POCATELLO — The Carey High School football team rode two big plays in the first quarter and a stellar game by senior running back Hilario Ruiz to punch its spot in the 1A Division II state title game.
Saturday’s 48-28 victory at Holt Arena advanced Carey (11-0) to its first state title game since 2011. The Panthers also snapped an agonizing skid — they lost in the state semifinals in each of the previous three seasons.
The game opened with a downpour of points. Carey and Deary combined for 34 points in the first quarter, which featured an 85-yard touchdown reception by junior Tanner Mecham and a 60-yard touchdown rush from Ruiz to give Carey the upper hand, 20-14.
Carey senior quarterback Houston Hennefer, after scoring on a 1-yard keeper for the opening touchdown of the game, kept another for a 6-yard score, then handed it off to Ruiz less than two minutes later to open up a 34-14 lead.
Deary quarterback Colton Heath would cut the lead to 12 points with a nine-yard keeper, and the score at halftime remained 34-22. Despite the explosive Carey offense, it was only a two-possession game.
The Panthers came out of the half ready to strike, recovering a fumble on the kickoff but failing to score due to a penalty. But another fumble led to another Panther scoring chance, and Ruiz rushed in his third touchdown of the game from just inside the 10-yard line.
Heath would score again on a keeper late in the third quarter to keep it a two-possession game, but the Carey defense showed up strong in the fourth quarter and wouldn’t allow another score. One more late touchdown tacked on by DJ Parke would give the game its final score.
Ruiz finished the night with 174 yards on 14 carries, but he also suffered an injury in the second half that kept him sidelined for the rest of the game. Hennefer said Ruiz made the job easy for the rest of the offense.
“When they’re keying in on one guy, it really helps us to spread the ball out,” Hennefer said.
Carey head coach Lane Kirkland said the defense was a big key to the team’s success, forcing three turnovers and not allowing a single third-down conversion for Deary in six attempts.
“The defense was just monstrous,” he said. “They stepped up every single play to make things happen. The defense just got better and better as the game went on.”
Carey used its speed once again to set the tone offensively, finishing with over 300 yards on the ground.
The game was one of the closest bouts for Carey this season in terms of the back-and-forth scoring throughout much of the game, but Kirkland said the victory showed him the tremendous amount of focus his team has headed into the title game against Tri-Valley (10-0) next weekend.
“They’re still as mentally tough as they are physically tough, and that was shown tonight,” he said.
Hennefer said the chance for a title is one they’ve been working toward for years, and they’re going into the game with the right mindset.
“We’ve got a lot of confidence,” he said. “Everybody is really excited for it, and I think we can get the job done.”
Carey and Tri-Valley will face off at 2 p.m. Saturday at Middleton High School.
Carey 48, Deary 28
Deary 14 8 6 0 – 28
Carey 20 14 8 6 – 48
C – Houston Hennefer 1-yd rush (2-pt good) 6:35
D – Weinmann 18-yd catch (2-pt no good) 3:08
C – Tanner Mecham 85-yd pass from Hennefer (2-pt no good) 2:51
D – Parker Johnston 8-yd rush (2-pt good) 0:47
C – Hilario Ruiz 60-yd rush (2-pt no good) 0:35
C – Hennefer 6-yd rush (2-pt no good) 8:55
C – Ruiz 18-yd rush (2-pt good) 7:31
D – Heath 9-yd rush (2-pt good) 4:13
C – Ruiz 11-yd rush (2-pt good) 7:06
D – Heath 9-yd rush (2-pt no good) 0:26
C – DJ Parke 4-yd pass from Porter Mecham (2-pt no good) 1:12