It was nothing short of an eventful sports year in the Treasure Valley in 2019.
From Boise State and College of Idaho football teams to the Eagle girls basketball team pulling off a monumental upset in the 5A state championship game, the calendar was chock full of special moments.
Top 10 story lists many times are easy to put together. But not the list for 2019. The following is a compilation of what the Idaho Press believed were the best sports stories.
No. 10: Eagle's Lizzie Dildine spoils Lexy Halladay's final race
It was a foregone conclusion. Every cross country coach said the same thing. Lexy Halladay was going to make history. The Mountain View senior cross country runner was set to become the first girl and just the second athlete in Idaho history ever to win four consecutive individual cross country state titles. She was the 14th-ranked runner in the country, according to DyeStat.com, and unbeaten. Halladay had an average margin of victory of 30.25 seconds. But Lizzie Dildine did the impossible. The Eagle junior, who was 0-3 against Halladay and had only gotten as close as 18 seconds to her coming in, stunned everyone, including herself. Dildine denied the BYU signee a place in history by claiming the 5A state title with a personal-best time of 17 minutes, 42.2 seconds on Nov. 2 at the Portneaf Wellness Center in Pocatello, while Halladay finished 15th. It was the fourth win of the season for Dildine after not winning a single race during her first two years in the sport.
No. 9: College of Idaho men's hoops team makes second straight trip to Final Four
Colby Blaine picked up right where Scott Garson left off. In his first season as College of Idaho men's basketball coach, Blaine led the Yotes to the NAIA Division II semifinals for the second straight season before they fell to Cascade Conference rival Oregon Tech 93-81. The Yotes tied a school record with 31 victories in the season and won the Cascade Conference Tournament title for the second straight season. In the tournament, the Yotes were helped by a pair of late-game heroics, first by NAIA Division II All-American Talon Pinckney, who hit a 3-pointer in the second round against Cornerstone (Michigan) to send the game to overtime, then outlasted Morningside (Iowa) in the quarterfinals.
No. 8: Borah boys basketball capture record 12th state title
The Lions were already thought to be the best boys basketball program in Idaho history. But they made it official in 2019. Borah broke a tie with Moscow by winning a historic 12th state championship (1965, ‘66, ‘82, ‘84, ‘85, ‘93, ‘94, 2004, ‘05, ‘12, ‘13, ‘19) via a 62-50 win over Madison in the 5A state title game on March 2. The feat capped a dominating 24-3 season, including a 16-game winning streak to close it out. They twice beat Rocky Mountain, which had won the last two state and district titles. The Lions snapped the Grizzlies’ string of district titles with a 69-61 win. Borah’s only three losses were to Madison, Rocky Mountain and Timberline by a combined eight points. But the Lions avenged each loss with an average margin of victory of 12 points. In total, 20 of their 24 wins came by double digits.
No. 7: Eagle girls hoops upset previously unbeaten Mountain View in state final
Eagle’s time seemed to have past. And another team’s time seemed to have arrived. Mountain View was 25-0 with a point differential of nearly 25 points. It became the unanimous No. 1-ranked team in Idaho by having the state’s top offense (60.7 points per game) and defense (35.7 ppg). And 22 of the Mavericks’ wins had come by double figures, including twice against Eagle. One of those wins against the Mustangs came in the 5A District III championship game just a week before state. But Eagle still reached the state title game for the third year in a row — the first team to do so since Lewiston in 2010-12. And this time, it finally got over the hump. In their fourth and final attempt, the Mustangs upset seemingly unbeatable Mountain View 51-47 in the state championship game on Feb. 16 to finally win the first title in program history. The win came after Eagle had painstakingly fallen short in the title game the previous two seasons when they were the favorites.
No. 6: Boise State women's hoops team fall short of upset of Oregon State at NCAA Tournament
It could have been the biggest moment in Boise State women's hoops history. But in the end, Oregon State proved to be too much for the Broncos. Despite being ranked No. 38 in the RPI, Boise State earned a No. 13 seed in the NCAA Tournament and traveled to Corvallis, Oregon, to take on the Beavers in a true road game. With a high RPI and 28-4 record entering the tournament, the Broncos believed they deserved a higher seed and for a while, it appeared they had a case. Boise State had a four-point lead on Oregon State with 20 seconds left in regulation. But a basket, a turnover and two free throws allowed Oregon State to force overtime, where the Beavers took a 80-75 win. In the No. 5 vs. No. 12 game in Corvallis — Gonzaga vs. Little Rock — Gonzaga scored the first 16 points and rolled to an easy win, helping coach Gordy Presnell's argument that the Broncos should have been seeded higher.
No. 5: Boise State football wins Mountain West championship, finishes with 12 wins
There was plenty to like about Boise State’s 12-2 season, including the program’s third Mountain West Championship in six seasons. The Broncos started the year with a win at Florida State in a game that was moved from Jacksonville to Tallahassee just two days earlier to avoid an impending hurricane. Freshman quarterback Hank Bachmeier burst onto the scene with 409 passing yards, and the 36-31 win was seen as one of the best regular season wins in program history. The Broncos won seven games against teams that advanced to bowl games this year — notably Marshall, Air Force and Utah State. The Broncos beat Hawaii twice, including 31-10 in the Mountain West title game. The Broncos finished with 12 wins for just the second time in the last eight seasons, but missed out on an even bigger season due to losses to BYU and Washington. More on both later in this list.
No. 4: Kuna football team runs table, finishes unbeaten
The Kuna football team was arguably the Treasure Valley’s most dominant high school team in 2019 — and no one outside of the program saw it coming either. Despite not making state in each of the last two seasons, no conference titles to speak of in 20 years and just one playoff win since 1998, the Kavemen still set the bar high with three simple goals. Win a 4A Southern Idaho Conference title. Win a state championship. And go undefeated. The lofty goals seemed crazy to the outside world. It’s why they were picked fifth in the Idaho Press’ SIC preseason coaches poll and didn’t receive a single vote in the preseason state media poll. But Kuna didn’t care. It achieved all three of its goals — and in style too. The Kavemen had the top offense in the state among teams in the 5A and 4A classifications at 44.8 points and nearly 500 yards per game. They had an average margin of victory of 24 points and nine of their 13 wins came by double figures, including the 49-35 victory over Blackfoot in the title game on Nov. 23 at Holt Arena in Pocatello. The win completed a perfect 13-0 season, the first undefeated year in program history and the first state title since 1991 — when Kuna was in the 3A classification.
No. 3: College of Idaho football team has special season
It was the type of season the College of Idaho leaders envisioned when they reinstated the football program in 2014. Led by four-year starting quarterback Darius James-Peterson, a strong stable of running backs, a deep defense and helped by a 58-yard field goal by Kyle Mitchell as time expired against Montana Tech, the Yotes ran through the schedule in their sixth season, winning all 10 regular season games, a Cascade Conference title and a NAIA Tournament berth. In the playoffs, the Yotes hosted Ottawa (Arizona) in the first round and rolled to a 70-23 victory, which extended their school-record winning streak to 17 games. The College of Idaho faced Grand View (Iowa) on the road in its quarterfinal game, falling 14-6 after a late fourth-and-1 attempt from the Grand View 14-yard line was stopped for no gain. The Yotes were ranked No. 5 in the final NAIA Coaches' Poll.
No. 2: Boise State blown out in Las Vegas Bowl matchup with former coach Chris Petersen
Boise State helped send out former coach Chris Petersen on a high note when his Huskies pummeled the Broncos 38-7 in the Las Vegas Bowl on national TV to end the season. Petersen announced late in the year that he’d be stepping down after six seasons at Washington at the conclusion of the bowl game, and then was matched up with his former team for his final game. Petersen went 92-12 in eight seasons with the Broncos and won two Fiesta Bowl Championships. Bowl week was filled with storylines surrounding Petersen’s retirement and his relationship with Boise State coach Bryan Harsin, whom he worked with for 10 seasons in Boise. Boise State was looking for a 13th win for the first time in a decade, but instead was outmatched from the start against the more talented Huskies. Hank Bachmeier made a surprise start at quarterback and looked rusty after a seven-week layoff and the offense struggled to do much of anything in its worst showing of the year. Petersen went out on top, and the Broncos took a disappointing finish into the offseason.
No. 1: Loss to BYU costs Broncos chance at undefeated season
Our biggest story of 2019 was the Boise State football team’s 28-25 loss at rival BYU on Oct. 19. The Broncos were 6-0 at the time and ranked No. 14 in the Associated Press Top 25 poll. The next highest ranked Group of 5 team was SMU at No. 19. Cincinnati was behind at No. 21, and Memphis wasn’t even ranked yet. With five winnable games to finish out the regular season, it looked like one of the last remaining hurdles to a potential undefeated season and a spot in the Cotton Bowl. But quarterback Hank Bachmeier missed the game due to injury, backup Chase Cord tossed two interceptions and struggled in his first career start and the 2-5 Cougars handed the Broncos a devastating defeat on a cold and rainy night in Provo, Utah. The Broncos trailed 28-10 before a furious comeback in the fourth quarter came up just short. Fans stormed the field in celebration as the Broncos walked off with their first loss of 2019. Had the Broncos won, they would have been set up perfectly to reach the top 10 of the polls, potentially finish the season undefeated and play in a New Year’s Six bowl game for the second time under coach Bryan Harsin. Instead, they suffered what turned out to be their only loss of the regular season and left Bronco Nation to wonder ‘what if?’ the rest of the season. The loss ultimately dropped the Broncos to the Las Vegas Bowl, and as you’ve already read, a less than desirable finish to what could have been a historic year.
HONORABLE MENTION (in no particular order): Bishop Kelly girls soccer team's 84-game unbeaten streak snapped in state semifinal; Caldwell boys soccer and Rocky Mountain girls soccer teams repeat as state champions; Jonathon Fagen of Fruitland capped storied wrestling career with fourth state championship; Boise State women's soccer team captures conference championship, advances to NCAA Tournament; Northwest Nazarene women's basketball team captures GNAC title, advances to second round of NCAA Division II Tournament; Boise State's Allie Ostrander captures third straight NCAA steeplechase title.