Kuna and Middleton are much different teams than they were a year ago.

The Kavemen have a new coach, while the Vikings have a new offense.

One of those changes will lead to someone getting that coveted first win of the season as Kuna (0-1) hosts Middleton (0-1) at 7 p.m. tonight in the Idaho Press-Tribune’s Game of the Week.

“They are a very good team,” Middleton senior lineman Eddie Scott said. “So this week we’ve come to practice every day with our helmets on and physically and mentally prepared for the battle we are surely going to have.”

There weren’t many jobs that could have pried Kuna head coach Sherm Blaser away from Melba. But when he was offered the head coaching job in his wife’s hometown, Blaser couldn’t say no. The first-year coach made that abundantly clear when he jumped in his in-laws’ pool in celebration.

Blaser took over a program that’s been on the way up in recent years. The Kavemen have been to the playoffs in four consecutive seasons.

One game in and Blaser has already continued and improved upon that success.

The 31 points scored in Kuna’s 35-31 season-opening loss to Bishop Kelly was more than it scored in its first three games combined last season and the most in an opener since 2013.

“I came in and said ‘I want to do things my way,’” Blaser said. “My focus over the summer was making what was already here better and tweaking it my way.

“One of the big focuses for me coming in was we want to be a physically tough team and be tough mentally, too.”

After nearly 20 years of running the same double wing offense season after season, Middleton head football coach Bill Brock finally switched things up. The Vikings are no longer a run heavy team as Brock has elected instead to go with a spread offense this season.

It wasn’t a bad debut for the new-look offense either. Middleton passed for 263 yards and racked up almost 350 yards of total offense against arguably the best program in the state in Fruitland, which has won three state titles and appeared in nine state championship games during the last decade.

“A spread offense was something I always wanted to do,” Brock said.

“This year as I looked at the kids coming up and the kids we have this year I said, ‘Let’s go for it.’

“The kids have bought in, the coaches have bought in, so we’re just going for it and we’re going to build on it. It’s definitely a work in progress but we’re getting better each day.”

Despite both teams being in different leagues and separate classifications for that matter, tonight’s non-league game still feels like a rivalry.

That’s because it basically is.

Since Middleton moved up to the 4A classification in the 2006-07 school year, the two teams have met every season. The annual game started because both were members of the 4A Southern Idaho Conference. But with Kuna’s jump to the 5A classification last year, the rivalry has turned into a non-league matchup instead. But the game is still important nonetheless.

“Rivalry games are always important. This one is no different,” Middleton senior running back Mitch Beitia said. “We’ve always competed really closely with them. This isn’t your typical non-league game for sure.

“It’s going to be another great battle like it’s always been and we’re all really excited and looking forward to it.”

While the teams have split the last four meetings, it’s the Vikings who have owned the series. In the 11 games since 2006, Middleton holds a 7-4 advantage with an average margin of victory of 13.3 points.

They also have the current bragging rights after a 15-8 win over Kuna last season — a {span style=”font-family: inherit;”}fact the Kavemen are fully aware of.{/span}

“We have a chip on our shoulder,” senior running back Caden Cobb said. “We’ve lost to them more than we would have liked. We’re sick of losing to them so we want to show we’re here to play and it’s our turn.”

“We plan on showing them we’re not the old team we used to be. This is a game we plan on turning the page on.”

Kuna enters this evening’s contest fresh off of that heartbreaking loss to Bishop Kelly. The Kavemen had the reigning 4A state runner-up and the winners of three out of the last four state championships on the ropes.

They led the Knights 28-12 late in the third quarter and took a 31-28 lead with less than two minutes left in the game. But Bishop Kelly scored with 25 seconds remaining to hand Kuna a painful home-opening loss.

“While it counted as a loss, personally I thought that it was a great game for us,” Kuna senior receiver Jerome Miller said. “I mean it would have been nice if we would have won the game but seeing how close we were to beating one of the best teams in the state it helped our confidence out a lot.”

Like the Kavemen, the Vikings also enter tonight’s game after an opening-week loss.

Even with their impressive offensive performance against the Grizzlies, the Vikings still suffered a 35-20 loss to the defending 3A state champions.

With neither squad wanting to fall into the dreaded 0-2 hole, this week’s Game of the Week has some high stakes to it — stakes usually not reserved for a week two non-league matchup. A win by either team here could undoubtedly bring about more positive changes.

OTHER GAMES TO WATCH

VALLIVUE (1-0) AT NAMPA (1-0): Both the Falcons and the Bulldogs opened their seasons in impressive fashions. Vallivue bullied over Twin Falls 40-7, while Nampa ended a 14-game losing streak with a 28-13 win over Caldwell in the state’s oldest rivalry.

The meeting between the teams will be the fifth since 2013 with the Falcons owning a 3-1 advantage, which included a 40-7 victory over the Bulldogs last season.

MERIDIAN (1-0) AT SKYVIEW (1-0): One week into the season and the Hawks are the No. 1 ranked 4A team in the state and with good reason. They put up 521 yards of total offense in a 47-21 rout of Lakeland in their season-opener.

The Warriors, though, had their own offensive fireworks in a 46-45 victory last week over Centennial for their first season-opening win in five seasons. Meridian owns current bragging rights with a 32-29 win last season.

COLUMBIA (1-0) AT MOUNTAIN HOME (0-1): The Wildcats won a season-opener for the first time in three years with a 22-14 victory over Canyon Ridge last week. The first 2-0 start in three seasons could be in the cards for Columbia as Mountain Home has won just three games since 2011.

The Wildcats ended a 25-game losing streak with a 22-8 win over the Tigers last season.

MELBA (0-1) AT HOMEDALE (1-0): Plain and simple, this has been the Trojans’ series. Since 2009, they are a perfect 5-0 with an average margin of victory of 50.8 points.

Homedale looks poised to extend it to 6-0 following a 33-12 win over New Plymouth in its season opener last week. Melba, meanwhile, comes into this week’s matchup after blowing a 17-7 halftime lead in a 19-17 loss to Parma a week ago.

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