POCATELLO, IDAHO – The Coeur d’Alene High football team was at home during this time last year.
But it didn’t make it hurt any less.
The Vikings fell 35-28 to Highland in a thrilling Class 5A Idaho state championship game Saturday afternoon inside Holt Arena. It featured five lead changes, four ties and more than a 1,000 yards of total offense between the storied programs, who now have 17 titles between them.
“I’m super proud of our kids and the journey they had this year. It was remarkable,” Coeur d’Alene coach Shawn Amos said. “I’ve been doing this for a long time and only one team gets to be happy at the end. When these guys recover from this sadness, they’ll look and be really proud of what we did.”
Coeur d’Alene (7-3) made the finals for the first time since 2019 after seeing its string of 13 consecutive playoff appearances come to an end last season. It’s the seventh time over the last 13 years that the Vikings have played in the final. They got there this time by going on an improbable postseason run.
Coeur d’Alene got payback over Rocky Mountain, which has won two state championships over the last five years. The Grizzlies shut them out at home 16-0 back on Aug. 25. But the Vikings returned the favor with a 17-0 shutout of their own in the quarterfinal round. They then pulled off a monumental 7-6 upset on the road over Eagle the following week in the semis. The Mustangs were the top-ranked team in the state all year and hadn’t been beaten. It all set the stage for their first meeting with the Rams (10-1) in four years. The two also met in the 2017 state championship game where the Vikings lost 14-8.
Coeur d’Alene came out swinging in this latest matchup with a little bit of trickery.
Kolbe Coey hit Kai Wheeler for an 84-yard touchdown on a double pass during their first play of the game.
“My offensive coordinator told me today he was thinking about starting the game with it,” Amos said with a laugh. “I was like, ‘OK, we got nothing to lose.’ ”
The Vikings regained the lead at 21-14 on their opening drive of the second half. Owen Harris scored on a 5-yard scamper. But Highland went into the fourth quarter up 28-21 after a quick touchdown on the ensuing drive and capitalizing on a fumble by Brett Mayers for another score.
Coeur d’Alene tied the game at 28-28 on Harris’ third and final touchdown. It was on a 10-yard run with 7:28 remaining.
Highland answered, though.
Quarterback Drew Hymas broke off a 47-yard run to give his team the lead back at 35-28 with 4:28 remaining.
The Vikings got one last chance to force overtime after the Rams’ Jackson Ribble coughed the ball up with 2:13 to go. The turnover gave them a first-and-10 at their own 18-yard line.
But those hopes were quickly dashed after quarterback Caden Symons was picked off by Zerek Younis with just 1:45 left on the clock. It was the last of the three turnovers they had in the second half.
“In games that tight, those are big,” Amos said. “Every little thing matters.”
Coeur d’Alene tallied 510 yards of total offense, led by Symons’ 330 through the air. Wheeler (137) and Joseph Hagel (100) both eclipsed the century mark in receiving yards.
The state’s best defense (10.3 ppg) gave up 498 yards, though. Most of that was to Hymas, who accounted for 426 himself.
“He’s so good when he’s on the move,” Amos said. “We knew that, but how do you practice that? He made some big-time plays when they needed it and that shows a lot.”