TWIN FALLS — The last year Dietrich played in a state football title game, the polio vaccine was distributed in pharmacies for the first time, The Today Show debuted on NBC, and the movie “Singing in the Rain” was a massive hit in movie theatres across the country.
Sixty-eight years later, the Blue Devils finally fought their way back and faced off against Carey for the 1A D-II state championship. And, just like they did in 1952, the Blue Devils came out on top.
In 68 years, Dietrich has gotten close a number of times but always came up short. The 2020 season yielded a different result.
Dietrich seized momentum in the second half, overcoming a 16-point deficit in the process, kept its season perfect, and defeated Carey 34-28 for the 1A D-II state title Saturday afternoon at Twin Falls High School.
“It’s hard to realize what’s happened here,” Dietrich head coach Rick Astle said. “The last state banner was 1952. But this is a group of dedicated kids that just wanted to get it done. Dietrich is a basketball town. But at the same time, football means something in Dietrich now.”
“We just did something a lot of Blue Devil teams had never done,” Dietrich senior quarterback Brady Power said. “It’s going to be a crazy celebration tonight.”
The Panthers scored first, and the Blue Devils countered. Quarterback Hunter Smith then found Dallin Parke for a 16-yard touchdown to solidify Carey’s lead.
After one quarter, the Panthers were on top 14-6 and appeared firmly in control.
They tacked on another score before the half when Smith took a keeper 7 yards and into the end zone.
Defensively, Carey flew around and made vicious hit after vicious hit. The Panthers deployed a disciplined, debonair defense that shut down everything Dietrich tried to do. The Blue Devils had not scored less than 38 points all season but were limited to just 6 in the first half.
There were two drives in the first half that saw the Panthers get within the 10-yard line, but yielded zero points for Carey. Despite the big lead, head coach Lane Kirkland was concerned.
“We didn’t capitalize in the red zone, something that would have put the game securely in our hands early on,” he said.
At the break, Carey led 22-6.
Astle gathered the Blue Devils around him and told them it was their time to get back to assignment football and do the things that had gotten them to that point.
“I asked them if we need to change something, and they said no,” Astle said. “It came down to making sure we did our jobs.
“I told them, ‘It’s 10% what happens to you and 90% what you do about it. Here’s your chance. You have 24 minutes to get it done.’ And they believed.”
Dietrich came out a completely different team. The Blue Devils began to dictate the play and style of the game. It started with a long, sustained drive to start the third quarter and a 1-yard sneak from Brady Power for a touchdown.
With the gap closed to one score, the Blue Devils took the field on defense with a fire in their eyes that melted the growing frost on the ground.
Suddenly it was Dietrich who was laying the lumber and dropping Carey ball carriers for losses with big hits. The Panthers started going backward, and the Blue Devils began to see their path to a title.
After the Blue Devils forced a punt, Peyton Sneddon got the offense going again when he made a spectacular high-point catch over a defender for a huge gain. Power then found Jett Shaw over the middle for a 25-yard touchdown. The PAT attempt was no good, but the Blue Devils were within two points and, more importantly, firmly in control.
Carey clung to a 22-20 lead entering the fourth quarter, but all momentum was with Dietrich.
With 8:31 remaining in the game, the Blue Devils took the lead for the first time when Power hit Jett Shaw for a 21-yard touchdown.
Later, Wes Shaw scored on a 10-yarder that initially appeared to be a stat-padding touchdown, but ended up being the game-winner.
Carey had one more burst when Smith found the end zone on a 1-yard keeper with 1:18 left. But Dietrich recovered the ensuing onside kick.
“Our mindset was there, but mental lapses got us in the first half,” Power said. “We didn’t have that experience, but our halftime talk fired us up.”
The Blue Devils assumed victory formation and after taking a knee twice, the party began.
“We have a group of six seniors that had goals,” Astle said moments after the celebratory bucket of ice water was dumped on him. “These seniors led us. They led us all the way.”
Carey, a mainstay in the state championship chase every year, ends its COVID-truncated season with an 8-1 record. Kirkland is proud of his team and the work the players put in, especially the seniors.
“I’ve been with these guys for 6 years, and I appreciate their efforts,” he said. “They have given everything they got to the program. It hurts when you give as much as they did and lose. But they gave everything.”
Dietrich finishes its season a perfect 11-0 and the best small-school eight-man team in the state of Idaho.
“It’s an amazing feeling,” Brady Power said.
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