With all the observations I made over the span of the 2018 football season, I went into state semifinal weekend with some predictions of how each game would end up. When it came to the Valley vs. Wilder contest, I actually thought it would be a pretty simple one for Valley. I was very, very wrong.
There wasn’t much I knew about Wilder, but Valley had been steamrolling everyone it played all season, with the exception of a 44-42 loss to Raft River in Malta.
I was there for that loss, and even then, I was pretty certain it was a one-off. Malta is not an easy place to play and Raft River’s season was in the balance already-it was a perfect opportunity to take down the No. 1 team in the state, and they did just that. Otherwise, the Vikings had been dominant.
It came as no surprise when Valley jumped out to an 8-0 lead at Holt Arena in Pocatello, but that was really all they’d stretch it to. Wilder continued to answer any questions asked by Valley, and the teams were deadlocked at halftime after the opening two quarters were filled with turnovers and sloppiness.
Turnovers plagued each team, and neither found any rhythm on offense until the second half began. Valley’s senior quarterback Jason Hardy took it into his own hands, rushing for touchdowns on plays of 53 and 52 yards before completing a 34-yard touchdown pass to senior Zack Gomez.
Still, though, Wilder continued to answer back, even taking the lead. However, Hardy had one more big offensive play in him, as he lobbed up a pass to senior Nic Anderson, who came down with a jump ball and ran it in for a 57-yard score with 2:30 remaining.
All Valley needed was a stop. One thing became apparent, and quickly: Wilder was going to make the Vikings work for that stop.
The Wildcats cruised down the field, working their way to the Valley 10 yard-line. With the clock ticking, Wilder prepared to throw a pass over the middle. Hardy, who had done so much for Valley on offense already, saw it unfold in front of him.
After the game, Valley head coach Ryon Jarvis said of Hardy, “when you need a play made, he’s there, somewhere.”
In a moment that could have ended Valley’s season, Hardy instead prolonged it by undercutting the receiver and intercepting Pablo Martinez’s throw, then sliding to the ground with 18 seconds remaining, icing the victory for the Vikings.
The interception clinched a berth in the 1A Division I state championship game that Valley would go on to win the following week. But, for the majority of the contest, Valley and Wilder’s matchup felt like a version of a title game itself.