Dietrich ends Tigers' season in Idaho state semifinals

| November 18, 2020 12:00 AM

By CHUCK BANDEL

Valley Press

There was no football when Charles Dickens penned the classic “A Tale of Two Cities” but the opening words of the novel rang true Saturday afternoon in a cold, windswept town in central Idaho.

It was, as Dickens opined, “the best of times and it was the worst of times.”

In this case the two towns involved were the co-op high school team from St. Regis, Montana/Mullan, Idaho and the host town of Dietrich.

In the end it was the best of times for the unbeaten and top-ranked Blue Devils who rolled to a convincing 64-0 Idaho IA, DII eight-man football semifinal win over the two-state Tigers.

While it may have felt like the worst of times for the co-op squad, the best of times may well lie ahead for the young Tigers and their dedicated fans.

The win moved Dietrich to the Idaho state championship game this weekend, while the loss brought a screeching halt to an otherwise successful year for the Tigers.

Dietrich entered the game with a 10-0 season record and showed from the start why they are ranked number one.

The Blue Devils took the opening kickoff and were unable to move against what all season was a stout St. Regis/Mullan defense, led by all-state honoree Riley Trogden.

Facing a fourth and nine yards to go situation on their own 40, Dietrich attempted a fake punt but the effort fell short by a yard, turning the ball over on downs to the Tigers.

A short time later, Tigers sophomore quarterback Caleb Ball’s pass was intercepted by the aggressive Dietrich defense and returned to the St. Regis/Mullan 20.

After moving to a first and goal perch on the Tigers’ four yard line, the Blue Devils scored the game’s first points on a four yard toss into the endzone.

A successful two-point after touchdown try put the hosts in front 8-0 with eight minutes to play in quarter number one.

Seizing upon the turnover-fueled touchdown, the Blue Devils executed an on-side kick off play that gave them the ball near midfield. Several first downs later, the Blue Devils scored again, this time on a five-yard run that boosted their lead to 14-0 with just under five minutes to play in the initial quarter.

The Tigers got the ball back, but with heavy pressure on Ball and defenders constantly in their own backfield, St. Regis/Mullan gave the ball back on downs. The Blue Devils then put on an impressive drive behind a quick-strike, yardage gobbling running game that resulted in another short touchdown plunge. A two-point PAT conversion put the score at 22-0 Dietrich as time ran out in the first period.

After showing signs of their offense coming to life on the ensuing possession, the Tigers were forced to punt, resulting in the Blue Devils taking control of the ball at their own 14 yard line.

On the next play, the Dietrich quarterback slipped through a pair of would-be tacklers and raced 86 yards for a touchdown that gave the Blue Devils a commanding 30-0 lead with just over nine minutes to go in the first half.

It was a harbinger of things to come.

The Dietrich defense continued to pressure and hound Caleb Ball throughout the first half, giving him little time to pass or break free on any long runs like he had done against several opponents during the season.

The Blue Devils would cap two more impressive drives with short TD runs before the first half ended, leaving them with a 42-0 lead at the intermission.

With the Idaho 40-point mercy rule in play for most of the second half, there was little St. Regis/Mullan could do to prevent the inevitable.

The Tigers could not sustain their opening drive of the second half and were forced to punt, putting the ball in Dietrich’s hands on the Blue Devils 22 yard line. A pair of long first down runs culminated in a 20-yard passing touchdown that put the home team ahead 50-0 with approximately eight minutes to play in the third quarter.

With reserves getting playoff playing time, Dietrich continued to pile up yards and points as the clock ticked away unmercifully for St. Regis/Mullan. With time winding down in the third quarter, the Blue Devils scored again, this time on a 10-yard running play that, coupled with a successful two-point PAT inflated their lead to 58-0.

Dietrich would add another six points in the final quarter to sew up the 64-0 victory.

The win boosted the Blue Devils to 11-0 on the year.

St. Regis/Mullan, which loses just two seniors from this year’s squad, dropped to 8-2 on the year. Their other loss came at the hands of Shelby, Montana in a hastily arranged game involving the covid virus scheduling nightmare that plagued many teams throughout the state.

The Tigers’ talented offensive backfield of sophomore QB Caleb Ball, and standout junior running backs Adam Ball and Luke Trogden are expected to return to a solid, more experienced squad next year.