MALTA — As the Raft River Trojans lined up in victory formation, a home fan yelled toward the other side of the field.
“Oakley’s No. 2,” he screamed.
For the second time in as many games, the Raft River fan was right.
The Trojans, the No. 3-ranked 1A Division I team in the latest state media poll, earned a thrilling 46-42 win Friday night at Raft River High School. It was more than that. Raft River beat rival Oakley — the No. 1-ranked team — just like it did nine months ago for the 1A-DI state title.
“They’re definitely a good football team,” Raft River junior Rylee Spencer said, “but we proved we can play with them.”
Nearly all of Raft River’s touchdowns were scored in the red zone at the end of long drives. The exception was the first score of the game, a 31-yard pass from Keegan Chatburn to Justin Schumann with 8:22 left in the first quarter.
The Hornets were much more explosive, as if they received energy from the cannon that went off every time Raft River scored a touchdown.
Oakley took its first lead of the game on a play so weird, it almost looked designed.
With 5:10 left in the first quarter, the Hornets fumbled the snap, and it was there for Raft River to take. Instead, Oakley sophomore Josh Nyman picked it up and took it 74 yards for a touchdown. The Hornets took an 8-6 lead.
Nyman made another big play in the second quarter, returning a kick about 65 yards for a touchdown to put the Hornets up 20-14.
Raft River took a 28-26 lead midway through the third quarter, but Oakley took it right back on a 25-yard fumble recovery by senior Max Alves. With a 34-34 tie at the end of the quarter, Oakley Daxton Gillette took a pitch 73 yards for a touchdown.
The Hornets’ 42-34 lead held steady for most of the fourth quarter, but not long enough.
With 1:20 left in the game, Chatburn found Cutler Erickson for a 21-yard touchdown. Chatburn fumbled the two-point conversion attempt, however, to preserve the 42-40 deficit.
On the very next play, the Trojans recovered an onside kick. They moved the ball down the field in just 50 seconds and found themselves at the 4-yard line. Chatburn took the shotgun snap and threw a fade to the right corner of the end zone. Spencer came down with it.
“It felt pretty good,” Spencer said. “It was thanks to my quarterback. He put it there.”
Raft River led 46-42.
Oakley drove into Raft River territory on the final drive, but Erickson intercepted a Tate Cranney pass with 1.3 seconds left to set up victory formation.
“It was definitely an Oakley game,” Raft River coach Brian Poole said.
Chatburn entered this season with the tall task of replacing Kolten Hitt, last season’s 1A all-Idaho player of the year. He admitted “a lot” of nerves going into the game. He finished with 174 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 30 carries, and he completed 13-of-25 passes for 92 yards and four scores.
“I don’t think there’s any way I’ll ever be as good as Kolten,” Chatburn said, “but I can sure as heck try.”
As thrilling and meaningful as Friday’s game was to both teams, it carried a little less weight than usual. The matchup didn’t count as a conference game, even though both teams play in the Snake River Conference (the teams had trouble finding true nonconference opponents, so they decided to play each other twice this season).
“Perfect game for week two. We know we’re at now,” Oakley coach Kade Craner said. “We got to measure up against the defending state champs. People can say they’re the underdogs or whatever. They have the belt. Somebody’s gotta come take it, and we didn’t do that tonight.”
Raft River (1-0) hosts nonconference foe Glenns Ferry next week. Oakley (1-1) is off until September 15, when it plays a nonconference road game at Hagerman.
The Trojans and Hornets won’t meet again until October 27 in the regular-season finale. That game will affect the SRC standings.
“This game don’t mean anything,” Chatburn said of Friday’s contest. “The game at the end of the season is the one that’ll prove who’s No. 1.”
Raft River 46, Oakley 42
Oakley 14 12 16 0 — 42
Raft River 6 16 12 12 — 46
RR — Justin Schumann 31-yard pass from Keegan Chatburn (run failed) 8:22
O — Josh Nyman 74-yard fumble recovery (Tate Cranney run) 5:10
O — Chandler Jones 22-yard pass from Cranney (pass failed) 1:13
RR — Quinton Ward 1-yard run (Rylee Spencer pass from Chatburn) 8:47
O — Nyman 65-yard kickoff return (pass failed) 8:30
O — Sam Mitton 24-yard run (run failed) 5:00
RR — Spencer 20-yard pass from Chatburn (Schumann pass from Chatburn) 0:16
RR — Chatburn 8-yard run (pass failed) 6:24
O — Max Alves 25-yard fumble recovery (Nyman pass from Cranney) 3:39
RR — Chatburn 5-yard run (pass failed) 1:09
O — Daxton Gillette 73-yard run (Nyman run) 0:41
RR — Cutler Erickson 21-yard pass from Chatburn (run failed) 1:20
RR — Spencer 4-yard pass from Chatburn (run failed) 0:28