By Don Dopf

The crest, summit, pinnacle, or peak are just a few terms that describe the ultimate realization of a long-sought-for goal in mountain climbing or hiking. Literally thousands of outdoor enthusiasts have trained for countless weeks, months, years, and even decades in dedicated preparation to scale and conquer some extremely difficult mountaintop on the other side of the world, and yet failed in the final assent—sometimes even within a few hundred yards of reaching their goal.

The disappointment of coming so close to the peak after all that effort is sometimes so overwhelming that the parties involved fail to realize the significant rewards associated with all that expended effort. Have any of these climbers and hikers not achieved anything worthwhile just because they didn’t reach the top? Of course not. Things like physical and mental conditioning, discipline, and hard work are elements that form character and help determine the direction they take throughout their lives. No amount of comforting words from relatives and friends can sooth the hurt however, and only time and some deep reflection can make the pain go away.

Well, of course my readers have by now discerned that I’m not talking about mountain climbing. The words I pen here roughly twenty-four hours after their first and only loss of the season are more for these Titan “men” than they are for anyone else who reads my articles every week.

Positive facebook posts, pats on the back, and kind words of praise and encouragement are awesome and appreciated, and it’s hoped that such are counted among the positive rewards attained by the 2017 Tri-Valley football team and their awesome coaches. May I also add “admiration and respect” to the long list of accolades due these men. 

Okay, enough of that for now. Let’s talk about a great football game that clearly matched the two best football teams in A1, Division II. It was the only Idaho state football championship final that pitted two undefeated teams against each other and this game was a classic eight-man shootout in every respect. Fans on both sides definitely got their money’s worth. The Carey Panthers are a terrific team with excellent coaches and loyal fans—nothing more than what Tri-Valley has had all season as well.

I’ll give as brief of a rundown on the scoring as possible here for the sake of those who didn’t see or hear the game. I Can hardly imagine who that might be based on the numbers crowding the Titan side of the field at Middleton High School Saturday afternoon.

The Titans stuffed the Panthers on their first possession following the kickoff and started their first drive sixty yards from the paint. Teddy Ertel scored the first touch of the game on a three-yarder closely following a 30-yard pass play from Jayden Mink to Chip Mitchell. The extra-point conversion attempt was successful, but nullified by a penalty. Titans were up 6-0 at 6:54 showing in the first quarter.

The Panthers scored on their next possession and added the conversion. Carey went ahead 8-6.

Carey onside kicked every kickoff and did it well. Sure-handed Haden Kuta snagged the first one and gave the Titans great field position at the 50. Teddy Ertel scorched the Panthers on two runs that took the ball to the Carey one-yard line where Collin Kindall punched it in and the Titans were up 12-8 at 4:25. Teddy got up slow from a hard tackle just prior to the score and it was apparent that he was in some pain and just a little less than 100% physically for the remainder of the game. I throw in the “physically” term because it has little to do with his always giving a 100% effort.

Carey scored again on their next possession when their QB slipped to the right, outside the pocket and then threw back across to his wide-out from the other side and scored from 70 yards. The Panthers went up 12-14 at 3:02.

On Tri-Valley’s third possession, Jayden Mink was intercepted on a 4th and seven and Carey capitalized by scoring again with 6:19 left in the half. The PAT was good and the Panthers were up 12-22.

The Titan’s fourth possession ended the same as the last, followed by a Carey screen pass that scored, putting the Panthers up 12-30 with 4:23 showing.

The Titans punted on their fifth possession and then held Carey to a rare four and out before the Panthers punted. 

Tri-Valley mounted a scoring drive on their sixth possession and a Mink to Mitchell pass play put six more on the board for the Titans with 25 seconds on the clock before the half. Chip was well covered by his defender and saved the pick by wrestling the ball away and sprinting to the end zone. Teddy ran the conversion and the deficit was manageable at 20-30 at the intermission.

Haden Kuta once again hauled in the onside kick near the fifty to start the second half and the Titans mounted a drive to the red zone. A hard hit on Collin Kindall forced a third turnover however and the drive came to an end.  Carey scored on the following possession from 90 yards and went up 20-36.

Once again the Panthers chose to onside kick. The ball came to rest in the trusty hands of Parker Cornwell, who broke a couple of tackles and took it 50 yards to the house. Teddy ran the conversion and the Titans were still close at 28-36.

Once again it looked like the Titans were going to own the third quarter. The defense forced another Carey Punt and at 7:18 and the Titans were in business. After three TV first-downs, Jayden was picked once again, this time on their own 44 yard line. Then on a 4th and six just inside the fourth quarter from the Titan 20, a Carey pass play put up six more for the Panthers.  Following the PAT, Carey was up 28-44 with 9:50 left in the game.

A little change-up in the offense at this point put Chip Mitchell into the QB slot for a little freelance work. The switch caught Carey off guard and Chip and the gang moved the ball 30 yards before he broke loose around the end and scored from 40 yards. Chip also ran the conversion and with 8:27 showing, the Titans were still within striking distance at 36-44.

Some wise time management and patience by Carey chewed the clock to the 3:18 mark when they scored for the last time and went up 36-50.

Jayden Mink came back in for the final three minutes and helped engineer a drive that ended with a 20-yard scoring pass to Teddy Ertel who plowed his way to the corner of the end zone. The conversion failed and with only 18 seconds left in the game, the only hope was an onside kick that Carey handled and ran out the clock. Final score: Carey 50—Tri-Valley 42.

If you only saw the Titan stats, most sensible people would bet in favor of the Titans winning this one. Tri-Valley rolled up 390 yards total offense, 283 rushing and 107 passing. Carey did their best to put a lid on Teddy Ertel and Chip Mitchell. They’d seen the film. Teddy ended the game with 164 yards rushing and Chip with 120. Jayden Mink was seven of 12 passing for one touchdown and a conversion, but suffered three picks. Chip was the leading receiver with 63 yards, followed by Teddy Ertel with 25.

The defense had a huge job on the day and their efforts likely would have shut out a lesser team than the Panthers. Chip led the tacklers with 12, followed by Orion Southwick and Teddy Ertel with nine each, Parker Cornwell with seven, Collin Kindall and Logan Reyna with five each, and Jay Langer with four.

Coach Johnson summed it up well when he said, "What a game! if someone would have told me before we played that we would score 42 points and come out on the short end of the stick I wouldn't have believed them.  We just couldn't get a stop on defense when we needed one. Hats off to Carey for making key plays to keep their drives going.  Our kids played hard and can hold their heads high for what they accomplished this season. Also, it was a humbling and inspiring sight to see all of our fans who showed up for this game. A special thanks goes out to them for the outstanding support they have given us throughout the year." 

Words just can’t properly express how much this bunch of Titan men are admired and appreciated. They’ve captured the imagination of Titan fans who have longed for a season like this one ever since the combine’s inception in 2005. They’ve played with unity, dignity, and a keen sense of sportsmanship that leaves Titan fans everywhere with a deep sense of pride and satisfaction. The hard work and effort they’ve put forth since the middle of a hot August is appreciated and manifested in the character they possess as a team and as individuals.  Thanks Titans for a truly awesome and entertaining season!

I’ll close with a final reference to assistance Coach Bobby Post’s full-meal-deal metaphor once again. Let me say this!  “We enjoyed the meal immensely and stayed at the table for dessert. The cake didn’t have quite enough icing, but it was delicious and satisfying just the same!!”