain View in the other semifinal next week.
Amos isn’t worried about having to go on the road.
“It’s awesome,” he said. “You got to beat them, you got to play the best to get to the title game. We’re excited. Rocky’s gonna be a great game, they’re a great football team. We’re dying to play a program like that.”
The Vikings relied on the running tandem of Gunner Giulio and Trent Elstad, especially early. The duo rushed for 155 yards combined in the first half as CdA put up 42 points before intermission. Both backs scored a rushing and receiving touchdown.
“It was really nice,” Giulio said of contributing early. “Definitely one of the most explosive games Trent and I have had this season.”
The junior said the performance will be something else Rocky Mountain will have to concentrate on when they look at tape next week.
“They’re definitely going to have to look to stop the run,” he said. “And obviously our pass is a hard threat to defend. So they’re gonna have a tough time either way.”
“They’re a pretty impressive couple of running backs,” Amos said. “Up front, we were getting the job done. You know, we’ve just got a number of weapons that we can spread the ball around to.”
Prka appreciates having all the options at his disposal.
“I feel like Patrick Mahomes out there,” he said. “Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, all those guys.”
Coeur d’Alene didn’t have to deal much with Timberline leading rusher Taylor Marcum, who rushed for 221 yards and four touchdowns, leading the Wolves to a 27-20 victory over Skyview in a first-round game last week. The junior came into the game wearing heavy padding on his left arm, carried the ball just three times over two series and sat the rest of the game.
Giulio returned the opening kickoff to the 50-yard line. Eight plays later, Prka hit Ethan Garitone for a 6-yard scoring strike. After a three-and-out, Giulio busted outside for a 61-yard TD run.
So much for getting rusty during the bye week.
“This group is mature, I really wasn’t worried about them coming off a bye week,” Amos said. “Our senior leadership is so good with this group.”
On Timberline’s next series, Max Spielman was hit while trying to pass and the wobbly ball was picked off by linebacker Carter Wiebusch, who rumbled 14 yards for the touchdown.
“End zone,” Wiebusch said, when asked what he saw on the play – the first varsity touchdown for the senior. “It was just kind of a lobbed ball and it just happened to fall into my hands, and end zone.”
Elstad added to the score on the next drive, dragging tacklers 27 yards to put CdA up 28-0 at the end of the first quarter.
Later in the half, Prka hit Elstad on a wheel route from 8 yards out for a score, then after Timberline fumbled the kickoff, Prka connected with Alex Karns on a 5-yard slant for a TD.
Giulio added a 5-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter and 5-foot-7 James Elliott raced 83 yards on a sideline route to cap the Vikings’ scoring.
Prka said they prepared for a hard-fought game in practice – one that didn’t quite materialize.
“We’ll take our wins, you know, however they come – if it’s by two points, or by however much that is,” he said, glancing up at the scoreboard.
Giulio knows the Vikings still have work to do, despite the relatively easy quarterfinal victory.
“Mission accomplished is definitely gonna be a state title, especially after last season,” he said. “Hopefully we’ll get back into it and win it this year.”
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