MERIDIAN - Rocky Mountain flexed its muscles on both sides of the ball and earned the chance to atone for an early-season loss.
With a spot in the Southern Idaho Conference title game on the line, the third-ranked Grizzlies outgained No. 7 Meridian by nearly 250 yards Friday night and held on late for a 24-21 victory.
Rocky Mountain (7-1, 4-0 SIC Foothills) will travel to River champion Mountain View next week in a rematch from an early-September game.
The second-ranked Mavericks won the first meeting between the Class 5A powers, 26-20. Grizzlies senior linebacker Mason Jacobsen said the team is already thinking about payback.
"We’re excited for it," Jacobsen said of getting another shot at Mountain View. "There’s nothing really to celebrate yet; stuff’s not over yet."
The Grizzlies defeated Capital, 49-13, in last year’s inaugural title game for their third consecutive 5A SIC championship.
On a brisk night, Rocky Mountain won the total yardage battle (464-228), but was unable to put away the visiting Warriors (5-3, 2-2).
Meridian got two fourth-quarter stops and made it a game late with a 75-yard drive that ended on a 5-yard touchdown throw from Malakai Martinez to Corban Freese. Kross Antonnacchi’s two-point conversion run cut the Rocky Mountain lead to 24-21 with 1:39 remaining.
The Grizzlies recovered the onside kick and ran out the clock on the back of Arthur Williams, who carried it a team-high 20 times for 142 yards and a touchdown. Taeshaun Reese and Kade Thompson were also key pieces of a rushing attack that piled up 241 yards.
"The O Line did an amazing job," Williams said. "We were rotating backs to keep fresh legs. We trust coach (Chris Culig) and his decisions, so we were just running hard and the O Line did their job. I’m grateful for them."
Martinez had a solid game for the Warriors, completing 18 of 31 passes for 184 yards with three touchdowns and an interception. The senior is excited to leave the regular season behind and focus on the playoffs.
"I know our team can fight with the best teams in the state," Martinez said. The Warriors’ three losses have come by five combined points. "Our team just needs to bring it all together."
Despite three first-half turnovers, Rocky Mountain took a 17-13 lead into the locker room. Meridian punted on its first drive of the third quarter, and the Grizzlies quickly made it 24-13 on a 7-yard touchdown pass from Tegan Sweaney to Teagan Hugh.
Rocky Mountain nearly completed a second-half shutout of explosive Meridian and survived a few self-inflicted wounds, including 11 penalties for 114 yards.
"It just shows that we were the better team," Jacobsen said.
(Featured photo by Loren Orr Photography)