TWIN FALLS — To be the best, you’ve got to beat the best. That’s exactly what the Twin Falls High School football team is tasked with, opening up its 4A playoff run against Bishop Kelly.
On the bright side, the Bruins have home field advantage as the second seed out of District 4. The Knights have a rare No. 3 seed after District 3 losses to Middleton and Skyview.
But a first-round pairing with a perennial powerhouse that’s won three of the last four state titles? That’s a lot to prepare for.
Since Twin Falls moved to 4A in 2009, the two teams have yet to play. But the players and coaches know about Bishop Kelly from its reputation and results.
“They’re almost a dynasty of a team,” said Bruins senior running back and linebacker Taryn Casperson. “So we just want to go out there, put it all on the line and hope for the best.”
The Bruins will have to overcome a number of injuries sustained in late-season games, especially on the defensive front: there are openings at defensive end, defensive back, free safety and inside linebacker.
One of the players asked to step up is Ryan Benifiel, a junior wide receiver and defensive back. He said he’s looking forward to the challenge, but still has a lot of work to put in this week.
“There’s just a lot of stuff to learn to play Bishop Kelly,” Benifiel said. “So I’ve got to be focused and learn as much as I can this whole week.”
Twin Falls head coach Allyn Reynolds said he has faith in his backups, but the concern is getting them reps, especially the sophomores with only junior varsity experience.
“The concern you have with sophomores is that even though it’s the same game, it’s a different speed of the game,” Reynolds said on this week’s Magic Valley Sports Podcast. “You’ve got to get their eyes right, and they just haven’t seen it as fast as they’re going to see it on Friday night.”
Even though Reynolds has tried to shorten the workload of practices over the past two weeks, he’s had to call a couple long practices to get the younger players reps. But even sophomore starting quarterback Carson Walters can see the long practices paying off.
“We probably had our best practice (on Tuesday),” he said of the two-hour practice. “We’ve been really focused and going a lot harder than before.”
“We lit a fire under a couple of guys,” Reynolds added, “and they’ve promised us they’re going to give us the best they have. That’s all you can ask a kid to do.”
The team has been asked to lock in on new schemes, both offensively and defensively. Reynolds said the offense will need to transition to a more double-tight look with the loss of some starting wideouts.
And the defense? Well, the Bruins aren’t letting any secrets slip there.
“We have a new defensive scheme going for us,” Casperson said. “So we’ll have to put our faith in that, put in our typical reads and just do our job.”
Even though Bishop Kelly routinely staffs state-contending teams, they lost a lot of senior talent that they had to fill this year. At 7-2, it’s hard to say that they’re struggling, but Reynolds said he and his staff have identified a couple of weaker spots to try to exploit, especially with the offense.
“We match up pretty well in the trenches with them,” he said. “Their quarterback (is) nothing special. He’s good, not great. We’re going to do a couple things to try to change the rhythm of their offense.”
But even with those matchups for his defense, Reynolds said Bishop Kelly can strike with speed and throw different looks from the get-go.
“It’s almost like you’re playing two teams,” he said. “You’re playing a spread team, then you’re playing a double-wing team. That’s always difficult to prepare for.”
Offensively, Walters and his line will have to study a lot of film and make some in-game adjustments to try to slip by the Knights’ defense, especially the veteran defensive back unit.
“We’ve got to have good pre-snap reads,” Walters said. “We’ve got to read what coverage they’re in, and if we can get our run game working, maybe it’ll help open up the pass game a little bit.”
Despite the odds, the Bruins are fired up and know anything can happen. In fact, they’re embracing the odds and hope the reduced pressure will lead to a great game and an upset for the ages.
“We’ve got nothing to lose,” Reynolds said.