DECLO — Year in and year out, Declo High School is synonymous with football. More often than not, the road to a 2A state championship goes through the land of the Hornets. With an overwhelming force of physicality and mental tenacity, it takes a special effort to beat them.

Just ask Declo’s most recent foe, the Bear Lake Bears.

The Hornets overcame a slow start, got three touchdowns from standout Keegan Duncan and a tremendous defensive effort in a 35-14 victory over Bear Lake in a 2A state playoff opener Friday night in Declo.

“This was a good start to the playoffs,” said Declo junior quarterback McKay Breshears. “That’s what we wanted, to take the first step toward a state championship.”

“The caliber of kids we have, they are very coachable,” said Declo head coach Kelly Kidd. “Those kids are going to respond to everything they face. That’s why we are where we are.”

Declo took a while to get going offensively, partially because Bear Lake put its defensive focus on Duncan. But, like a a dam that’s sprung a leak, it’s only so long before you get overwhelmed. The Hornets kept feeding their junior star, needing just one missed tackle or a defensive lapse for him to break free.

It happened. It always does.

Duncan found the end zone on a 12-yard score in the latter half of the opening quarter to give Declo a 7-0 lead. The flood gates opened from there.

Duncan housed a Bear Lake punt from 60 yards out in the second period and caught an 11-yard TD pass in the waning seconds of the first half.

Sandwiched in between was a 2-yard touchdown run from Breshears.

“We’ve worked hard all season, and we knew it was going to be a good game,” Duncan said. “We started off sluggish, but we got there.”

“Any time you have Keegan, they’re going to key on him,” Kidd said. “We know every team is good for a while, but you can only contain him for a certain amount of time. He has a solid line in front of him, and we basically ran straight ahead on them and loosened things up.”

The Hornets held a commanding 28-0 lead at the break.

Senior Tanner Schroeder added a 9-yard touchdown run midway through the third quarter to put a loud, bombastic exclamation point on Declo’s scoring for the night.

From there, a feisty group of freshmen and sophomores led the way on defense for the Hornets and saw the game to its end. Bear Lake did score two touchdowns in the fourth quarter, however — a 3-yard run from quarterback Avery Carlson and a 3-yard pass from Carlson to Hayden Peterson.

“It’s about developing the next wave of kids to play in a game like this,” Kidd said. “Getting those young kids out there means we’re preventing injury to the other kids. We’re not going to worry about the score or worry if they get scored on there. It’s about developing them and keeping our kids healthy.”

But it was too little, too late for the Bears as Declo cruised to the opening round win.

While it doesn’t come as a surprise to see Declo pick up a victory in the state playoffs, what’s more impressive than the final result is the fact that Kidd and the Hornets have been doing it for years with machine-like consistency.

“Here in Declo, we live and breathe football,” Duncan said. “It’s on our minds all the time.”

“We don’t prepare any differently for any game,” Breshears said. “Football is football. We’ve stayed pretty humble and our coaches have done a good job preparing us. We just have to keep the momentum going.”

Declo (10-0) plays Grangeville in the second round next week at the Kibbie Dome in Moscow. The Hornets are confident against whomever they face.

“We played Grangeville this summer at the Boise State camp,” Kidd said. “They’re good. They have to find a way to stop Keegan and the pass. We’ll need a good defensive game, which our guys have done all year.”

Declo 35, Bear Lake 14

Bear Lake; 0; 0; 0; 14; — 14

Declo; 7; 21; 7; 0; — 35

First quarter

D — Keegan Duncan 12-yard run (Tanner Schroeder kick) 5:43

Second quarter

D — Duncan 60-yard punt return (Schroeder kick) 8:13

D — McKay Breshears 2-yard run (kick fail) 2:18

D — Duncan 11-yard pass from Breshears (Brian Rios run) :24

Third quarter

D — Schroeder 9-yard run (Schroeder kick) 6:48

Fourth quarter

BL — Avery Carlson 3-yard run (kick) 11:54

BL — Hayden Peterson 3-yard pass from Carlson (kick) 2:55