TWIN FALLS — Years ago, Kennedi Evans and Whitney Solosabal had their minds set. If they continued their volleyball careers in college, they would sign their commitment letters together.
That plan was realized on Thursday.
Evans and Solosabal, both seniors at Twin Falls High School, held a signing ceremony in front of family and friends outside of the Twin Falls gym Thursday afternoon. Evans signed with the University of Utah, and Solosabal is headed to Utah State.
“We’ve pretty much been best friends since sixth grade,” Evans said, “so it’s fun to achieve our goals together.”
Evans and Solosabal weren’t the only Twin Falls seniors to sign with a college volleyball program this week. Bruins middle/opposite hitter Tori Edwards inked a scholarship with Corban University, an NAIA school in Oregon, on Wednesday. Edwards and Evans both play for the Idaho Crush club volleyball team, based in Nampa.
Corban went 22-7 this fall and went to the NAIA national championships the year before.
“It’s a great fit for me,” Edwards said at Thursday’s ceremony. “I’m gonna go there and be an impact player at the start and try and help them win a national championship.”
For Evans, Thursday was the culmination of a stellar high school career. She has won the last three Great Basin Conference volleyball player of the year awards. Two weeks ago, she helped the Bruins earn their best state tournament finish in school history.
Evans’ father attended the University of Utah’s medical school, and Evans spent the first few years of her life in the state. She naturally became a Utes fan, but the possibility of playing volleyball for them didn’t seem real until last spring. That’s when Utah’s coaches saw her at tournament in a Salt Lake City tournament, and they immediately became impressed.
Evans received several Division I offers, and she narrowed down her list to North Carolina, BYU and Utah. Soon, it was just BYU and Utah, and she committed to the Utes shortly after they expressed interest.
“I’ve always wanted to play in the Pac-12, and I loved the University of Utah,” she said. “It was kind of the best of both worlds.”
While Evans secured a scholarship, Solosabal plans to play a year as a walk-on at Utah State before hopefully receiving some aid. She said Salt Lake Community College and Snow College offered full-ride scholarships, but Utah State was too attractive to pass up.
“They have a really nice volleyball program, and just a great campus and overall great school,” Solosabal said. “Even though it’s not a scholarship, most girls don’t ever get that opportunity.”
Evans and Solosabal both made brief speeches before signing their letters on Thursday. So did Twin Falls athletic director Ted Reynolds, assistant volleyball coach Wade Bond and both of the players’ fathers.
When Solosabal’s father stood up to speak, he struggled to get a word out. He was too choked up.
“I was trying not to cry,” Solosabal said. “It was something I don’t get to see very often, so that was really nice.”
Though both players had known their college destinations for months, Thursday’s ceremony provided some closure. It made their decisions official. No wonder tears were shed.
Above all, Evans and Solosabal were thrilled to celebrate their achievements together.
“It was awesome to sign next to my best friend,” Solosabal said. “It was really a special moment.”
The high school state football semifinals begin Friday, and they include five District 4 teams. Below are the Times-News’ previews for every local team’s matchup.
Minico tore through the Great Basin Conference this year and has twice defeated Century, including last week in the state quarterfinals. But the Spartans will meet their greatest challenge this Friday.
Skyview is the only undefeated team in 4A right now, and has topped the 4A statewide media poll since week one. The Hawks average more than 470 yards a game, according to season statistics provided by the Idaho Statesman. Most of those yards have come through the air, with junior quarterback Wyatt Storer throwing for about 3,000 yards and 38 touchdowns on the season thus far.
Seeing as Minico’s toughest task last week was preventing the pass, giving up both touchdowns to Century through the air, this could be trouble. Minico head coach Tim Perrigot said preparing his defense for an “explosive” Skyview offense comes down to trusting the process.
“The kids have to feel comfortable with coverages and calls,” he said. “Sometimes you’re gonna get beat by a better athlete, but we’ve got to stay focused and trust our game plan.”
Skyview’s defense has allowed more than 250 yards a game but also has forced 19 turnovers. Minico will ride its strong rush game, Perrigot said, but he can’t rely on running backs Larry Vega and Colter May to do all the work.
“The best football game you can play is one where you’re balanced with passing and rushing,” he said. “Fortunately, for us last week we were able to do that, and hopefully we can on Friday, as well.”
One big benefit for Minico: homefield advantage. The Spartans home section was filled last week, and the drive from Nampa to Rupert is not short. Skyview being the favorite gives Minico an advantage, as well, Perrigot said.
“The pressure is on Skyview,” he said. “They’re the No. 1 team. They’re undefeated, and I think that’s great for us. We’re not afraid of them, and we’re going to play our best football game.”
After letting its guard down against Kellogg and squeaking out a 21-20 win last week, Gooding is hoping to get back in form for its semifinal matchup against the Panthers.
The Senators are dealing with a few key injuries, some definite and some questionable. Linebacker Sam Funkhouser suffered a season-ending injury weeks ago, running back Mike Needham didn’t suit up for last week’s game and running back Cade Morris went down late in the Kellogg game.
Gooding still has talent in the reserves, a group that has gotten experience thanks to a handful of blowouts this season. But Gooding head coach Cameron Andersen said the injuries will be a factor on Saturday.
“Anyone looking at (Snake River) thinking that we’re going to boat race them with the injuries we have, they just don’t know what they’re talking about,” he said.
Snake River has gone 6-0 since starting the season 0-3. The win streak includes a first-round playoff win against Kimberly, a team that gave Gooding a tough time in September despite falling 28-20.
“They do what they do really well,” Andersen said. “They don’t get too crazy with their play calling. Any time you can keep kids in a familiar setting, they’re going to be more comfortable and perform at a high level.”
Andersen said a major factor in this game is the location: Holt Arena, an indoor facility with turf and a loud acoustic setup.
“It’s a real thing that you’ve got to get used to,” he said. “It gets so loud in there that you can’t get hear sometimes.”
After last week’s showing, Andersen’s message to his team this week has been, “Do what you do.”
“Outside perceptions don’t bother us,” he said. “We can’t control how good they are, we can’t control what they do. All we can control is who we are and what we do.”
Declo came into 2017 as the top-ranked team in 2A, and it hasn’t given media voters many doubts.
The Hornets are 11-0 and consistently win by double-digits. The offense averages 47 points a game on the season, led by junior Keegan Duncan, a 6-foot-3, 205-pound running back with game-breaking speed. He’s also an elite defensive player.
“He’s a difficult matchup for anyone,” Declo head coach Kelly Kidd said onthis week’s Magic Valley Sports Podcast. “He’s difficult to catch up to. He’s difficult to tackle. Defensively, he just swarms smaller players.”
Declo’s defense allows about 16 points per game, and it shut West Side down in a 41-7 road win on Oct. 13. Still, Kidd said Declo was “knocked around” in that game and that West Side will likely put up a strong effort on Friday night.
“I expect a tremendous game this week from West Side,” he said. “They’re competitive kids, (and) they’re well-coached. Teams learn much more from losing than they do from winning.”
After last year’s 2A state title game that Declo lost 31-8 to St. Maries, Kidd said his team still has a “deep pain” it wants to eradicate.
It’s a battle between the No. 2 and No. 3 teams in the classification.
The two teams have yet to play one another, but the matchup looks tight on paper. Oakley beat Lapwai 56-12 last week, while Prairie beat Lapwai 52-14 the week before. Oakley has gone 7-0 since a 46-42 loss to rival Raft River, and Prairie has yet to lose a game since a 36-6 season-opening loss to Genesee, the top-ranked 1A-DI team.
One of these two teams has been in the state title game in each of the last three seasons, including a Prairie championship in 2014 and an Oakley loss to Raft River last season. Hornets head coach Kade Craner thinks this year’s teams should give the crowd a well-fought game.
“Honestly, we think we matchup well,” he said. “We’re gonna do what we do and not worry too much about what they may throw at us. We’ll stick to our game plan.”
One of the major keys of the game will be who establishes the ground game best, Craner said.
“To give ourselves the best chance, we have to run the ball and we have to prevent them from running the ball,” he said. “It’s very simple, but it’s true.”
The Panthers are the other District 4 team that is still undefeated, and they’re coming off a 36-16 win against Clark-Watersprings.
That 20-point victory was the second-tightest margin of victory for the Panthers, behind a 16-point win over Dietrich in September. Carey averages a 45.6-point margin of victory per game this season — at least six possessions are required to make up that kind of deficit.
However, Deary is also undefeated, averages a 39-point margin of victory and beat a solid Salmon River team 46-16 last week.
Deary beat Carey two years ago in the semifinals 20-16, when some of the Panthers’ current seniors like Kaden Koudelka and Tanner Mecham were still starting games.
How’s that for a matchup?
“(The seniors) are calling it a revenge game, but I call it a good matchup,” Carey head coach Lane Kirkland said on the Magic Valley Sport Podcast.
Even though Kirkland believes his team has better speed, which will be aided by playing on the turf at Holt Arena, Deary also has a handful of ways to give defenses headaches.
“They’ve got some good skill players,” Kirkland said. “Jalen Kirk is a stallion. We’re going to have to handle him, and that quarterback’s great, too.”
After three consecutive seasons of losing in the semifinals, Kirkland said his team is focused more than ever. He hopes his team can come out the gate scoring like it has all season long.
“I swear this is the fewest amount of offensive plays I’ve ever called in a season up to this point,” he said. “Our kids have just come out so fast and played so well.”
Plus, the Panthers can boast something that few other teams in the playoffs can.
“For the first time in three years, in a semifinal game, everybody is 100 percent healthy,” he said.
GLENDALE, Ariz. — Russell Wilson threw two touchdown passes to Jimmy Graham and the Seattle Seahawks added to their history of success in Arizona with a 22-16 victory over the Cardinals on Thursday night.
The Seahawks (6-3) limited Adrian Peterson to 29 yards in 21 carries in a game marred by a host of injuries and penalties, most of them against Seattle, to improve to 4-0-1 in Arizona in Bruce Arians’ five seasons as coach of the Cardinals (4-5).
The only time the Seahawks haven’t beaten Arians’ team in Arizona was in last season’s 6-6 tie.
At least seven players left the game with injuries, including Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman, who limped off the field in the third quarter with a heel injury. He had missed practice all week with an Achilles tendon problem.
Wilson, sacked a season-high five times, completed 22 of 32 passes for 238 yards. Arizona’s Drew Stanton, in his second start since Carson Palmer went down with a broken arm, completed 24 of 47 for 273 yards and a touchdown. Larry Fitzgerald caught 10 passes for 113 yards for the Cardinals, topping 15,000 yards receiving for his career in the process.
The night’s biggest play came early in the fourth quarter. With his team leading 15-10, Wilson scrambled and spun his way out of serious trouble repeatedly before throwing from his heels to Doug Baldwin. Antoine Bethea fell down trying to knock the pass away and Baldwin raced downfield on a 54-yard play to the Arizona 2-yard line.
Wilson threw 2 yards to Graham on the next play and the Seahawks led 22-10 with 12:49 to play.
Kerwynn Williams scored on a one-yard run with 20 seconds to play for the Cardinals and Seattle recovered the onside kick try to seal the win.
Both teams lost important players.
Arizona left tackle D.J. Humphries and safety Tyvon Branch both left with right knee injuries early in the game. Humphries injured the same knee in the season opener. Branch was the Cardinals’ leading tackler through eight games with 68.
Seahawks defensive tackle Jarran Reed left in the first quarter with a hamstring injury. And Seattle left tackle Duane Brown, in his second game since being acquired in a trade from Houston, went down with an ankle injury in the second quarter.
Seattle linebacker Michael Wilhoite (calf) and Arizona tight end Ifeanyi Momah (ankle) also had to leave the contest.
The Seahawks already were without safety Earl Thomas, who sat out the game with a hamstring injury.
Seattle entered the game as the most penalized team in the league with 82, nine more than its nearest competitor, the New York Jets and it looks like their lead in that category for another week is assured.
With their 12 penalties (for 108 yards) on Thursday, the Seahawks have 94 in nine games.
Seahawks: Host Atlanta on Monday, Nov. 20.
Cardinals: Play at Houston on Sunday, Nov. 19.
NEW YORK — A video review of 459 reported concussions sustained during the past two NFL seasons has found far more occurred on passing plays than any other plays.
Yet quarterbacks ranked at the bottom of the list, ahead of only kickers, having suffered 5 percent of those concussions.
Of course, only one quarterback is on the field at a time. Positions in which multiple players are in action at the same time, cornerback and wide receiver, led the list of frequency at 22 percent and 15 percent, respectively.
Nearly half of the 459 concussions (44 percent) were on passes, while 30 percent were on running plays, 21 percent on punt or kickoff returns, 4 percent on sacks and 1 percent on field goal attempts.
The side of the helmet was the most common impact location at more than 50 percent, while 41 percent of concussions were experienced by a player tackling an opponent rather than by the player being tackled or by someone who was blocking.
A higher percentage of helmet-to-body blows, 45 percent, caused concussions. Also on the rise were helmet-to-ground impacts at 19 percent. Helmet-to-helmet blows actually decreased to 36 percent.
The review was overseen by Dr. Jeff Crandall, chairman of the NFL’s Engineering Committee and director of the Center for Applied Biomechanics at the University of Virginia.
“We’ve seen a shift,” Crandall said regarding helmet-to-helmet hits. “Fifteen to 20 years ago we would have found a much higher relative percentage of helmet to helmet, as much 70 percent. Through a number of changes in rules it has altered how the game is played and reduced helmet-to-helmet hits.
“We see that helmet to shoulder and ground are larger percentages.”
The data will help in testing and evaluating helmets and other equipment. The numbers are shared with all concerned parties, from the players to coaches, doctors, trainers, equipment designers, researchers and manufacturers. Crandall said the information will be available to other levels of football and to other sports.
The video review is one component in the NFL’s $60 million “Engineering Roadmap” designed to improve the understanding of the biomechanics of head injuries in the sport. Crandall emphasizes the need to create incentives for innovators to develop new and improved protective equipment.
One portion of data that Crandall found particularly enlightening was the frequency of impacts to the back of the helmet (35 percent). He noted that many of those were to quarterbacks, who are most vulnerable to falling backward when hit or sacked.
“After you look at the impact source, you break it down by different locations of the helmet ... where would you be impacted on helmet,” he said. “Quarterbacks in particular, it was 50 percent and highest of any position, those hits coming from head-to-ground impacts. About 80 percent of those are to the upper rear of the helmet.
“This is such a large concentration of what we are seeing from quarterback hits, which leads us to: Is there a design opportunity here? Let’s put this out to entrepreneurs and designers and manufacturers and see what they can come up with for counter measures.”
Like many other physicians and scientists involved in concussion research, Crandall is eager to explore the worthiness of position-specific helmets. That has become a hot topic in the industry.
“We think it is an opportunity we can draft forward,” he said. “we’re going to study later with sensors and reconstructions to determine the severity, the locations, the impact sources. If you can think of tailoring or customizing a helmet for those particular impacts and injuries, that’s is an opportunity.”